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Managing your talent to secure a successful future

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Working togetherManaging your future talent is not a new concept, but it is becoming an even more vital component of the HR strategy. Alyson Pellowe has some top tips on how to be ready for the future success of your organisation.


Talent management and succession planning aren’t new crazes. Good companies have always been able to spot and develop their future key players.

To be successful and ready for the future you need the right individuals in the right place, at the right time. That means good workforce planning and long-term development.

“While you are identifying talent, it’s equally important to recognise the poor performers.”

It starts with the business plan. Once you have clear objectives it’s easier to plan the resources you need to fulfil them – not just in the short term, but three or even five years in the future. You can then recruit, retain and develop to meet that need.

I’ve seen cases where HR has devised a talent management plan that either doesn’t fit the business or doesn’t get buy-in from line managers. It doesn’t work because there is too big a divide. Getting your line managers on board is important as they tend to focus on operational, day-to-day matters and not on five years from now.

Building resource for the future

Talent management isn’t just about moving people up the ladder to senior management. As well as identifying high potentials who could be your next directors, you also need to look at individuals with specialist skills such as engineers, surveyors, technicians or IT experts. Losing these people could have a big impact on your business.

Then there are the cogs of any organisation – the ‘steady Eddies’. Their contribution is high and they keep everything moving smoothly. They don’t rock the boat and they don’t expect annual promotions. They are the bedrock of your organisation and you need to invest in them too.

While you are identifying talent, it’s equally important to recognise the poor performers. They need to be managed out of the business so you don’t waste time and money.

Make it formal

Because talent management and succession planning are so fundamental to continuity and success, they can’t be managed ad hoc. To be effective, a formal programme should be in place with full support from the board and line managers.

It also lets people know what opportunities are available to develop and what they need to do to progress. It is important they are clear about what they need to do to, for example what courses do they need to attend? What are the skills and attitude they need to progress through the company?

One of my clients, a large firm of surveyors, calls this a ‘career highway’. The progress route is available to all employees on their intranet so it’s very transparent.

Another client holds lunches for their graduates as part of their development. They are taster sessions so they get to know the opportunities available to them as well as what is expected of them.

It is a common mistake to think talent management is an HR responsibility. It isn’t – it benefits every area of the businesses so all managers have a vested interest. I recommend setting up working groups of people from across the business, from your post room to your CEO. That gives every area input into the programme.

“It is a common mistake to think talent management is an HR responsibility. It benefits every area of the businesses so all managers have a vested interest.”

However, someone does have to take responsibility for tracking the programme. You have to make sure the right people are on it and that they are getting something out of it. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a talent management plan that fits the business.

Talent spotting

So how do you identify talent? Assessment centres are a good way to measure people to see if they are right for development. As well as finding talent, they allow you to give feedback to people who don’t make the grade.

Alongside traditional methods like courses, coaching and mentoring, developing people is about exposing them to exciting new opportunities and situations. Give them responsibilities such as leading projects and teams. It’s a great way to harness and assess talent.

It is also a good way to keep talented people interested when there is no obvious place for them to go. Every position has its salary ceiling; you can only pay for the role, not the person. Increasing someone’s salary just because you don’t want to lose them will just create problems elsewhere. You have to look for other ways to stimulate them by creating an exciting environment in which they will thrive.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. All it costs is a bit of management time to make sure everything is running smoothly and to give guidance when needed.

The ‘plan, do, review’ approach applies as much to talent management as it does to the rest of the business. Monitoring should be ongoing with a more formal review every six months. As well as monitoring individuals, it is important to check the programme is still in line with your business objectives.

All successful companies, whatever their size, have one eye on the future. Effective talent management plays a large part in their success.

Top tips for a successful management strategy

  • It is vital your talent management programme is linked to your business plan. If it isn’t you won’t know what resources you need and it won’t get buy-in from line managers.
  • Be absolutely clear about your selection criteria. Let people know the attitudes, skills and approach that your organisation values.
  • Engage managers from each area of the business; they have a vested interest so they should have input into the programme.
  • Keep your programme simple so it is accessible for both individual and line manager. Make it easy for people to buy into and manage within their normal workload.
  • Review your programme to make sure it is achieving what is needed by the business.

  • Alyson Pellowe is from People Vision.

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