Talent Flow – What Is It? How Can It be Utilised to Create a Competitive Advantage?
Most businesses know that there are many benefits to Succession Planning such as reduced staff turnover and fewer costs associated with talent acquisition to name just two. So, what is Talent Flow then? And how can it benefit companies with their Succession Planning goals?
Succession planning in any form can provide value to companies. Many businesses, however, are unaware that they are likely just scratching the surface when it comes to succession planning. While the ability to identify current vacancies and match with existing talent is good, Talent Flow relates to planning and developing talent for the roles your business will need in the future and this makes for a better strategy. Let’s see how:
Aim for Talent Flow, not just Replacement Planning
Identifying and filling current vacancies with existing talent is replacement planning, while purposely nurturing and developing current talent to fill the roles your business will need to grow and succeed in the future is more about talent flow. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, a business should really aim for both, but talent flow is understandably more challenging. Master talent flow and replacement planning will likely follow.
But what exactly is talent flow? Talent flow is all about developing specific talent pools to have the right skills so that employees are ready to fill new and future roles. It’s more challenging because it requires the coordination of a range of HR tasks rather than just tracking talent and job vacancies.
To have the talent you need for future roles ready and waiting, you need to bring together workforce planning, succession planning, career development, and learning management. Together they can help you identify which positions and therefore skills your business will need in the future. This will also help you track and monitor current performance to identify your highest potential talent, train and nurture this talent in the skills you need and then prepare them for succession when the time comes.
Talent flow and succession can vary from business to business. By its nature, it is unique to business needs and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. That being said there is a rough blueprint that we think works for every company. Utilising the SuccessFactors suite, businesses can follow the below guidelines to achieve their very own talent flow strategy:
Use your Data
Gathering and using data is integral to HR in general, not just for effective succession planning. When it comes to succession, data can help you spot current skills gaps as well as plan for the future roles that your company may need to evolve and be successful. Identifying the skills you currently have and the ones you need to develop requires data. It helps to know everything from top performers to tracking key succession metrics to help you improve your strategy. This is where the full suite of SuccessFactors really excels, as you can collect and collate data for every stage your employee journey and analyse it in real-time with intuitive dashboards, graphs, and even forecasting tools.
Make Development a Core Focus
The first step is to make development a core focus and a goal throughout your business. You need managers and leaders on board with development for top-down success. Without it, it will be that much harder to spot and nurture your best talent. The challenge here is that often businesses punish development rather than encourage it. You’ll need to sit down with managers to get an idea of the current thoughts on development. If your succession strategy or talent acquisition has been rocky before now, then you may find that you’ve been suppressing a culture of development with managers not willing to lose their best team members if replacements aren’t found promptly.
As well as making changes to ensure development isn’t being punished, you should start to actively encourage development by setting succession goals across the business, management, and teams. Succession KPIs can make it clear to managers and the company as a whole that development is very much a core focus and will be taken seriously.
Invest in the Workforce Potential
Integral to development and succession is a belief that your current employees can become more than what they are now. Without the belief that you already have the foundations of your future talent within your workforce, your business simply won’t be motivated to invest in it.
Once you have a belief, you can begin to cultivate a culture of learning. This means giving employees the opportunity to learn and skill-up by providing the tools they need. An LMS like SuccessFactors Learning enables you to easily create and share courses in the skills and training that matter to your business, while their intuitive self-service portal means employees can develop on their own terms. Aligned with SuccessFactors Performance & Goals, employees can take charge of their own learning while managers stay in the loop.
Align Learning with Future Business Needs
For learning to be truly about development and succession, employees need to train for their future job, not just their current one. This is key to taking the step from simple replacement planning to true talent flow. Once you’ve worked out which roles you want to develop for the future needs of your business, and the skills these roles will need to be successful, you can align your learning offering accordingly.
Even current roles should evolve with changing technology and best practices, making it more important than ever. At the very least you can ensure employees are still equipped to handle their current position as it evolves, at best you can ensure that you have the right talent pools to choose from when it’s time to fill new roles in the future.
Current Performance and Future Potential
Believing in the potential of your current workforce and aligning learning to nurture this talent is only half the battle. You need to be able to accurately track ongoing employee performance to help you spot the best potential to nurture in the first place. Being able to identify your best talent and the employees that really excel means you can focus resources on the staff that will provide the best returns in the long run. It may be that you already have many employees that are only a skill or two away from the positions you need to develop for the future.
SuccessFactors Performance and Goals can provide accurate performance tracking and transparency across your organisation. With the tools to accurately track performance, it’s much easier to create a consistent measurement of employee performance. This in itself can help to encourage better talent flow, as you can already see who your best performers are when it’s time to fill a new role and accurate performance tracking supports a more integrated culture.
Balance your Talent Pipeline
Once you’re the master of development it can be tempting to over-invest in developing your workforce. While learning and development is never a bad thing, the aim should always be for a balance. Overinvesting in development can lead to external turnover as you develop more employees than there are roles. You can easily end up with more overqualified employees and no appropriate roles available, leading them to take your invested skills elsewhere.
Workforce planning and forecasting can help to balance your talent flow with future job opportunities properly, so you never develop more employees than you need. It works by comparing the time required to build future talent, the number of high-potential employees in or eligible for development programs, and the expected number of future open positions due to company growth or turnover of current employees.
Maintain Talent Flow
Once you’ve achieved talent flow, it’s all about maintaining it. Don’t forget that by its nature, talent flow isn’t something that happens overnight. You may need a couple of years to let it settle in; over-engineering it because you don’t think you can see immediate results can lead to problems like an unbalanced talent pipeline or over-investment. You’ll also need to make the business case for talent flow by showing current and potential return to maintain investment in your strategy. Development is costly, but talent flow can far exceed any costs you initially invest. For example, you might be able to show that 90% of employees who completed the development program outperformed their peers in achieving business targets in the first six months on the job.
Ready to start seeing results from talent flow yourself? Contact us today to find out how the SuccessFactors suite, including Development & Succession as well as the other modules, could help you implement more effective succession planning.