5 Key Steps in Strategic Talent Planning

Recruiting rarely is based on any sort of strategic plan. For most organizations, recruiting is a tactical operation ó a series of things that take place that result in qualified people getting hired. It is mostly reactive, and few recruiters have the time or charter to look forward more than a few weeks. To ensure that your organization has a chance at hiring the best people ó and to successfully operate in a global, competitive environment, organizations ó you will need a strategic plan coupled to appropriate resources and tactics. Here’s a quick overview of the five essential first steps needed to put this plan together and to begin making it operational:

The five key steps in strategic talent planning

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Step 1: Talent Plan Workforce or talent planning is the first and hardest step. It means deeply understanding the organization’s business goals and the competitive environment the organization functions in. It is a combination of understanding and predicating demand, while at the same time being educated and aware of the talent supply situation from all the sources that are available. This step needs to be far more than simply listing the jobs projected in the annual budgeting process and factoring in turnover. It is an evolving process, as opposed to an annual event, and is the most dynamic and critical stage of any strategic process. Step 2: Image and Brand It is not true that if you build a great strategy or a great organization, people will necessarily flock to your doors. Getting people aware of your organization is a tough job. It requires having a consistent communication process as well as a plan to raise general awareness through advertisements, promotions, or by getting listed as a “best place to work.” You have to be able to answer questions like, “What makes your company different or unique?” or “Why would I want to come work for you?” Not only should you have answers to these questions, but you should also make sure your advertising, web presence (which is essential), and overall corporate advertising support this image. This has to be an organization-wide effort. It takes time and an accumulation of messages to be effective. One or two advertisements or a handful of posters won’t do it. Step 3: Sourcing Methods Develop a multi-faceted sourcing strategy. Embrace active candidates who are responding to your brand and image-building messages, but maintain the capacity and skills to tap passive candidates. Decide based on past experience what works best for you in locating candidates, and then build those sourcing channels to the max. Make sure you are using referrals from current employees, your network of professionals, web-based search, your own web site and also develop methods to keep in touch with potential candidates that you have no current position for but might have at some later time. Step 4: Screening and Assessing Candidates Are you going to invest heavily in educating managers in behavioral interviewing? Are the recruiters going to be the main screeners, or will you use testing and other tools? What role will the Internet play, if any? Are you going to look into using web-based tests? How much will you rely on candidates screening themselves out or in? What role does the hiring managers play in screening and assessing, and what are the differences between what you do and they do? This is an area where there can be great improvement with reasonable effort, but where things are still done mostly the way they have always been done. A focus on automating screening to some degree reduces the volume of candidates and actually raises candidate satisfaction. Step 5: Market and Communicate! Candidates want to be in the know about their status and prospects. They seek out feedback and information. Your organization’s website is an invaluable tool, but you will also need to develop systems to communicate with candidates personally and to send out newsletters and emails. Probably all the people you need at one time or another sent a resume or expressed interest. They were most likely told that there were no current openings. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could actually stay in touch with those people and let them know when there is an open position? That’s what CRM (candidate relationship management) systems can do. Unfortunately, they are not yet generally available or optimized for recruiting. But ask your ATS vendor what they doing about this and urge them to provide you the tools you need to effectively keep qualified candidates interested in you. Make sure that whatever systems you choose fit your strategy and make economic sense A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure all managers and recruiters have a simple system for deciding on a candidate. As you know, speed is the real differentiator today, and the recruiter/manager who moves the most quickly will usually get the candidate. Eliminate unnecessary approvals, and make sure your selection criteria are clear to avoid slowing down the process.
  • If you are a decentralized firm, work out a system for who owns what. If you all agree together then the areas of dispute will be limited. The rule I use is that the central or corporate function should set standards and establish corporate-wide systems. Local offices should participate in that process and have great autonomy on the day-to-day stuff. They can supplement broad image and branding activities with local advertising within the bounds of an agreement you all make with one another.

