Managing talent is arguably the most important job for any HR department. In this article, we will dive into the nitty-gritty of creating a talent management process, including all the steps involved.
Employees are a critical part of any organization, offering their time and commitment towards advancing the organization’s goals. The organization benefits from this labor and through the right talent management practices can reap even more benefits.
According to Pearl Zhu, writer of Leadership Master, “The solution to encourage creativity is to maximize the use of employees’ brainpower”. Talent management helps in doing this, answering the question: what should we do in HR to unleash our workforce’s full potential.
- An employer branding strategy
- Identify job criteria
- Sourcing and attracting talent
- Selecting talent
- Contingent compensation
- Engagement and culture
- Performance management
- Learning and development
- Promotion and succession planning
What is the talent management process?
The talent management process is the procedure of guiding the employee journey. This starts at how employees are attracted to the organization and continues as they move through it when working there. Common talent management practices include hiring and selection, learning and development, engagement and culture building, and succession planning.
Talent management itself is a bit of a confusing term. It usually covers all of the employees in an organization. However, the statement that every employee in the organization qualifies as ‘talent’ is hard to defend – for any organization!
Talent management refers to the process of managing employees. Within this talent management process, there is often also a ‘high potential’ program. These programs apply to the ‘real’ top talent of the organization.
Before we dive into the 11-step talent management process, I would like to briefly discuss an article we published before about a talent management model.
This model is a great illustration of the talent management process. Talent needs to be attracted through the right selection criteria and talent should become increasingly valuable for the organization. Talent needs to be retained and through referrals, you get new talent in.
The ultimate goal is to make people in the organization more profitable. In other words: how do you get the most value out of your talent.
The importance of talent management
Talent management done right has several advantages, we’ll briefly discuss a couple of them.
When employees feel like they’re being heard, challenged and trained (among other things), there is a big chance they’ll feel satisfied with their job and the company they work for. As a result, they’ll be more engaged, more productive – which is good for business – and generally speaking just happier human beings.
When the entire talent management cycle – hiring and selection, learning and development, engagement and culture building, and succession planning – is optimized for your organization, your turnover rate should plummet. Think of it: when you hire the right people and provide them with the learning and development opportunities they’re looking for it becomes a lot less likely your employees will leave the organization prematurely.
Speaking of hiring the right people, a well-functioning talent management process also has a positive impact on your employer brand – and by extension on your recruitment efforts. If, for example, your company is known for its incredible learning & development program this will probably be perceived as a ‘big plus’ by 21st-century job seekers and give you a (very welcome) competitive advantage compared to your competitors.
An overview of talent management practices
Another model I often use when I give presentations is the following overview of talent management practices. In the model below you see an ELTV or Employee Life Time Value, and an ROI or Return on Investment.
Through the right talent management practices, the financial value of an employee goes up. For example, through smarter selection, better onboarding, good performance appraisal practices, the right training, and a good compensation scheme, you will have better-performing employees.
When these things are done well, HR creates a positive ROI on their efforts.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the 11 steps, or stages, of a successful talent management process.
An 11-step talent management process
Mapping the talent management process is not a hard science. It can be done in multiple ways. In this article, I propose an 11-step talent management process. For each of the steps, I will state an implicit goal that acts as a success criterium.
1. An employer branding strategy
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of creating job requirements and selecting the right people, we should build an employer brand. This makes all the following steps easier.
According to the Guardian, Altria, Philip Morris’ USA parent company, recently reported that “Altria Group, Inc. may be unable to attract and retain the best talent due to the impact of decreasing social acceptance of tobacco usage and tobacco control actions… our strategy of attracting and retaining the best talent may be impaired by the impact of decreasing social acceptance of tobacco usage… ”
Having a strong and attractive employer brand helps in attracting and retaining talent. The employer brand is an important enabler of all the next stages in the talent management process.
Goal: being a good place to work and an attractive employer so it is easier to attract and retain talent.
2. Identify job criteria
Every employee has a purpose. Whenever a job is created or opens up, you need to define what the job entails, including the qualifications required to do the job well. This is usually done in co-operation with the hiring manager.
Once you know the key qualifications and responsibilities you can go to the next phase in which you will source and attract the new hire.
Goal: identify the key qualifications and responsibilities of the job.
3. Sourcing and attracting talent
In the next step, you source and attract the employee(s) you are looking to hire. As we all know, you will almost never find the perfect candidate on the first try. Attracting qualified people and selecting the best ones is a key competency for an organization – and the ones that are successful will build an incredibly valuable talent pool.
Sourcing is often done by reaching out to candidates who are already in a job, by placing advertisements on job boards or by creating more targeted advertisements that comply with the employee persona created in step 2 of the talent management process.
Goal: reach out to relevant employee groups to attract suitable candidates for the job.
