The Path to Talent Planning Success

Kurt Wilkin

Three Steps to Get Started

Attracting and retaining game-changing talent is the single best way to take your business to the next level. Talent strategy is every bit as critical to success as a business strategy or a financial plan. Success happens when your vision for your company meets the skills and expertise of an experienced team.

For example, let’s say one of your strategic initiatives includes building a best-in-class product development function for your snack food company so you can develop new and innovative products every year. Well, you better invest in a strong product development leader and not expect your over-leveraged team to just “figure it out”. Or maybe one of your strategic initiatives includes owning the Texas market by opening offices in Houston and Dallas. Again, don’t expect that to happen in a growth-oriented way if you simply add that to the plate of your legacy team. Be smart about it and invest in the right leader to own and drive those initiatives.

While there are a lot of good reasons to get on board with talent planning, it can be a challenge to put into practice! To get a jump-start on thinking strategically about talent, we recommend starting with these three basic steps.

1. Know where you want to take your business.

Check in with your 3 to 5 year strategic plan and your financial forecast. What key assumptions are you making that impact your growth? What are the strategic initiatives that will make or break your plan?

Understand your personal goals and make sure they aren’t overlooked when you focus your attention on the business. By the same token, what are your individual strengths and weaknesses as a business leader? If you are lacking in key areas (as we all are), you will need to surround yourself with complementary skill-sets. It’s much better in the long run if you play to your strengths. This will help you build the right team to fill in the gaps.

2. Outline the skills and experience needed to get you there.

If you had a blank sheet of paper and money were no object, what types of talent would you want or need on the team? How would you design your ideal organization, independent of who or what you have today? Write up your ideal org chart.

It is so important to NOT put names in the boxes yet. Including names at this point tends to lead to emotional decisions. Why is this so important? Because everyone’s got a Mike – a long-term, loyal, and trusted employee, who works 16 hours a day and is dedicated to you and the mission. But he is overwhelmed, over-titled, and simply will not be able to take you to the next level.

It doesn’t mean you need to fire your “Mike” or that he isn’t extremely valuable. But it means that you need to build your org chart without names in the boxes – because adding names tends to cloud our judgment.

Once your new structure is laid out, THEN map your existing team against your ideal, “future state” organization.

3. Assess where you are today and identify any gaps in expertise.

Consider which members of your current team can grow with you and which members, if you’re being honest, you have simply outgrown. Where do you need additional skills and experience? More often than not, the team that got you here won’t get you to the next level. PRO TIP: Look for areas where experienced leaders can get you there faster.

Be forewarned – this is not easy! As you dig into the process, you will be faced with many challenges and some tough decisions. Don’t worry! You’re in good company – this is normal.

But if you really want to achieve your vision and make your company all it can be, strategically planning for talent is a must. When great talent is aligned with a clear vision, your business will be transformed. And if you just don’t think you’ve got the resources to create an effective talent plan yourself, or if you need some guidance, my team is always here to help. Our Strategic Talent Planning™ solution, has been transformative for many of our clients’ businesses, and I’m confident it will be for yours, too.

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