Blog Post

5 Steps for Creating Organizational Talent Pools

Sharlyn Lauby

Nearly two-thirds of business owners do not have a succession plan, according to an article by CNBC. There could be lots of reasons for this, but the big one that comes to mind is the laborious process of succession planning. This isn't to say that succession planning isn't important; it's just time-consuming.

The good news is identifying and developing future talent doesn't have to be a painstaking process. Organizations can get the same benefits by developing talent pools.

The advantages of talent pools

Talent pools are groups of employees who are being trained and developed to assume greater responsibilities within the organization. Often, but not always, they are the individuals who have been identified as high-performing and high-potential.

Talent pools allow organizations to develop employees in areas that align with company competencies and values instead of specific position skills. This addresses one of the biggest concerns with formal succession planning - telling an individual they're part of the plan. Organizations can communicate to a group that they're part of the future of the company instead of telling an individual they're the next chief marketing officer.

Organizations can also use talent pools with other performance management tools, like the 9-box grid, to create more expansive talent development strategies. Because it focuses on the individual, succession planning can be considered limited. Talent pools include a larger group of employees; therefore, the talent development conversation has a larger scope.

Talent pools provide the much-needed flexibility in emerging or developing industries. Some industries are moving so quickly they don't know what next year looks like, much less what their 5-year staffing strategy should include. That makes traditional succession planning efforts difficult, but talent pools are an ideal tool.

5 steps for developing a talent pool

Creating a talent pool takes some planning. Here are five steps to developing an organizational talent pool:

Review your organizational strategies. The goal here is to identify the competencies needed to make those strategies happen. In the future, strategies will change, but it's possible competencies will remain the same. One example is critical thinking skills; regardless of the strategy, critical thinking is necessary.

Assess the company's current talent to identify any skills gaps. This can be accomplished using a variety of techniques including performance reviews, assessments, multi-rater feedback and interviews. A combination of techniques could prove to be exceptionally valuable. The key consideration is consistency.

Develop a buy, build and borrow strategy for bridging the gap. Organizations do not have to create a talent pool for everything. They can "buy" or hire talent from the outside where skills are limited. If the organization has the resources, they can "build" talent from within through skills development. For niche skills, the company can "borrow" talent using contingent workers when necessary. It's about knowing where to focus resources.

Create modules or groups of activities that will help employees get the skills they need. Once the organization knows the skills they'll be helping employees develop, it's time to figure out how to make it happen. It could be through a combination of internal/external training as well as project-based learning. Three activities that have proven to be very effective include:

Management coaching - Good managers have valued relationships with their employees. They are positioned to deliver open, honest feedback that can help employees change behaviors and improve performance.

Peer-to-peer feedback- Organizations spend an incredible amount of time collaborating. Peer-to-peer interaction is how most employees spend their time. Training employees to deliver timely, specific feedback can make an impact.

Mentoring- Organizations can encourage mentoring relationships to cover topics that don't necessarily warrant a training program - like office politics and negotiation skills. Employees can benefit from the wisdom of experience.

5. Monitor progress and make regular adjustments. Like succession planning, talent pools need to be monitored. The organization should conduct regular talent assessments as well as monitor market conditions. Both internal and external factors can prompt a change in talent development strategy.

Talent pools offer flexibility to achieve talent goals

Organizations must think about the future. The talent wars aren't going away anytime soon. In some cases, hiring talent from the outside makes good business sense. But organizations aren't going to be able to find all the talent they need via external recruiting.

Talent pools allow companies to develop future talent from within. They also give businesses the flexibility to meet operational needs. There's still work involved but with a little planning, talent pools can help organizations meet their future talent needs.

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