4. Selecting talent
Once you have a number of people who seem eligible for the job, you need to make a selection. Selecting the best candidates is a time-consuming – but also a very rewarding process.
Different selection methods offer different predictive validity. The most often used instrument is the traditional job interview. Other instruments include IQ tests, work tests, personality assessments, and reference checks.
For a full overview of relevant instruments, check this paper by Schmidt and Hunter (1998). This paper shows the most common selection techniques and the degree to which they predict future job performance.
In our article on talent management metrics, we mention a number of critical recruitment and selection metrics you may want to check out!
Goal: leveraging the relevant instruments to make a data-driven selection of who will perform best.
5. Contingent compensation
Once you’ve hired someone, you need to retain them. Compensation is the simplest form of retaining people. People still work primarily for pay. Compensation can also entail other benefits, like extra days off, health insurance, employee wellness programs, flexible scheduling, working from home, and so on.
Another form of compensation is performance-based pay (PBP). PBP links one’s pay to how one performs, rewarding superior performance with better pay. These payment schemes are often seen in sales, where superior performance pays off directly – for both the organization and the sales professional.
Goal: compensate people to retain them and encouraging them to perform at their best.
6. Engagement and culture
A second critical component in retaining people and enabling superior performance is engagement and a high-performing work culture.
Engagement is often measured in surveys. Superior engagement is linked to various business outcomes, including higher productivity, quality, and profitability while decreasing the risk of turnover and absence. Establishing best practices to engage the workforce helps to build a high-performance culture.
According to management thinker Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. An empowering culture is an important catalyst for performance. Culture is hard to copy and takes a lot of time and leading by example to establish. It grows and evolves over time and requires constant attention and nurturing to get it right.
Goal: create a high-performance work culture that helps to drive organizational goals.
Retention is a hot issue in a lot of organizations all over the world. Retaining top employees at the corporate headquarter is just as hard as retaining factory workers in lower cost countries like Brazil or India. Companies are struggling a lot to keep the cost of employee turnover down.
The newest trend in retaining people is leveraging data to retain people. Turnover prediction has proven to be effective in reducing turnover when implemented correctly. The complexity can range from relatively simple analyses to highly advanced statistical models that predict employee churn.
Goal: retaining people is a key component in the talent management process to ensure the continuation of business activities.
8. Performance management
A critical part of the talent management process is performance management. At the same time, it is also the part that´s hotly debated. Companies like GE, Adobe, and Deloitte are getting rid of their performance reviews, opting to go for alternative approaches to managing people.
One approach mentioned by these companies are check-ins or touchpoints. This points towards a more continuous performance management approach.
Goal: put performance management practices and policies in place that will lead to better performance.
9. Learning & development
Performance management is used as a means to continuously improve how an employee is performing. Learning and development, or training, has the same purpose.
The world is changing quickly – and so should we to keep up with it. Training helps in learning employees the skills of the future. When done well, training efforts align with the evolving job responsibilities of employees and thus enable them to perform better.
Goal: Train employees so they have the skills they need to perform at the highest level.
10. Promotion and succession planning
Employees who perform well should be rewarded. Top performers get new challenges and responsibilities to keep them excited. This is where promotions and succession planning comes in. Promoting the people who will add even more value when they have more responsibility is a key step in the talent management process.
Succession planning aligns with this responsibility. For the top functions in your organization, you want to have a few people who can replace these people when the time is there. Doing this correctly enables the continuity of the business – which is vital.
An interesting spin on this is the Peter principle, which proposes that people tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”. Only good performers are promoted – and they stop being promoted when they stop performing. This means that when they become incompetent because the requirements are too difficult, they are stuck there.
Goal: you want to promote the people who will perform well in jobs with more responsibilities.
And then, finally, there’s the exit. The last step is inevitable. Whether someone moves on because they are looking for a different challenge, or they retire, at some point you have to say goodbye.
Exits can be divided into two groups, undesirable and desirable leavers. The undesirable leavers are the people that you wanted to stay. Their departure is a loss for the company.
When this kind of employee leaves, make sure to do an exit interview to learn why they left. What is it that you can do better?
The second kind is desirable turnover. These are people that never really performed very well and that can now be replaced by people who could do their work better. These people ended up at this point because of a mistake somewhere in the talent management process. You either hired the wrong people, weren’t able to engage them, didn’t train them sufficiently, or any other combinations of the 10 factors we listed above.
Goal: if you do everything perfectly, you don’t want anyone to exit, ever. The exit is a perfect point to learn from your mistakes and improve.
Managing the talent management process is one of the hardest challenges for any HR department. However, when done well, it could provide tremendous value to the organization.
This article has given you a full overview of all the stages in the talent management process. Now that you know these stages and the central goals associated with each stage it will be much easier to create a talent management program that drives superior performance. Best of luck in your talent management journey!