Business 101 Special Section

Leveraging Talent Management Strategies


Written By: Tara Blythe

Last year, I was asked to provide a framework for establishing a talent management program. In the article, I focused on the five pillars of a framework and provided key questions organizational leaders should ask themselves when examining their capabilities in these areas. I also attempted to make the case for why talent management needs its seat at the table next to finance, marketing and the other core business processes. Ultimately, talent management is the key to creating sustainable advantage within an organization. This year, I have asked the people who make this happen every day in our organization to provide some tips for success in three of the core areas of talent management: 1) organizational development, 2) strategic planning and alignment and 3) talent retention/ engagement and development.

Tara Blythe, associate vice president for talent management, strategy and planning, University of Florida Development and Alumni Affairs:

ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Organizational development defines the structure necessary to maximize productivity and ensure continued organizational growth. Workforce planning, talent planning and targeted engagement initiatives work to ensure that the staff’s skill sets and career objectives are optimally aligned with the business goals of the organization.

Tips for success:

• Start with what you know.

Thoroughly review the organization’s established goals, talent and longterm plans.

• Integrate workforce planning into your annual business plans. Clear action plans should be established to measure success and identify gaps. Using a proactive approach allows for continuous strategic planning and will systematically prepare the organization for the future.

• Assess employee engagement.

Use tools to establish your baseline (i.e., an engagement survey).

Create targeted programs and processes that drive engagement.

• Create and implement sustainable talent processes to support your review.

Continually evaluate your talent, ensuring that career development plans are put in place and maintained.

STRATEGIC PLANNING AND ALIGNMENT

Companies typically do a decent job of developing their visions, missions and strategic plans. They define their core values and outline their goals for the future, but they stumble when it comes to execution. Implementing strategic plans effectively is as critical as developing them effectively — and arguably more challenging because of the opportunity for misalignment.

Tips for success:

• First, identify and address misalignment factors such as:

Lack of alignment between the people side of the enterprise (talent management) and its business strategies.

The organization’s structure doesn’t support its strategy.

Follow-through is not maintained after the initial planning.

• Ensure your strategic planning processes are inextricably linked.

Ensure a powerful vision is easily communicated and understood.

Create a strategic plan that connects back to your vision.

Develop annual business and fiscal plans that are tied to your strategic plan.

Develop individual goals and measures as part of the performance management process that align with departmental and organizational goals.

Execute and follow up.

• Ensure that the right timelines, tools and templates are put into place to support your processes.

• Hold tension at the top and ensure you have a supportive culture.

A clearly communicated and understood vision, mission and strategic plan will not be effective or sustainable without the leadership and culture that supports it.

TALENT RETENTION/ ENGAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

One of the best methods to retain talent is through engaging talent development strategies. This includes both planned and informal learning in order to achieve and maintain a sustainable advantage for the organization. Research has shown that employee development is necessary for job satisfaction, which leads to engagement and ultimately retention.

Tips for success:

• Understand how you develop talent within your organization and ensure mutual accountability between the individual, supervisor and organization.

Leadership bears the responsibility to ensure that every manager in the organization understands the importance of identifying and developing the next generation of talent. Both supervisory support and appropriate processes need to be in place in order to foster this development.

Employees also assume the responsibility for their own development, seeking opportunities as well as gaining supervisory support for their career growth, training and development.

• Create tools, such as talent reviews, to support this strategy.

A talent review conversation between employees and managers provides a useful tool to learn about an employee’s skillset, interests, ideal career progression and any potential knowledge or skills gaps to address.

The talent review ties to the organization’s competencies and also leads to developing an individualized development plan to ensure the employee continues to grow and progress within the organization. Both the supervisor and the employee have accountability for the employee’s development plan.

When leaders take the time to meet with each employee individually, it allows for greater planning and organizational strategy for current and future challenges, while also making a strong statement to the employees that the organization is invested in them as individuals.

Leaders must take into account that talent development should align with both the employee’s plans and the organization’s plans. It is more than just the acquisition of knowledge and technical skill; it requires creativity, empathy and commitment of time. Talent development must be supported organizationally, not only by employees and managers but also by senior leadership.

Tips for success:

• Ensure your organization offers (and your managers support) talent development opportunities, such as:

Individual employee training, including experiential learning, job rotations, special assignments and/or creation of specialized workshops.

Career and professional development, to include formal coursework, seminars and conferences.

Coaching, mentoring or structured leadership programs.

• Ensure leaders understand that the process of developing talent includes several steps, such as:

Challenging employees to operate outside of their comfort zones in an effort to learn by overcoming those challenges.

Giving latitude or permission to make mistakes (ensuring they are not catastrophic) so individuals can learn from those experiences.

Supporting both formal and informal training opportunities.

Leaders must understand that high potential talent exists within various levels and functions and therefore implementing talent development and talent review processes will prepare an organization for succession planning for their future leaders.

Tips for success:

• Identify and develop talent now.

Identifying talent as early as possible is critical to beginning the process of filling gaps in order to meet future needs.

Invest in succession planning and educational opportunities for employees.

• Establish individualized development plans to map and plan out an employee’s learning and growth opportunities.

This article provides you with foundational advice for creating core strategies in organizational development, strategic planning and alignment, and talent retention as well as engagement and development. In order to successfully leverage these talent management strategies, tracking success and benchmarking data will always be key. Best practices in tracking success can be accomplished through means such as periodic engagement surveys, roundtable discussions, workout sessions, development tracking related to ROI and organizational scorecards. Making an investment in leveraging talent management strategies such as those provided here will have positive outcomes for your organization.

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