How To Develop Your Talent Strategy From The Ground Up; Your Initial Strategic Steps

develop your talent strategy

Aligning talent strategy with business strategy is a cornerstone of building up a strategic talent acquisition function for the business and – if designed correctly – can deliver a real competitive advantage for the business.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to align talent strategy with business strategy. To design a talent strategy – one that has direct alignment with how it impacts the business strategy – we’ll first have to understand the corporate and business strategy for the future.

One of your first moves will be to understand your company’s business strategy for the future. To do this, you’ll need to learn all about your core external business issues. How do you do this? Go analyze what the competition is doing, either as a proactive measure or in reaction to markets, and look into where they seem to be making their time/effort investments in talent. Review emerging industry trends and assumptions, and make sure you understand where the industry is going. Pull your research together and connect the dots into insights you can use. 

Next, you’ll want to understand your business strategy, business objectives, and business goals. Learn how your business is different from top competitors in your field and know where the biggest challenges and opportunities are located. Knowing this will help you to develop a clear understanding of most top-level goals and provide insight into how your strategic objectives will support reaching those goals.

Take the time to understand your company’s mission, vision, values and value proposition. The mission statement gives the reason for your company to exist and explains what it does. The vision is where your company aims to be sometime out in the future. The values explain what your company stands for. And the value proposition explains why people (should) want to buy or use the products or service your company provides. If leadership within your organization doesn’t have the time to explain all of this, go find your Head of Marketing (CMO) or VP of Sales. They will have this material. Most of this information can also be found within your company’s press releases, annual reports, 10k filings, and other financial reporting. If you work at a smaller firm and don’t have any of this, try the press section of your website or look through some of your earliest blog posts. 

Once you have some insight into your business strategy, it will be important to understand how your existing core capabilities exist to support the business strategy. Take the time to understand the top business drivers, where you believe the company can be best, and the available resources that can be deployed to fuel the strategic objectives to support the goals of the business.

It’s also important to know what you can leverage – as well as any critical talent gaps – so you can determine what talents are required to advance the business strategy and achieve a competitive advantage.

With all the above, you’ll be in a better position to organize what you’ve discovered into insights you can use – critical issues, business strategy, objectives and goals, current gaps in talent, industry opportunities, and so on – to support the foundation to help you design your new talent acquisition strategy and plan.

Next, you’ll want to organize your new insights around the top 3-4 talent-related outcomes you need to deliver to support your business goals. In short, here’s how you might want to narrow the field:

First, make a list of all the top issues or challenges that face your business. You might end up with a long list of 30-60+ issues. Next, combine them, as best as you can, into groups or “strategic themes” of core issues or challenges. Next, develop sets of answers to questions around each strategic theme, such as: Where is the business expected to grow? Where are the talent shortages? What are the most critical roles over the next few years? What are our current and future staffing needs?

A brief aside,…during this process, it’s not uncommon to uncover latent issues that can either be embedded into multiple themes or elevated into a theme all its own. An example: During your discovery, you might learn that low morale and low hiring manager satisfaction ratios are visible. In a case like this, you might recommend an additional strategic theme related to elevating talent attraction and “fit”, or radically improving employee engagement, or culture building – since culture building might be high on your list of issues. Tactical issues might include: define top talent and uncover fit inside the organization, rethink your current approach to assessment, reorient and strengthen your employer brand, value proposition, and “promise” to resonate with those target audiences you want to hire most, and so on.

Continue this step-wise process to uncover your largest, most critical issues and a short list of talent-related priorities. Your new list will serve as the basis for your talent acquisition strategy plan which will be organized to include a formal set of talent goals, the set of top strategies required to achieve each goal, and the supporting tactics required to support the top strategies.

With your new strategy outlined, you’ll be able to develop a set of clear, bold, and focused statements for each of your top (3-4) talent-related priorities. Think of statements like these as your “promises” that you’ll be making to the organization, with each one rooted and perfectly aligned with your corporate / business strategy.

The final outline, or structure, of your talent strategy and plan might end up looking something like this:

Talent Goal #1 (Your bold statement aligned with a top business goal)

  • Talent Acquisition Strategy #1
    • Supporting Tactic #A
    • Supporting Tactic #B
    • Supporting Tactic #C
  • Talent Acquisition Strategy #2
    • Supporting Tactic #A
    • Supporting Tactic #B
    • Supporting Tactic #C
  • Talent Acquisition Strategy #3
    • Supporting Tactic #A
    • Supporting Tactic #B
    • Supporting Tactic #C

Then move to your Talent Goal #2 (Your next bold statement aligned with a top business goal) and continue through to Talent Goal #4 or #5 or where ever you end up. (Tip: less is sometimes more)

Your supporting tactics to one of your talent acquisition strategies might include:

  • implement a perception survey
  • interview top performing workers to learn why they stay
  • interview past employees to understand why they left
  • do a salary and benefits review to deliver competitive plans
  • improve your promote-from-within program
  • understand what your key metrics (source-of-hire, hiring manager satisfaction, candidate satisfaction quality-of-hire, new-hire turnover rate, etc.) are all telling you. 

While you’re designing the new talent strategy and plan, make sure that every step of the way, it is focused and aligned with your corporate or business strategy. After you’ve completed the initial work, double-check your work by reviewing it and asking hard questions to make sure what you intend to do will produce the right outcomes – results that are perfectly aligned to support your business.

Take the time to develop answers to questions such as: Do we have the necessary budget to execute our new talent strategy? Do we have the right resources, team members, and skills to accomplish the tactics necessary to meet our strategies? Do we have the necessary buy-in (commitment) from all relevant leaders and team members? Are we aware of the right set of technologies needed to accomplish our strategy? Do we have the right amount of money budgeted or allocated for the technology expense? And so on.

Don’t forget to challenge your assumptions. Poke holes in your new talent strategy and plan to make sure it’s based in reality. Make sure it has all the necessary leaders onboard, is executable, with all the necessary resources and talent investments lined up. If you run into problems, go back and revise and then poke holes again. Rinse repeat.

Do this correctly and you’ll be ready to present your new talent strategy and plan to leadership. With your new talent strategy and plan – one based in reality and aligned with your business goals – you’ll be ready to begin to develop and activate a strategic talent acquisition program to optimally solve your unrealized needs, and beyond that, design and implement a solid foundation and strategic approach to communicate, market, and advertise your company, promises, and culture in a way that connects with those you want to attract, engage hire, and retain. This is the foundation for all future work. Do this correctly and you’ll know where to place your bets, how to organize your team, where to invest your valuable resources in team, time, and money.

Unfortunately, too many organizations underestimate what it takes to do what follows well. TalentSum understands this and brings a unique combination of deep domain expertise and core consulting capabilities to address your biggest challenges all across the talent acquisition landscape.

Need our help?

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Christopher Mengel is the founder of TalentSum LLC, a strategic talent acquisition consultancy and best practices implementation firm. Some of the world’s most notable companies partner with TalentSum to activate a strong employer brand, attract more people who fit, improve engagement and experiences, and deliver high-performing cultures.

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How To Develop Your Talent Strategy From The Ground Up; Your Initial Strategic Steps
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