As we approach the end of 2014 I wanted to reflect on the world of HR and talent management and how much this has evolved in recent times. For me the biggest change in people strategies is the growing number of organisations seeking a partner that is able to deliver ‘well-rounded’, global talent solutions.

Several years ago it would have perhaps been common to see a company juggling a number of suppliers and internal resources each tasked with managing a different element of the talent life cycle. This could range from an external recruitment agency responsible for sourcing applicants to an HR consultancy creating strategic succession plans.

The obvious challenge with this approach is how to ensure that the talent experience and corporate message is consistent across the board. It’s for this reason that there has been such a high demand for global partners that are able to provide strategically aligned talent solutions across people engagement points.

But, for an HR manager looking to form a valuable and lasting relationship with such a partner, what should you be looking for from an external resource?

1. Relevant sector experience: Any partner must be able to demonstrate that they really know the ins and outs of the sector you operate in. After all, company and talent requirements in the healthcare arena, for example, will be comparably different to those in the engineering space. Ask for case studies of the organisation’s experience in your field to determine how well they understand the industry, its workforce needs and its culture.

2. Demonstrating ROI: In order to demonstrate to the board just how valuable people strategies,  really are, measurable impacts need to be identified. Ensure a partner has metric capabilities and access to quantifiable data to measure the effectiveness of any people management efforts and inform future strategies.

3. Scalability: Any business of any size faces an uncertain future, after all, it’s impossible to predict what is waiting around the proverbial corporate corner. As such, it’s important to know that a partner can grow – or even shrink – with your company needs. Ask how processes are designed to scale up or down to meet the demands of your long and short-term talent requirements.

4. Tools and technology: There are numerous tools available to make talent strategies more efficient. In order to develop a streamlined strategy with any partner, examine what access they have to new tools and technologies and how ‘on-the-ball’ they are in terms of new developments.

5. Cultural fit: A good partner will effectively become part of your business, so ensuring they ‘fit’ with your corporate culture is key. And given that they will represent your company in front of numerous audiences, it’s important to ensure they live and breathe the brand. Take time to meet the whole team and get to know how they operate to make sure you find a firm who understands your organisation, team and culture.

It’s certainly an exciting time for the HR profession at the moment as talent increasingly becomes a top priority for many businesses. However, it’s important that anyone looking to develop strategic relationships finds a partner who fits with the business, its current and potential talent and, of course, its future plans.