Will Your Talent Strategy Go the Distance?

Will Your Talent Strategy Go the Distance?


In this age of 24-hour news and all-pervasive social media, where constant change and volatility seem to be the norm, it is perhaps not surprising that the recruitment approach of many organisations is also highly reactive and subject to the rapidly evolving moods of management teams – themselves all too often rigidly driven by quarterly earnings cycles.

Whilst this recruiting agility can occasionally bring some short-term commercial benefit, it rarely delivers the sustainable competitive advantage and the long-term value that owners and shareholders desire. This can only be achieved through a carefully planned and consistently implemented talent strategy.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case…

Firstly, the evolution of a long-term talent acquisition strategy tends to involve more stakeholders within the company and, therefore, enjoys the necessary buy-in and C-level executive sponsorship needed to ‘stick with the programme’ if early wins are not recorded. Too often, more hastily conceived hiring strategies are abandoned as soon as the first obstacle comes into view resulting in much wasted effort and resources.

Secondly, the core principles underlying long-term talent strategies are almost always coherently aligned with the overall business strategy and long-term objectives of the organisation. This is primarily due to the fact that the strategy has been developed specifically to be in sync with the attainment of long-term goals and rewards.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the development of a longstanding talent strategy does not exclude the possibility of an opportunistic, more tactical hiring effort being integrated into the overarching plan if circumstances dictate that there would be merit in doing this. Agility and flexibility can be built into long-term plans once the overall direction of travel has been determined.

So what does a long-term talent acquisition strategy look like? And how do I know if my company has one rather than a hotchpotch of tactical hiring campaigns which happen to have some common features?

There is no definitive answer to this question but it may be helpful to describe a number of scenarios which our clients have faced over the years where a strategic approach to talent was necessary in order to address the long-term requirements of the business.

One common issue – which many of our Oil & Gas clients have struggled with – has been the need to acquire talent in new (and often remote) jurisdictions over a prolonged timeframe and, in particular, where their ability to do this was pivotal to the long-term success of the business.

Here it has often been necessary to initially construct a full talent map, discipline-by-discipline across multiple functional and technical domains so that there is clear visibility of the available talent pools in the country in question.

The map would provide details of the competitor organisations people are working for, the demographics of the talent pool (which feeds into longer term planning scenarios), compensation & benefits information and other softer data points on cultural motivations and practical or logistical considerations relevant to that particular location.

Armed with this information, we have frequently been then asked to purposefully and systematically engage with the talent pool in question in order to raise the profile of our client and to articulate their distinctive employee value proposition (EVP) so they become receptive to hearing about employment opportunities within our client’s organisation. This has proved very effective as a way of preparing the ground for a successful hiring campaign (way) ahead of need.

A slight variation on the above scenario can often be found within the Professional Services sector whereby a firm needs to gather intelligence on a given market in advance of an investment decision on the opening of an office in the country in question.

A mapping study here would often focus on the overall competitive landscape, the projected time to reach break-even (based upon intelligence gathered from other new market entrants in the previous five years), service offering gaps in the market, the likely success of a cherry-picking strategy versus a full team/practice lift approach and the prevailing compensation levels in firms across different tiers of the market. This type of exercise has become far more common in recent years as firms have realised that flying out a few individuals from head office to establish a presence in a new market is unlikely to result in success.

The existence of a ‘candidate tight’ market in a given specialist area or function is another scenario which often drives the need for a long-term talent acquisition strategy. In this situation one commonly finds that financial inducements to join are rarely sufficient in themselves to attract the desired talent and that it is critical to work simultaneously on the careful development of your organisation’s EVP and tie this into the longer term opportunities that your business can offer.

No longer empty-handed, businesses can then interface with their target talent pools over a prolonged period taking advantage of competitor misfortunes or Achilles heels to make their businesses one of the top destinations of choice when restless talent starts to consider alternative destinations. This form of mapping and ‘stealth’ recruiting has often proved effective when a company has been somewhat lagging behind other market participants in its progress in capturing the talent it requires and where only a consistent and patient approach will bring the desired results.

The above scenarios represent just a few situations where an organisation would be well-advised to reflect on whether its current approaches to talent acquisition are providing a solid platform for sustainable success.

The benefits of a long-term and well planned talent mapping and pipelining approach could be equally applicable to businesses about to enter periods of significant change and transformation or to professions facing a looming and entirely foreseeable demographic challenge 5-10 years from now.

The common denominator essentially is that the conception and evolution and of any talent plan should be aligned with an organisation’s longer term mission and goals. It is when there is a disconnect between the two that problems start to surface and long-term value is eroded.

6 Group works with clients to build sustainable and resilient talent strategies aligned to their overarching business objectives. To find out what we can do for you, get in touch.

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