Invest in top talent – 6 steps to grow your talent pool

In a rapidly changing marketplace, companies need to effectively develop their best and brightest. Organizations that in the past may have given lip service to the idea of talent management will soon face a shortage of key organizational talent – talent that is responsible for implementing the business strategies critical to company success.

By investing a disproportionate amount of resources toward key talent (e.g., development resources, time, overall compensation, rewards), organizations will be better able to target their resources to people that have the greatest impact on results.

1. Develop your talent strategy

A comprehensive approach to talent management starts with a strategy that aligns selection, retention, and development initiatives with organizational goals and objectives. The aim of your organization's talent strategy is to be intentional about managing talent to meet the short-term and long-term needs of the company. By anchoring talent strategies to overall business strategies, you are able to build the business rationale for developing your organization’s talent pool.

2. Identify your top talent – performers and potentials

  • Performers: Those employees that excel and deliver results in their current role.
  • Potentials: Those employees that not only succeed in their current role but also have the ability to develop skills to suit multiple future roles. These skills are often outside the "technical competence" required to be a strong individual performer.

While organizational leaders are often adept at identifying outstanding performers, there can be difficulty identifying employees with the most potential, thus resulting in an incomplete picture of top talent. By creating organization-specific definitions of high performance and high potential, leaders have a standard to assess their talent against. These definitions will help facilitate deeper dialogue between leaders during the talent review process and will provide insight about which employees are top talent.

3. Provide feedback and recognition

With tight budgets and limited monetary resources available, organizations need to look to another valuable asset to develop talent – feedback and recognition. While all employees should be receiving regular feedback regarding their performance and development, leaders need to be steadfast in providing timely, specific feedback and appreciation to their top talent. High potentials often crave feedback, and a lack of feedback may be perceived as a lack of interest in the value they provide the organization. This makes feedback from leaders imperative.

Unfortunately, top talent is often overlooked because leaders spend a disproportionate amount of their time with poor performers.

4. Focus Development Planning

Each high-potential employee (in fact, all employees) should have an individual development plan (IDP). A typical plan should focus on development over the next 12 to 18 months and contain no more than three specific goals, to maintain focus. It is important that the development goals complement the employee's performance goals to avoid redundancy. Studies suggest that a good development plan should have 70% related to on-the-job tasks and assignments; 20% people interaction (coaching, mentoring, others to work with); and 10% courses, workshops and readings (please see graphic below).

5. Identify specific opportunities for development

As part of the development planning process, leaders should also discuss specific opportunities for each employee. What organizational resources are available? What's the best way to achieve the goals outlined? A disproportionate amount of resources (time and money) should be allocated to top talent to ensure their ongoing development and growth. Potential opportunities may include individual coaching, mentoring relationships, involvement in key projects or initiatives, internal training, stretch assignments, networking, delegated tasks, and participating in organizational meetings or industry conferences.

6. Review compensation strategies

While compensation is rarely the lone reason talent stays with an organization, we would be remiss if we failed to recognize the message monetary rewards can send. Organizations should look to create transparent compensation systems that differentiate average from excellent and reward top talent appropriately. Organizations should look to invest more in top talent, since these employees produce more per dollar spent than their average counterparts.

With limited resources and competitive marketplaces, it is necessary for organizations to differentiate themselves through their talent. By applying rigorous talent management processes that focus on the allocation of monetary and non-monetary resources toward top talent, organizations will be better able to retain and grown their talent pool – a key competitive advantage.

Sign up for the free In Business Wisconsin Report – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click hereIf you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.