Talent Development Strategy

Rajeev Gupta

Director, Golden bells Preschool, Ashok Vihar, New Delhi

The function of the leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers!!!


Organizations know that they must have the best talent in order to succeed in the hypercompetitive and increasingly complex global economy. Along with the understanding of the need to hire, develop, and retain talented people, organizations are aware that they must manage talent as a critical resource to achieve the best possible results.

Few, if any, organizations today have an adequate supply of talent. Gaps exist at the top of the organization, in the first- to midlevel leadership ranks, and at the front lines.

Talent is an increasingly scarce resource, so it must be managed to the fullest effect.

Are today’s leaders able to do more with less?

Many organizations are reducing their workforces, but let’s be careful not to cut so deep that talent is scarce when the economy rebounds. The idea of managing talent is not new.

Now, talent management is an organizational function that is taken far more seriously.

Your organization can create a new product and it is easily copied. Lower your prices and competitors will follow. Go after a lucrative market and someone is there right after you, careful to avoid making your initial mistakes.

But replicating a high-quality, highly engaged workforce is nearly impossible. The ability to effectively hire, retain, deploy, and engage talent—at all levels—is really the only true competitive advantage an organization possesses.

Talent Management Defined

Talent management is a mission critical process that ensures organizations have the quantity and quality of people in place to meet their current and future business priorities. The process covers all key aspects of an employee’s “life cycle:” selection, development, succession and performance management.

Key components of a highly effective talent management process include:

  • A clear understanding of the organization’s current and future business strategies.
  • Identification of the key gaps between the talent in place and the talent required to drive business success.
  • A sound talent management plan designed to close the talent gaps. It should also be integrated with strategic and business plans.
  • Accurate hiring and promotion decisions.
  • Connection of individual and team goals to corporate goals, and providing clear expectations and feedback to manage performance.
  • Development of talent to enhance performance in current positions as well as readiness for transition to the next level.
  • A focus not just on the talent strategy itself, but the elements required for successful execution.
  • Business impact and workforce effectiveness measurement during and after implementation.

What's driving the current emphasis on Talent Management?

Organizations have been talking about the connection between great employees and superior organizational performance for decades. So, why the current emphasis on managing talent?

There are several drivers fuelling this emphasis:

  • There is a demonstrated relationship between better talent and better business performance.
  • Talent is a rapidly increasing source of value creation.
  • The context in which we do business is more complex and dynamic.
  • Boards and financial markets are expecting more.
  • Employee expectations are also changing.
  • Workforce demographics are evolving. Organizations wage a new “war for talent” these days.

Best practice for Effective Talent Management:

1: Start with the end in mind—talent strategy must be tightly aligned with business strategy.

Effective talent management requires that your business goals and strategies drive the quality and quantity of the talent you need.

2: Talent management professionals need to move from a seat at the table to setting the table.

When we gather groups of HR professionals for events, we often ask them who owns talent management. They point to senior management. Many have a seat at the table, where they’re involved in discussions about business and leadership strategies that were previously held behind closed boardroom doors.

But securing the right to listen in is not enough. Talent managers need to own parts of the process and serve as partners, guides, and trusted advisors when it comes time to talk talent.

3: You must know what you’re looking for—the role of Success Profiles.

Numerous studies show that companies with better financial performance are more likely to use competencies as the basis for succession management, external hiring, and inside promotions.

4: The talent pipeline is only as strong as its weakest link.

Many organizations equate the concept of talent management with senior leadership succession management. While succession planning is obviously important, our belief is that talent management must encompass a far broader portion of the employee population.

Value creation does not come from senior leadership alone. The ability of an organization to compete depends upon the performance of all its key talent, and its ability to develop and promote that talent.

5: Talent Management is not a democracy.

Invest in the Best. Many companies do the opposite, and make a mistake by trying to spread limited resources for development equally across employees. We’ve found that organizations realize the best returns when promising individuals receive a differential focus when it comes to development dollars.

So who should get these benefits? Two major categories: high-potential leaders and individuals who create value for their organizations.

6: Potential, performance and readiness are not the same thing.

Many organizations understand the idea of a high-potential pool or a group of people who receive more developmental attention. But sometimes, they fail to consider the differences between potential, performance, and readiness.

7: Talent management is all about putting the right people in the right jobs.

Why should an organization place the higher priority on selection rather than development?

