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The Path to Strategic Talent Management │ Part 3

How to Define a Winning Talent Strategy with Stakeholder Engagement
Sarah Skyvington
June 29, 2023

Defining a Talent Strategy with Stakeholder Engagement

In Parts One and Two of this series, we discussed the importance of defining talent needs and evaluating your workforce accordingly. Now, let’s dive deeper into how you can implement development supports as part of your talent development strategy.

Development for All vs. Development for Some

While all employees deserve investment and support, your goals may vary depending on talent evaluations. According to a report published by The Conference Board in 2022, developing the next generation of business leaders is one of the top five internal priorities for CEOs globally. To help guide your thinking, it can be helpful to consider the “development for all vs development for some” approach to talent development.

Development for allDevelopment for some (high potentials)
FocusMaximize employee performance in current roles, enhance employee engagement, foster foundational leadership skills, build cultural alignmentPrepare the individual for what’s next, develop both mindset and skill sets, give opportunities to build transferrable skills
GoalsIndividual development goals are employee-driven, with support from leaders and the organizationDevelopment goals are shared by the organization and employee, with more active organizational involvement
ExamplesFoundational leadership development curriculum, yearly goal setting, robust performance management processesRotational programs, mentorship opportunities with senior leaders, active development plans with hands-on leaders and HR support
A professional woman standing and speaking to four seated colleagues

Remember, a key differentiator of “development for some” is that you are helping your high potential talent to grow not only specific skillsets, but also their mindset for future roles.

Aligning Development with Your Employee’s Goals

When designing a development approach for your high potential employees, it can be tempting to focus on what the organization requires. However, in order to retain these individuals, it’s crucial to create a strategy that also aligns with their own goals. Keep the following considerations in mind.

Alignment

Engage in focused conversations to understand their individual career aspirations and align them with the organization’s goals.

Transparency

While you may not be comfortable sharing your full evaluation of potential with your leaders, consider what you are willing to share. You want to manage expectations, will also being transparent enough that your talent see a future for themselves at your organization, or else risking them going elsewhere.

Clarity

Avoid pulling high-potential talent in multiple directions. For example, we once partnered with a client organization whose high potential leader appeared on 15 succession plans across multiple business units. This will make it difficult for them to see a clear development path from point A to point B. Ensuring clarity will help your talent to see a tangible growth trajectory within the organization.

Involving Incumbents and Engaging the Board

However, it’s not only the needs of the high potential employees that you have to consider. It’s crucial that you involve incumbents in the development process as well. Ideally, they will be involved in each step of the process, but be aware that there is a risk of defensiveness occurring if the leaders feel they are being replaced.

Communicate to current leaders that developing successors is a form of due diligence for their work, and an opportunity for them to leave a lasting legacy within both the organization and the next generation of leaders. Ensure conversations remain future-focused rather than relying solely on historical practices.

The Board also plays a vital role in talent development. Provide them with sufficient context, demonstrate how individual talent decisions fit into the broader talent strategy, and consider providing more frequent talent updates to get their support and input. Seek this input at key junctures to leverage their expertise and ensure alignment with organizational objectives.

Getting It Right

As you begin to implement development processes, keep these key takeaways in mind:

  • Inclusivity: Involve everyone in the process, promoting a culture of continuous growth and learning.
  • Differentiation: While development is for all, differentiation for high-potential talent is necessary. Tailor programs and support to meet their unique needs and aspirations.
  • Leadership Engagement: Development should not be solely an HR initiative. Engage current leaders throughout the process to foster buy-in and drive success.
  • Simplicity and Measurability: Build a talent strategy that is grounded in your business strategy, future-focused, and measurable.
  • Transparency and Expectations: Strike a balance between making high-potential employees feel valued through transparency and managing their expectations. Clearly communicate the criteria and opportunities for development.
  • Broad Consultation: Consult widely across the organization, make talent decisions as a full leadership team, and consider the perspectives and needs of each stakeholder group.
  • Long-Term Approach: Connect each hiring or promotion decision to your broader talent roadmap. Sometimes, it may involve placing talent in unexpected roles to facilitate their growth and prepare them for future challenges.

Developing a talent strategy is a complex but vital endeavour that underpins strong business performance. In times of economic uncertainty, investing in internal talent becomes even more critical. By implementing effective development processes, involving all employees, and aligning development to business strategy, you will build an approach that supports your people and your organization’s needs.


Headshot of author Sarah Skyvington

Sarah Skyvington is an experienced talent management specialist who works closely with leaders to create talent strategies that support business results. She holds an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and is certified in numerous assessments, including the Hogan Suite, Birkman Method and Leadership Effectiveness Analysis 360. As Principal Consultant, she specializes in talent strategy, assessment, succession management and organizational development.

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