Strategic talent management is all about ensuring that your team and organization have the talent they need to get the job done and help the business win.

Well-meaning but lopsided investments in talent management (TM) can be extremely wasteful. A big investment in recruiting, for example, will be wasted if all the new people you are hiring are poorly orientated, deployed, developed and retained. A big push in recruiting, if you are losing all your new hires, can also damage your brand, hindering your ability to compete for talent in the marketplace.

If you have a hole in the bottom of your talent bucket—losing talent like crazy—you can’t just keep pouring new talent in the bucket. You need to plug the hole. No one aspect of talent management can solve all your talent management challenges.

There are four core talent management (TM) practices and companies need to manage them all well to get the results they need.


We need to fill positions with people who can get the job done. Moreover, our choice of who we bring into the organization has an enormous impact on our culture and future: who we are becoming as an organization. Who we hire and promote also sends a powerful message to employees about what is valued, rewarded and expected. Are you promoting ass-kissers, lone rangers, team players, analysts, leaders? It makes a big difference.

Selection does not stop with hiring. Orientation and on-boarding can have a substantial impact on how quickly a new employee or leader becomes fully productive, fits into your culture and has a positive impact on communication and teamwork.


In this category, I include both deployment and performance management. Deployment involves putting the right people in the right roles and performance management—which is an ongoing process—should help you ensure that people are well managed.

Here are two best practices to consider:

Best practice: Assign projects to the best person for the job and whenever possible, assign the project to the person who can learn the most from it. If you always give the same project to the same person, e.g., because she is most qualified for the job, (i) you may be holding her back from learning new things and (ii) you are probably missing important opportunities to train other people to do that first project. Two pieces of advice here: first, when assigning projects to people who can learn the most from them, you still need to select on the basis of merit (someone who has earned that opportunity and who is ready, willing and able). Second, make sure you schedule sufficient time to offer the coaching support this person will need—both to get the job done and fully leverage the learning opportunity.

Best practice: I suggested in an earlier blog that you can turn every discussion and meeting into an opportunity to assess talent. In every meeting, look for everyone’s unique gifts and encourage people to bring their gifts to the table. This enhances individual contribution and team performance and it also enables you to think about deployment: Is this person ready for more responsibility, a new kind of project, a different kind of role or duty; where can this person have the biggest impact and in what role or project can they learn the most—what are they ready to learn?


Employee development is also very powerful, and includes a whole cluster of core TM practices: on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring, leadership development and so on.

Since people learn most from doing, rather than from classroom instruction, training type programs work best when they support learning on the job. The term “experience” in the diagram (above) refers to the lessons of experience.

The purpose of development is both retention (reducing turnover) and, of course, making employees more and more valuable to the organization. Done right, training adds substantial value:

  • An American Society of Training & Development study on the value of training, found that companies with well-designed training program had on average 57% higher net sales per worker; 37% higher gross profits per worker; 20% higher ratio in market-to-book values.
  • Properly designed learning initiatives can generate a return on investment of between 150% and 2,000%. (Cases in Jack Phillips, ed., Measuring ROI, ASTD, 1994)
  • Audit reports show that when we train the right people, transfer the knowledge and skills back to the [work] environment and the managers change their own behavior by reinforcing the use of these skills, we got a $30-35 return for every training dollar spent. This is the best return on capital that we get in any of our investment schemes. (V.P. Finance, Motorola)


This map names three important aspects of retention:

First, employees must be engaged in their work. Engagement is usually defined in terms of job satisfaction, morale, effort and motivation, all of which are tied to productivity. We need our employees to care about doing a good job and be fully engaged in their work, so that they can perform well, take initiative and be creative in serving our customers and achieving organizational objectives.

Second, culture has a huge impact on employee engagement and retention. Culture refers to several important things, including living the core values and creating (contributing to) an attractive culture for attracting and retaining talent. See this blog on culture.

EVP refers to your employee value proposition, i.e., the value you propose to offer your employees. This sounds a bit abstract but the question here is very powerful—both for you and your organization: “Why would really talented people want to work really hard for you?” What we are really talking about here is designing the organization, first, to make it a great place to work, second, maximize organizational effectiveness and third, give employees the support they need to get the job done (see my blog on organizational leadership).


Solid talent management practices enhance employee motivation, performance, development and retention. TM impacts your brand and ability to compete for talent. And it also affects organizational speed, flexibility and capacity for renewal.

Manage talent strategically, i.e., in the context of your highest priority business objectives: What talent do we need to recruit and develop to get the job done? What kind of talent will be most valuable to our long term success; for our unique vision, strategy, and values?

Think of the talent management cycle holistically in order to enhance the sustainability of your talent pool and organization. Your various TM practices need to be tightly integrated or aligned with each other (reinforce and support each other) and aligned with your vision, strategy and values.

How important is talent to your team and organization—and to your success as a leader? What level of effort, quality, and rigour do you need in your talent management practices?

Advanture can help you take your talent management practices up to the next level for enhanced business performance. Performance by design!

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