  • Not everything can be developed. Many elements of Success Profiles are impossible, or at least very difficult, to develop. Training people to improve their judgment, learning agility, adaptability—all core requirements for most of the talent hired today—is difficult, if not impossible.
  • Lack of motivation for a specific role or a poor fit between employees’ values and those of the organization leads to poor performance, and no classroom experience or learning activity will change this fundamental mismatch. But you can get a read on these areas during a well-designed hiring / promotion process.
  • Hiring for the right skills is more efficient than developing those skills. What about the areas that are developable, like interpersonal skills, decision-making, or technical skills? Assessing those areas at the time of hire is likely to cost less than developing them later.

8: Talent management is more about the “hows” than the “whats.”

Organizations have many “whats” relative to talent management, including executive resource boards, software platforms, ninebox grid comparing potential to performance, development plans, and training, training and more training. These “whats” promise nothing on their own. Guarantees come from “hows” instead. Our five realization factors for sound execution are:

  • Communication— Links the talent management initiative to the business drivers, puts forward a vision the organization can rally around, and sets expectations for what will happen in the organization.
  • Accountability— Role clarity so that each individual in the talent management initiative knows what is expected of them.
  • Skill— Developing the right skills and providing coaches and mentors for support.
  • Alignment— Must align talent management initiatives to the business drivers but also need the right kinds of systems to identify high potentials, to diagnose for development, to link to performance management, and to do development that really changes behavior.
  • Measurement— You can’t manage what you don’t measure. It creates the tension, and objectives become clearer to help execute a talent strategy.

9: Software does not equal talent management.

Claiming a piece of software can provide a full talent management system is a bit like a food processor will produce a five-star meal. These tools are valuable in support of a good plan or recipe. The right tools clear the path for smoother execution and may improve the end product. But tools mean nothing without the right expertise and the right ingredients behind them.

Talent Development Strategies to Enhance Long-Term Employee Engagement and Commitment

While effective job design and talent acquisition strategies can encourage employee engagement for new hires, what can you do with existing employees?

If you don’t integrate employee engagement considerations into your on-going talent management process, you risk eroding employees’ interest and commitment over time.

Improving long-term outcomes requires investing in talent development. A well-executed talent development strategy can maximize person-job fit, increase job satisfaction and engagement, and secure enduring employee commitment.

Since talent development is essentially continuous, it provides perhaps the best single avenue for fostering employee engagement. The benefits of employee engagement should be enough to convince any executive to invest in these critical talent development strategies.

1. Talent Development Starts on Day One

Training and development begin with the on boarding process.

Orientation is often the first substantive touch point for new hires. It provides a great opportunity for getting employees acquainted with the organization – its structure, culture, values, policies, and so on.

This is equally an opportunity for fostering employee engagement and commitment by explaining how their position contributes to the organization’s overall mission and business goals.

2. Invest in Training to Encourage Long-Term Commitment

Training adds value to employees and to your organization. Aside from the benefits of more skilled labour, it also fosters long-term employee engagement and commitment.

Employees who receive training get the satisfaction of mastering new skills and increasing their employability. Training demonstrates your organization’s commitment to employees, makes them feel valued, and fosters reciprocal commitment.

3. Use Performance Reviews to Optimize Job-Person Fit

Regular performance reviews can help optimize job-person fit. Reviews can help reveal an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. They are also a chance to get to know what that person enjoys about their job and learn about their long-term aspirations.

Using that information to tailor job responsibilities and promote people into suitable positions enhances fit, engagement, commitment, and business outcomes.

4. Set challenging Goals to Keep Employees Engaged

Feedback sessions also provide an opportunity to link employees’ job objectives to organizational objectives. Doing so helps employees keep broader objectives in mind, shows that you recognize their value, and encourage commitment.

Including employees in the goal-setting process is a great way to enlighten commitment and engagement. When employees have input, they’re more likely to identify with and actively work towards organizational goals.

5. Learn to Recognize and Rely on Experience

Experienced employees are your most valuable assets. Not only do they have useful skills, they can also function autonomously, manage projects, and train other employees.

Learning to recognize, acknowledge, and rely on their expertise boosts their feelings of value and self-efficacy.

It also increases organizational efficiency. Some workers know what they do better than their managers. Leverage that. Give them more autonomy and allow them to oversee projects.

If they intend to leave or retire at some point, make sure they pass on their deep knowledge to others so you don’t lose the benefits of their expertise.

Rajeev Gupta

Director, Golden bells Preschool, Ashok Vihar, New Delhi