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Talent strategies play a fundamental role in aligning organizational as well as human skills and capabilities in support of the business strategy. While often used interchangeably, "Talent Strategy," "Talent Management Strategy," and "HR Strategy" serve distinct purposes. Talent Strategy focuses on identifying the organization's required knowledge, skills, and abilities, determining the best way of acquiring or accessing them from the market, and ensuring their development and retention. Talent Management Strategy on the other hand, provides a roadmap for aligning talent initiatives with business goals. In contrast, HR Strategy outlines the organization and operation of the HR function itself, determining the essential processes, policies, and services at each stage. Understanding these distinctions to appropriately utilize them is crucial for effective talent optimization and organizational alignment.
Talent strategy acts as the linchpin that aligns an organization's vision with its human capital. When effectively applied, it anticipates future needs and ensures that the organization is equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities. There are several existing frameworks that are aligned with this intent and are utilized in modern organizations.
The Six (6) Bs Framework
A holistic approach developed by Dave Ulrich and Adam Gibson for addressing talent gaps in an organization, covering strategies from hiring to retention and automation. Each “B” represents an alternative for what might be possible for an organization to do when an identified capability is needed. This includes:
Nine-Box Grid Model
A matrix tool commonly used in talent management and succession planning. It categorizes and evaluates employees based on their current performance and potential for future growth. This helps organizations identify high-potentials, consistent performers, and those needing development or improvement.
The Talent Management Lifecycle
A cyclical model representing the continuous process of attracting, developing, and retaining talent. It involves stages like workforce planning, talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, succession planning, and offboarding.
The War for Talent
An approach introduced by McKinsey & Company that emphasizes the competitive landscape for talent acquisition and retention. It prioritizes five imperatives: (1) Embrace a talent mindset, (2) Craft a winning employee value proposition, (3) Rebuild your recruiting strategy, (4) Weave development into your organization, and (5) Ensure that your managers are great at differentiating talent.
Talent Value Chain
A model that focuses on creating value through various stages of talent management. It follows stages like talent planning, talent attraction, talent development, and talent retention, with each stage adding value to the talent pools and, by extension, the organization.
Talent Pool Management
A strategy that involves classifying employees into specific groups based on their skill sets, potential, and readiness for critical roles. By identifying these pools, organizations can focus and tailor their training and development efforts to ensure they have a steady stream of prepared candidates for critical positions.
The 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development
An idealized model for professional growth and development. It suggests that 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experiences, 20% from interactions and feedback, and 10% from formal educational events.
Strategic Workforce Planning
A systematic process that aligns business and talent strategy. It involves forecasting talent needs, analyzing talent gaps, and developing strategies to bridge those gaps. It ensures that an organization has a sufficient number of the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles at the right time.
Arguably, the “6 Bs” framework is the most comprehensive to utilize with the rest of the models being strategies, approaches, or tools deployed based on a specific “B” being considered. Therefore, organizations typically adopt a mix of these models or adapt them to suit their specific context and needs. The key is ensuring alignment with the broader business strategy and fostering an environment where talent can thrive and contribute to organizational success.
Overall, the “6 Bs” framework offers a strategic approach that recognizes the multifaceted nature of talent planning. It acknowledges that different scenarios require different tactics, and a blend of these strategies can provide a more agile and resilient talent base. The key to its successful implementation lies in understanding the organization's specific context and using the right strategies to address its unique challenges and opportunities.
Buy: Rapidly close skill gaps by bringing in new talent. It is especially useful when entering new markets, launching new products/services, or when internal talent development can't keep pace with demand. It can be costly and carries the risk of cultural misalignment. Onboarding processes should be robust.
Build: Foster a culture of learning and growth. It’s essential for long-term sustainability and roles where specific company knowledge (of processes, practices, and people) is crucial. It requires investment in training programs, mentorship, and a culture that supports continuous learning.
Borrow: Flexibly address short-term needs or requirements for specialized expertise. Useful in project-based roles, seasonal demands, or when testing new roles/functions. Reliance on external talent may not guarantee loyalty or cultural fit. Intellectual property and confidentiality concerns can also arise.
Bind: Ensure retention of critical employees. It is crucial for roles that are in short supply, hard to replace, have a high impact, or for high-potential employees. It requires a deep understanding of what motivates and retains employees. It may also require tailoring benefits, incentives, and career paths for different segments of employees.
Bot: Drive efficiency and address repetitive tasks. Suitable for roles with high transaction volumes or routine processes and where human judgment is not critical. It requires investments in technology. There's also a need to manage the transition, including reskilling affected employees and addressing morale issues associated with the use of automated conversation agents.
Bounce: Adress lower-performing employees to maintain organizational performance standards. Useful as a performance management tool. It also aids in aligning talent to roles where they can be more effective. It requires a transparent and fair performance evaluation system. Care should be taken to avoid legal complications and ensure the process doesn’t demotivate other employees.
With a fuller understanding of how and when each “B” makes sense to consider, a complete talent strategy exercise can be conducted. Below is an illustrative example to visualize the successive definitions that should be made in support of specific business objectives culminating in the selection of an appropriate “6 Bs” strategy.
Sample Talent Strategy
The complete process with detailed steps, best practices, and tools for effectively creating a talent strategy is included in "Developing a Winning Talent Strategy to Identify Key Capabilities and the Most Appropriate Workforce Mix" as a Supplemental Guide freely open to all Wowledge members.
A talent strategy defines the talent needs and associated objectives necessary to meet top business goals. It is both an integral part of the HR strategic plan and a direct informer of the talent management strategy and planning process.
A critical talent plan defines the specialized and concentrated efforts that will be undertaken for those roles deemed to be of the greatest importance to meeting the organization’s strategic objectives.
A format for guiding and recording the planning of both employee volumes and strategic actions to be taken to close talent gaps projected to occur in the future population of critical role workers for workforce planning uses.