What Is Talent Management?
Talent management includes every step, process and touch point of the employee experience during the employee life cycle. Those milestones include attraction, hiring, onboarding, developing, empowering and transitioning talent. Talent management defines how an organization manages and engages with its most important asset: their talent.
An important note — getting talent management right is not just a set of HR processes. Instead, we can think of talent management as a deeply ingrained framework encompassing all the ways the organization engages with their talent to drive retention.
Why Is Talent Management Important?
If done well, talent management can ensure you retain your top talent. If done poorly, you can ensure your top talent will leave. No pressure, though.
Talent management is made up of many organic and formal plans and strategies across the organization, from leadership, to managers, to employee groups, in order to create the best possible employee experience.
What Is the Talent Management Process?
Talent Management Strategy
That all sounds great in theory but how do we actually execute a talent management strategy to set ourselves up for success?
Within every talent strategy, there must be a method to the madness so you can anchor back to that framework as the business changes and personnel turns over, not to mention all the other things that get in the way during the day-to-day.
There are a few important strategies your team needs to define and align on before you decide on specific talent management processes and executions:
- The employee value proposition
- Your cultural narratives
- Employee life cycle experience
- Culture code
Let’s break it down:
The Employee Value Proposition
- An EVP answers the question: Why would a highly talented person want to come work at this company and why would a current employee want to stay?
- The EVP defines the “give and get” of the employment deal — the value that employees are expected to contribute alongside the value that they can expect in return.
The EVP focuses on the positive things you’re known for such as:
- Core values
- Awesome benefits
- Meaningful work
- Being an industry leader
- Learning and development opportunities
The EVP tells us what matters most to employees. It’s composed of attributes that genuinely attract, engage and retain the talent we want.
The Culture Code
The culture code is part manifesto and part employee handbook. It’s a combination of who you are and who you aspire to be. The culture code should include core values, which define the mindset from which people should work when making their work-related decisions, and it includes the guide to the behavior you want to see at your company.
A cultural narrative aligns with, and incorporates, the overarching position that drives your culture and who you are as an organization. The cultural narratives represent what you want employees to say about their work, especially when unsolicited. For example, “When employees are at home with their partner at night, we hope they talk about our company in X way.”
- My teammates hold themselves and each other accountable (behaviors in alignment with core values).
- My teammates make [X company] a fun place to work. (Notice that it’s not “My company’s HR team makes this a fun place to work,” because the goal is employees are engaged and creating those fun experiences themselves, not that HR is forcing the events.)
Employee Life Cycle Experience
The exercise of putting yourself in your talent’s shoes at every stage of the employee life cycle is helpful. Make sure you ask yourself:
- What do we need to know about this stage?
- How can we create a positive experience during that stage?
Talent Management Process
- Need to know: Candidates are savvy. A-players will do their research and reach out to their network to determine if a company is worth pursuing. What our employees, clients and networks say will determine how likely we are to attract talent.
- To create a positive experience: Keep up with conversation. Contribute and influence as much as possible to create consistent external messaging.
- This phase involves everything from first contact with the employer through rejection or a signed offer letter.
- Need to know: Recruitment is a social process. The majority of industry hires are from employee or client referrals. Positive or negative feedback is now public knowledge. If one candidate has a good experience, then others will know about it. This same rule applies to a poor experience.
- To create a positive experience: Create a great candidate experience so that the conversation is a positive one; respond in a timely manner and update the candidate proactively on the status of their application.
- This phase includes everything from the time an employee signs their contact or offer letter through their first 120 days.
- Need to know: Onboarding is not solely administrative. An employees’ first interactions with HR and management cement cultural norms and behaviors. If management, HR or anyone else who helps in the onboarding process demonstrates a lack of consistency, new hires can develop divergent understandings of the organization’s culture, mission and values. Consistent messaging and positive interactions lead to higher engagement from new hires. Hearing it once is not enough; new employees need continued reinforcement of cultural norms, behaviors and job expectations to successfully onboard. This doesn’t only fall on the manager, but anyone with whom the new employee engages during the onboarding process.
- To create a positive experience: Begin onboarding immediately. Create a consistent experience and introduction to the company culture for every new hire. Develop regular check-ins and connection points for new hires (not just with their direct manager or team). Establish learning objectives for new hires (industry, job, company). Regularly check in and ask questions to determine how the new hire works and thinks. Build relationships and rapport.
- This phase comprises the first six or 12 months.
- Need to know: At this point, the initial excitement of a new job has worn off, yet employees are still new enough that they may not be at 100 percent efficiency. They want to contribute in their role while also contributing to the culture now that they aren’t new hires.
- To create a positive experience: Provide employees with small, concrete goals and then provide the tools and training necessary to reach them. Ensure that there’s no drop in attention from management or HR, and that simple, continued communication and training post-orientation remain ongoing.
- Need to know: The characteristic of high-performing teams is that each member repeatedly feels that their role calls upon their strengths and that they’re recognized for their successes.
- To create a positive experience: Establish clear definitions and drivers of behaviors to reward employees and keep the team accountable. Maintain consistent check-ins to ensure everyone’s adhering to team standards.
- Need to know: The employee life cycle is continuous. In about two years (on average), our employees will start looking for their next opportunity. Will it be within our organization or elsewhere?
- To create a positive experience: Have continuous conversations around growth aspirations and expose them to stories and opportunities for development whether it’s in terms of education, experiences or exposure to organizational leadership.
Once your team is aligned and clear on everything above, then you can line up all your current processes, policies, practices and ask yourself:
- “How are we doing?”
- “Does that program accomplish what we want it to, based on the experience we want employees to have during onboarding?”
Talent management represents the full scope of what your employees experience while they’re researching your company, working with your company and even after they leave your company. If done well, talent management will be a strategic advantage for you and your leadership team.