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Managing Talent: Building a talent pipeline

By David Deegan

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There is a plethora of discussion around how retaining talent and generating staff loyalty is best achieved when there is alignment between the values of an individual and the values of an organisation.

People often say that their values don’t change. It can feel disingenuous to talk about changing our values; almost like betraying ‘who we are’. Yet when our life circumstances change, when the environment around us changes, our values will shift. Some will become more important to us than others. The most obvious example is when we have children. But values may also shift if a partner or family member becomes ill, or if we are single and unexpectedly find ourselves made redundant because our industry sector has become more technology-driven.

Organisations will also have to change their values and priorities in response to changes in the environment. So any alignment that exists between an individual and an organisation will have a shelf-life. Either the individual’s values will shift, or the organisation’s values will shift.

In a previous Managing Talent blog, “How to encourage your workforce to manage their career” we looked at how a manager can help a person unearth their values in a process of ‘Looking Inwards’ and ‘Looking Outwards’ so they can recognise their personal needs and their environment in order to realise career progression.

But how can leaders expect to hold on to their talent if they cannot effectively articulate what their organisation stands for right now, what their organisation’s strengths are in relation to the current competition and what future challenges the industry will face? Talented people (especially the Millennials and beyond) will want to assess how closely a particular organisation aligns to their own values and ambitions. They know what else is ‘on offer’ other than salary and benefits so that they judge for themselves the level of alignment.

How can leaders hope to create the level of alignment that breeds loyalty and hard work if they are unable to describe what the organisational offer looks like?

Looking inwards and Looking Outwards

Leaders can be more effective at managing their Talent Pipeline by adopting the same approach of “Looking Inwards” and “Looking Outwards” within the organisation. They need to spend time ‘Looking Inward’ at the organisation and ‘Looking Outward’ at the commercial landscapes. They need to ask challenging questions of the organisation so that they can build a detailed picture of what they are offering to an ever-more discerning Talent Population.

By comparing and cross-referencing the results from ‘Inward’ and ‘Outward’ questions leaders can gain insight into how to ‘Look Forward’ as an organisation. This process can also enable leaders to describe, with greater clarity and insight, the work brand, ie what the organisation has to offer employees.

Answers from those challenging questions can generate specific, detailed vocabulary to help the organisation’s leaders have more granular and productive conversations with the people in their talent pipeline.

And these are not questions to be asked just once. People may believe they are in the perfect job. Organisations may believe they have the perfect workforce.

Changing environment

But everything changes. The economic environment changes, industries innovate and overtake competitors, roles need to change to suit new requirements. The workforce changes, they become more experienced and knowledgeable. They may seek new challenges.

And these are not questions to be asked just at an organisational level. We have all had the experience of walking into a department of a large organisation and within the space of a few hours thinking to ourselves “Oh I could never work here.” Organisations attempt to convey their values through their job specifications, their workforce benefits, testimonies on their website. Yet, regardless of the organisational values that we can see on posters adorning on the walls, printed on coffee mugs, there is something about the face-to-face experiences, the individual conversations we have, that makes us want to run for the hills.

Equally, and I speak from personal experience when I came to be interviewed at Cranfield’s Centre for Executive Education, we may not know the values that the parent organisation espouses, they may not be printed on the job description, but after a short time of engaging with the people who work there and hearing how they describe ‘the offer’, we may get that gut feeling of “I reckon this could really work for me.”

If organisations are to retain their existing talent, and attract fresh talent, they need to spend time reflecting upon the values, the culture of their organisation. What are they currently offering to a workforce other than just pay and benefits? They need to reflect on whether that workforce brand is appropriate and aligned to the current organisational strategy. They also need to reflect on whether it is appropriate and aligned to the ever-changing expectations of a workforce. Much is written about “meeting the needs of millennials and Generation Y”, but as we get older we have more and more experiences which colour our perception of what makes “a great employer”.

If you would like to be able to describe your organisational offer in more detail so as to help you have more granular conversations about alignment, download our check list.

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Tags: Cranfield School of Management, talent, featured talent, featured sidebar talent, career development