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added november 26th 2008

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Talent Mapping - Know where your talent lies...

Mark Hopkins, Head of Assessment Development & Talent Practice at Reed Specialist Recruitment

In today’s difficult business climate, knowing where your talent lies and the key strengths and attributes of every person in your organisation could mean the difference between getting through the current downturn or not.

When margins are tight, companies will naturally be reluctant to invest in major recruitment drives or employee development programmes. But one thing you should not neglect is the development, training and nurturing of staff that you see as being integral to your future business and central to your getting through these difficult times. One way of being certain who these individuals are is to introduce talent mapping.

Talent mapping is a process which charts every individual in a company according to their skills, competencies and capabilities and literally displays where they ‘sit’ in terms of their ‘talent’ within the company in a visual map. It analyses their ‘talent’ and the potential – where they can add value to the business now and where they could deliver value in the future.

This is of course a great process for a company to undertake as a matter of course, but in a downturn, it is an essential one. When times are tough, businesses need to adapt their plans and respond flexibly to new situations. This is when managers need to know who they can call upon to help them and which skills they need immediately to get them through.

Equally, they need to identify the ‘dead wood’ or those individuals whose skills are not required during such times. For example, a CEO might decide that it is more pertinent to improve financial management and credit control rather than invest in new business development at such a time and will need to plan resources carefully to reflect this change of direction. It will be important to also identify any skills gap and then decide to train internal staff to fill the void or recruit externally – again, talent mapping makes this process easier to manage.

But many companies do not have a formal talent management programme in place – how would they go about talent mapping?
Identifying your talent

Firstly, companies need to decide on what ‘talent’ really looks like within their organisation and what ‘talent’ is needed for the current and future business strategy.
We all know that everyone has talent or potential for something, but this generic approach is not good enough; the important factor is to decide how talent will be used.
Is there any dead wood in the company? What skills would be needed in difficult times?  In this uncertain economy when staff cut backs might be needed, these questions are essential. Companies who are certain about the people they want to be part of their future will have a greater chance of success.

Each individual should be assessed in terms of their personal capabilities, motivations, technical expertise and experience, so managers can easily determine their ‘value add’ now and in the future. This process also makes it easier to see which skills are missing and the people that need to be brought to help manage more difficult times.
Many companies use external providers to help them set up their talent management programmes. These experts will bring an objective view point and guide companies through the entire process, teaching them how to spot talent, create profiles for individuals and set up talent maps showing how individuals can be developed throughout the organisation in a formal and structured way.

Talent should not be static – it needs developing
Once talent is identified, how that talent will be developed within the organisation should be considered. People cannot remain static, they need to be nurtured and developed to motivate them, keep their morale high and get the most out of them.
An external provider can set up an assessment strategy for companies to determine the skills, capabilities and motivations of every individual. They will help map where people sit in the organisation in terms of their talent and their potential for moving within the company and adding value to the business.

This process helps companies shift their focus from short term goals to focus on the bigger picture. It helps them plan a long term strategy and determine what talent will be needed to ensure future business success.

The programme should be fully supported by everyone in the business from the CEO downwards and incorporated completely into the business strategy.

Line managers need to be coached on how spot, nurture and develop talent programme and they should be incentivised and given the time needed to invest in their staff so their team realise that their career development is a major business priority.

The process should be communicated to everyone. It is a good thing if employees know they are being assessed as working towards a career goal is motivational. Remember, employment is a two way contract – if an employee has bought into career development plan you have promised to deliver, they are more likely to remain in the company to see it through.

Talent mapping will position every individual in a company in terms of their skills, attributes and capabilities and it will clearly chart how they should progress. Managers will be able to see when employee development is needed so that training and development and career opportunities can then be given to employees in a timely manner, before boredom sets in and motivation slips.

Key to the success of any talent management programme is the willingness of business managers to allow people to progress within an organisation. They need to think about the business strategy as a whole and how much more valuable these people will be to the company having experienced other departments and having moved out of their comfort zone.

By following these simple steps, companies can not only start to recruit the right people, they can develop people properly and ensure that their most valuable people assets will be part of their long term business success.

Here are my 10 Top Tips on talent management:
1. Understand what talent you require - what skills, knowledge, technical expertise do you require to make the organisation a success
2. Know where your talent lies – work with experienced talent management consultants who can help you identify talent
3. Know where your organisation wants to get to – be clear about its current and  strategy and objectives and what is required of your talent to get you there
4. Maintain flexibility - circumstances change both internal and external to the organisation.  Be ready to alter your talent strategy to meet those needs
5. Utilise your talent appropriately – be prepared to move your talent around the organisation in response to the challenges facing the organisation both internally and externally.
6. Remember that talent is not static; it must be developed – map every individual in terms of their talent and skills and how they can move and develop
7. Embrace the programme from top down – make it an integral part of the business strategy
8. Support and coach line managers delivering the programme – make it a key part of their job description
9. Reward and recognise your talent - there should be clear alignment between performance and reward and recognition.
10. Communicate, communicate, communicate – everyone should know about the programme and where their talent lies within the organisation - this will improve employee retention and boost morale.

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Additional information
Mark Hopkins, Head of the Assessment, Development & Talent Practice at Reed Consulting, part of Reed Specialist Recruitment is an organisational psychologist and an expert on all aspects of talent management.
He specialises in consulting, diagnosing, designing, implementing and delivering large scale organisation-wide solutions around assessment for talent and potential identification, recruitment and development.
He is experienced in executive profiling and coaching, performance management, the designing and implementing 360 appraisals and in developing and managing large-scale organisational employee surveys.
Mark has worked with leading organisations including Royal Bank of Scotland and The BBC implementing talent and assessment solutions.

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