It’s time for talent to get up close and personal

We talk a lot about how important it is for talent management professionals to add real strategic value to the business. The fact is, a lot of acquisition work remains highly transactional - almost a third of talent acquisition teams told us in a recent survey that they don’t have a strategic workforce plan. Of those that do, 17% have a plan for the next six months and 40% have a plan for the next year.

Having a plan is, at least, a start. But consider the overall business strategy: it’s hard to imagine that the broader business only looks ahead six or twelve months. So why does talent acquisition remain so short term? In most organisations, the absence of a long-term talent acquisition plan is symptomatic of the separation between the talent acquisition team and the business leaders who develop and implement strategy.

In order for talent acquisition to become more strategic, this needs to change. Talent needs to find ways to get much closer to the business. And that means doing the work and showing the business the true value that talent can offer.

Don’t rely (solely) on the past

Returning to those six- and twelve-month plans, one thing many of these plans have in common is that they often use the previous year’s data to predict the following year (with some adjustment for any anticipated business growth). Little thought is given to strategic needs and initiatives or how the company needs to evolve their skills base to innovate.

This process may offer a ‘good enough’ result, but not in a way could it be considered strategic. And it reveals the gaping chasm between talent and the business.

The consequences of this disconnect can be particularly harmful when an organisation embarks on a major new strategy or enters a new market. For example, if an organisation determines that it will expand into China 18 months from now and the talent acquisition team has a full understanding of the strategy and objectives, they can determine the talent needs, assess the market, and build a strategy for identifying and recruiting candidates well in advance of the opening of the new office. If talent acquisition staff are informed later in the process, they will have to scramble to fill the positions.

Talent need to get involved much earlier in the process. They can offer the business critical information essential to the success of the initiative: an understanding of the skills and competencies needed to execute the strategy. The interaction with the business shouldn’t simply be ‘we need 300 people in China in three months.’ Talent should be at the table, discussing not only where and when, but advising on who those people need to be.

Stepping up

To position talent as a rightful participant in strategic discussions, talent professionals must develop an in-depth understanding of the underlying business. But the real value comes from using this understanding to target the strategic priorities of the business, offering a broader range of services beyond simply screening and selecting candidates.

This understanding is fundamental to developing a long term strategic workforce plan. There are three key ways that talent professionals can immediately start shifting talent planning from the short to the long term and get closer to the business in the process:

  • Think beyond single roles and instead think about the long-term potential for a candidate’s growth within the company.
  • Actively manage the balance between ‘building’ and ‘buying’ talent to ensure that the workforce as a whole have the skills to deliver on tomorrow’s business priorities.
  • Talent professionals are positioned at the frontline in the war for talent. Use these insights to position the organisation to proactively respond to future skill needs.