These initial steps and processes are what enable the back-end activities of scheduling, interviewing, making offers, and on-boarding.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


2 Comments on “5 Key Steps in Strategic Talent Planning

  1. Dear Kevin,
    I’m writing to directly address a question you posed in your article, ‘5 Key Steps in Strategic Talent Planning ‘ in ERExchange on 8/17 and to pass on some information about a valuable tool I’ve recently discovered that might be of interest to your readers.

    In Step 5: Market and Communicate!, you ask, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could actually stay in touch with those people and let them know when there is an open position?’ I agree with you – YES, this is a key differentiator in accessing qualified candidates -however I disagree that the ATS is the best way to make this happen. You state that CRMs dedicated to recruiters ‘are not yet generally available or optimized for recruiting,’ but I’m pleased to let you know that I’ve discovered that there finally IS a CRM out there that is specifically designed for recruiters and we’ve just begun using it at Washington Group with amazing results!

    The tool is AIRS Engage – the first recruitment CRM that is specifically designed to track and communicate with qualified candidates so companies can develop a talent pool. It is a true CRM – not an ATS – but rather it seamlessly integrates with every major ATS to virtually eliminate data entry and associated costs when a prospect does become an applicant.

    Engage’s sophisticated e-marketing technology directly addresses your point about marketing and communication! It quickly and easily enables multi-media emails and allows for complete ‘open’ and ‘click thru’ tracking. Perfect for major campaigns or simple notes, this allows us to identify and call qualified and interested non-respondents and facilitates effective message tests to improve our marketing outreach.

    Engage quite simply offers a set of features and functionality unavailable in traditional ATS platforms or generic sales CRM systems. I was able to customize it to reflect my organization’s own recruiting process and style (I was able to choose the fields and drop downs!) and I am able to make use of features such as enterprise and workgroup sharing, list and contact view, a full database search capability and; email, call and activity journaling to maximize my recruiters’ time. It has amazing AIRS Toolbar technology for instant, automatic resume and contact data import that includes a highlight, click and import feature, automatic resume source coding and name generation research, and on-demand sourcing and talent pool metrics for fast ROI and talent pipeline measurement. It also has sophisticated source tracking and ATS export tracking. As you point out, simplicity, speed, and cost-effectiveness are key differentiators in deciding who gets the candidates today. I have to tell you – AIRS has found a way to provide all three of these qualities with Engage! Tracking communications and activities is hugely important in determining the value of recruiting through an internal network.

    It’s proven to be an incredibly cost-effective way for us to recruit and I highly recommend it over JUST using an ATS. I just wanted to pass this information on to your readers!

    Thanks and best regards,

  2. That’s a very sharp and lucid rundown on the Workforce Planning process. Thanks Kevin!
    However, as an outsider to HR, I have the advantage of raising a stupid-reading question (for I can get away with it 🙂 :)….

    …And which is….

    How can Talent Planning – and hence its process – be the same as Workforce Planning (and hence, its process) if Talent and Workforce are not the same? In my company for instance, I’m trying hard to get HR rid of its “workforce” mindset, and graduate to the “talent” mindset. That’s because I know, my business in the future is going to be driven by employees who can work amidst uncertainty, and grapple nimbly with rapid change. In sum, I don’t need marketing or project personnel who can work only in deterministic, predictable landscapes you can model. I need marketing/ sales/ project management TALENTS – who have the agility to work along the changing times.

    Being on the receiving end of the War for Talent, I guess, I have learned the difference between Talent and Workforce. I want Talent across the board to keep me competitive in a stochastic future; my workforce helps me continue my business. That’s the simple dictum I follow. And it is helping me diversify faster; expanding into new markets more effectively…

    And since, the future comes too soon these days, I really see workforce planning as a one-night-stand of sorts.

    If I make sense, what’s your RX for Talent Planning, please?

    Thanks tons in advance…

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