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To paraphrase the legendary former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, effective talent management is the lifeblood of an organization.

In this article, I’ll cover what a good talent management strategy looks like and how to create a strategy that will help you attract, retain, and develop top talent.

What Is A Talent Management Strategy?

A talent management strategy encompasses how an organization attracts, recruits, develops, retains, utilizes, and empowers talent with the requisite skills to help the organization meet current and future goals.

It covers a range of activities from recruitment to learning and development to compensation management and even offboarding.

To take influence from James C. Collin’s excellent book Good To Great, the goal of your talent management strategy is to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.

Why Is A Talent Management Strategy Important?

An effective talent management strategy is more than just putting bums on seats. It’s about strategically managing an organization's most valuable asset—its people—to ensure long-term success.

An effective talent management strategy will:

  • Align talent with business goals and minimize skills gaps
  • Improve recruitment and retention
  • Boost employee engagement and performance
  • Help identify and develop potential leaders
  • Supports employee career development.

The Talent Management Cycle

To help make talent management easier, most professionals use the employee lifecycle model:

  1. Attraction—how you're perceived as an employer aka your employer brand
  2. Recruitment—your recruitment process e.g. candidate sourcing and interviewing
  3. Onboarding—getting a new team member off to the best possible start
  4. Development—the growth, progression, and development opportunities you provide
  5. Retention—how you treat your people and recognize them for their work
  6. Offboarding—parting ways.

Underpinning all this is strategic workforce planning that keeps your talent management strategy aligned with business strategy.

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How To Develop A Talent Management Strategy

Developing an effective talent management strategy is an ongoing process that requires commitment from all levels of the organization.

By focusing on these steps, you can create a framework that supports your business goals and enhances your organizational performance.

1. Understand business objectives

Start by gaining a clear understanding of your organization’s strategic goals and objectives. For example, if there are plans to develop a new product and launch it into a new market, this will impact your talent management strategy.

2. Develop an employer value proposition

Create a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) that attracts and retains the talent you need. This encompasses aspects such as compensation, flexibility, and career development opportunities.

3. Conduct a talent audit

Conduct a talent review to assess the current state of your workforce, including skills, performance levels, potential leadership candidates, turnover rates, and any skill gaps or surpluses. This audit will help identify current and future talent needs.

Also include feedback from your employee listening strategy to help understand any existing talent’s wants and needs.

4. Create talent acquisition plans

Off the back of your talent review, you should have an understanding of your skills gaps and what can be filled internally vs the need to recruit from the wider market.

With this in mind, develop a hiring plan to attract, source, and recruit the talent you need.

6. Create a proper onboarding process

Onboarding is an important but often overlooked aspect of talent management. A proper onboarding plan will help new hires get off to the best possible start and pave the way for them reaching their full potential.

5. Create learning and development plans

Developing talent internally is often more cost-effective than sourcing from the market. If you’re lacking the required skills to meet objectives, a learning and development strategy can help you to plug any gaps.

This can include a mix of on-the-job learning, mentoring, workshops, and formal training. Part of this is also identifying potential future leaders and critical roles within the organization and developing succession plans and career maps for these roles to ensure that talent is being developed in line with future needs.

6. Implement a performance management system

Establish a clear performance management process that uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics to evaluate success.

Feedback should be constructive, and performance discussions should be an ongoing dialogue, not just the annual review.

Talent Management Strategy Best Practices

People are notoriously difficult to predict and manage, which is part of the fun (and frustration) of talent management.

That being said, following these best practices will help you create a more effective talent management strategy.

  • Engage senior management: Ensure that senior executives understand and support the talent management strategy. Leadership buy-in is critical for securing the necessary resources and for cascading the importance of the strategy throughout the organization.
  • Keep good data hygiene. Being able to accurately measure key HR metrics such as attrition and retention rates is important to monitor the effectiveness of your talent management strategy and adjust accordingly. Technology such as HR analytics software can help here.
  • Set clear KPIs. Your talent management strategies and initiatives should always be mapped back to your organizational strategies. Setting clear KPIs should be able to articulate how talent management professionals are providing real value realization against those same strategies.
  • Gather feedback from employees. Great ideas can come from anywhere and employee listening should help inform any talent management strategy.
  • Create a skills library. Many organizations are now moving from a roles-based approach to talent management to a skills-based one. Part of this is building out skills libraries that define what skills mean in an organization and make it easier to track them.
  • Deconstruct complex processes. As part of your talent managment efforts, segment complex HR challenges into simpler, easier-to-implement components. Each component should stack back to the big picture/end goal of what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Foster an engaging and inclusive culture. As Peter Drucker famously said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Cultivating a work environment that supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and transparency will help put your talent strategies into practice and build your employer brand.
  • Regularly review and adapt. Talent management is not a set-and-forget process. Regularly review and adapt your strategy based on feedback, changing business needs, and external market factors.
  • Be technology agnostic. There are a lot of tools out there that can help you with your talent management strategy ranging from talent management systems to employee survey tools. The trick is to be agnostic and rigorous in selecting the best mix for your organization. Our guide to HR software selection can help.

An Example Of A Successful Talent Management Strategy

Now that we’ve talked about talent management strategies in-depth, let’s take a look at a great example from Apple. 

Apple University for Succession Planning

When Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple passed away in 2011, many were concerned how
Apple would do without him. But, under the leadership of Tim Cook, Apple has continued to prosper. 

Part of the reason for this smooth transition is due to Apple University, established to help retain top talent, keep the vision of Steve Job’s Apple alive, and develop employees.

This was how Tim Cook was decided to be the CEO upon the death of Steve Jobs. Tim has used Apple University to help create as many successors to his role as possible. When asked about this, Tim said the following:

“I see my role as CEO to prepare as many people as I can to be CEO, and that’s what I’m doing. And then the board makes a decision at that point in time.”

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