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Talent mapping: Navigating through the downturn


Talent mappingHaving a clear understanding of the talents, skills and behaviours of every employee could be the difference between your organisation successfully emerging at the end of the downturn, or it failing, says Mark Hopkins, who recommends talent mapping as a means of ensuring success.




It is important to recognise that the skills needed in today's tough business climate are different from those that will help an organisation prosper during good times. One way to identify which employees have the skills necessary to help navigate your business through the downturn, and indeed whether you need to bring in external people to plug any crucial skills gaps that may exist, is to introduce talent mapping.

What is talent mapping?

Talent mapping charts every individual in a company according to their skills, competencies and capabilities, and displays where they sit in terms of their talent within the company on a 'map'. It analyses their talent and potential – where they can add value now and where they could deliver value in the future.


"Talent mapping charts every individual in a company according to their skills, competencies and capabilities."

Another advantage of having a current talent map is that it can help identify those individuals whose skills are not so useful during tough times. For example, it may be more important to improve financial management and credit control rather than invest in new product development.

Identifying the talent within

What does talent really look like within your organisation and what skills and behaviours are needed to successfully pursue the current business plan?

What skills are needed in difficult times? In this uncertain economy, when employee cuts might be needed, companies who are certain about the people they want to be part of their future will have a greater chance of success.

Individuals should be assessed in terms of their capabilities, motivations, technical expertise and experience, so that managers can accurately determine their 'value add' now and in the future. This process also makes it easier to see which skills are missing and need to be brought in to help the business in difficult times.

Many companies bring in external providers to help them set up talent management programmes. These experts bring an objective view point and can guide companies through the entire process, teaching them how to spot talent, create profiles for individuals and set up talent maps showing how individuals can be developed in a formal and structured way.

Talent is not constant and should be developed

Individuals' talents do not remain static. They need to be nurtured and developed, so that they remain motivated and committed to doing the best job they can.

A talent map helps companies focus on short-term goals without losing sight of the bigger picture. It helps them plan a long-term strategy and determine what talent will be needed to ensure future business success.

Line managers need to be coached on how to spot, nurture and develop talent and they should be incentivised and given the time needed to invest in staff so that their team realise that career development is a major business priority.

Talent mapping positions every employee in terms of their skills, attributes and capabilities, and clearly charts how they should progress. At a glance, managers can see when employee development is needed so that development and career progression opportunities can be provided in a timely manner.


"Individuals' talents do not remain static. They need to be nurtured and developed, so that they remain motivated and committed to doing the best job they can."

Central to maximising the value of talent maps is line managers' willingness to allow their people to progress within the organisation. They need to think about the business strategy as a whole and how much more valuable these people will be to the business after their talent has been developed by working within other departments and having moved out of their comfort zone.

Here are my talent mapping top tips to help organisations improve performance through enhanced management of existing talent and more targeted recruitment of external talent to fill specific skills gaps:






  1. Identify the skills, knowledge and technical expertise you require to make the organisation succeed in the current economic climate
  2. Find out the extent of your existing employees talent and plot this onto a talent map, which will show what skills gaps can be filled by developing existing employees, and what skills need to be brought in from outside
  3. Utilise your organisation's talent to maximum effect – be prepared to move your talent so that specific skills are located where they are needed most
  4. Talent is dynamic and needs to be developed – use the Talent Map to see how individual talents can be added to and provide the appropriate tools to do this
  5. Keep your Talent Map up to date – maintaining an accurate picture of what talent exists and where within your organisation will enable you to quickly and effectively adapt to changes in the business environment.

Mark Hopkins is head of the assessment, development and talent practice at Reed Consulting, part of Reed Specialist Recruitment. He is also an organisational psychologist and an expert on all aspects of talent management.


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