All too often recruitment processes within a business are reactive, but by having a talent planning process in place, recruitment can be proactive, and the business is future proofed by preparing for the competencies it will need in the future.

Whilst talent planning is not at all a new concept, it is a concept that has changed and evolved as business environments and factors impacting on organisations have changed and become more competitive.

Many years ago when I worked for the pre-privatised British Rail, we had a talent planning process in place but I look back and reflect on how different it all was then  Known as the Management Development Scheme, the process was tied into the annual round of appraisals, it was top secret and we had a member of staff whose sole responsibility was to manage this and the appraisal system.  Following the annual reviews the Eastern Region General Manager and his senior team would gather behind closed doors to identify internal successors for senior positions – individuals who would then follow a high level development programme.

It all seemed to work well at the time but it did assume that employees were in it for the long term and would only follow one career whereas today with a fluctuating economy, portfolio careers and employees who move on within a few years, talent management has to be addressed in a different way.  That makes it none the less an important part of business strategy, indeed it has never been more important to make sure organisations identify skills needed now and further down the line in order to stay competitive.

What it is important to do now however, is to broaden the scope of talent management; whereas in my days of British Rail, planning focused on senior roles now it is vital to look across the organisation to identify individuals who would be difficult to replace because they are in specialist roles or perhaps have extensive knowledge of a product or client base.

It is also likely to be necessary to plan more creative ways of developing individuals to succeed others, whereas in the Rail Industry those identified for the Management Development Scheme were often sent on expensive MBA programmes rather than looking for opportunities within the organisation for developing skills and gaining experience.

What is also key I think is involving the right people in the discussions about talent and career paths; rather than this being the secretive realm of senior executives and Board members, HR need to play a key role in the process with their insight into the wider people strategy, along with current role holders who can provide information about competencies needed and ideas about the kind of person who could replace them.

Julie Gordon heads up the team at cHRysos HR Solutions, an organisation specialising in the delivery of HR and Leadership-related training, professional qualifications, as well as HR and business consultancy services.  With over 20 years' experience in learning and development within the private and public sector, Julie's key strengths are now in the management of the learning and development process and in work-based learning.  As well as working in industry, Julie has held various academic teaching posts and has published journal papers in the field of learning and development.

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