5 Main Elements of Talent Management

Building strong staff is critical to the success of every business. You’ll need a complete workforce plan to maintain happy and committed staff who will keep your business running smoothly. The Human Resources (HR) plan must focus on five primary areas:

  • Talent acquisition–recruiting, negotiating, and onboarding new employees
  • Talent retention–maintaining staff once hired
  • Performance management–evaluating staff and subsequent changes in role or salary
  • Career development–providing opportunities for professional growth
  • Offboarding & Succession Planning–processing individuals that leave your employ, initiating the hiring cycle, and making short-term workflow adjustments until a replacement is found

Talent Acquisition

Recruiting begins with planning. That often begins the moment you have a job opening, but it’s better if you can think ahead. After all, at some point you will have people leave, whether due to medical reasons, dissatisfaction, a better career move, or retirement. Lay the groundwork now to help employees transition as smoothly as possible.

  • Write or update job descriptions, not just for the position you have open, but for every position. Then, update the descriptions annually.
  • Write the job posting, and place it in the recruitment channels best suited for the position (online, university career centers, relevant association websites, temp agencies, direct contact with promising past applicants). Don’t overlook internal postings, staff email notifications, and perks to encourage employees to refer candidates.
  • Collect application materials in an organized and timely way. Be sure that the receptionist and all staff know who to refer people to when asked about job openings.
  • Review applications. If an HR person will be the first step in screening applications, be sure the hiring manager has differentiated between minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications—extra expertise a candidate might bring may more than offset a lack in a particular area.
  • Phone or online screening interview, usually with an HR person who can further refine the candidate pool. Ensure that salary expectations are in line with your budget, if this question is allowable in your state (laws vary by state).
  • One or more in-person interviews with the hiring manager and team members. For key management roles, at least a quick introduction to the business owner is also involved.
  • Background checks on criminal history and sometimes financial status.
  • Reference checks to confirm employment history and verify educational background are critical to ensure the candidate is who they represent themselves to be. They can also confirm that the applicant can legally work in the job’s locale. It’s best to identify any red flags now rather than be confronted with potential problems down the road.
  • Extending the job offer, including the position, location, compensation and benefits, start date, and details on trial periods, if pertinent. This may be done verbally at first, with written follow up.
  • Agreeing on terms in writing is vital. Email offers to confirm a verbal acceptance and provide more details is sufficient for most lower-level to mid-level positions. Be sure to include a stated date on when you need a response. Executive level offers should include a contract to address salary, bonuses, moving expenses, stock options, and severance packages. Oftentimes, there will be non-compete and confidentiality agreements that higher-level employees must sign prior to starting.
  • Welcome your new hire by email and phone!

To attract the best and brightest talent, be ready to share examples of how you are committed to:

  • Professional growth
  • Inclusivity
  • A great corporate culture

Establish an onboarding process for new hires, just as you would for a new client. Their first day should be an introduction to the company overall—its goals, successes, and culture—as well as practical matters such as a discussion of benefits and related participation forms and introducing them to their new team and workspace. While the next week will no doubt involve introductions and training related to specific job tasks, clients, and responsibilities, be sure to set specific goals for the first day, week, month, and beyond so that each employee knows how to measure success. Match them to a team member who can guide them early on.

Talent Retention

Recruiting people is expensive, which is why you need thoughtful retention strategies to keep staff in place once you hire them. It’s much more than just training the new person to do the immediate tasks at hand that make up their job. It’s about keeping them fulfilled in their work and building a corporate culture that they are proud to be a part of.

Here are the main things you can do to keep your employees happy:

  • Provide continued training to gain new skills
  • Promote inclusivity
  • Show appreciation
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Keep salary and benefits competitive
  • Build strong corporate culture, brand, and values
  • Provide career growth opportunities

Measure your retention rates at least annually, documenting the drivers of change from year to year. Consider instituting an anonymous employee survey annually and offer an ongoing suggestion box to assess their attitudes about your company. Be ready to make policy or program changes that speak to widespread issues. Announcing new activities, programs, and benefits targeting the bullets above will show your employees you listen and care.

Performance Management

To have successful employees, you have to provide clear communication of what success looks like. That means measurable goals and roles must be set, expectations communicated, and progress reviewed.

Companies who follow an advanced version of performance management, tie overall company goals to team and individual goals, and closely monitor each monthly or quarterly. HR can help ensure that talent management strategies support the company’s overall strategic planning, business goals, and culture. 

At a minimum, employees need a formal annual written review that shares how the employee is doing, tracks their training and growth, and discusses goals for the coming year. Is the employee performing below par, at expectations, or above expectations? Provide examples of what it would take for them to be ranked higher. It’s important that this be a two-way discussion, so that the employee feels that their opinions and requests are heard and actions taken in whatever way is appropriate.

In instances where there is a problem with an employee, whether that be in attendance, attitude, compliance, or competence, the manager needs to have an in-person meeting with the employee as soon as the incident occurs to point out the issue and state what is expected. Be sure to document and date this discussion on Day 1. Check in with supervisors to see that the problem has been corrected, usually in a week or two, but may be longer depending on the situation. If the problem persists, a second face-to-face meeting needs to occur in the presence of another manager (supervisor or HR representative) to put the person on notice. If a third meeting is needed, it usually means firing.

Be sure to thoroughly document the context of each discussion, who was in attendance, and date it. If there is concern that you may be headed to a firing, consider when to bring HR, Legal, and perhaps Security into the loop.

While not all employee issues are fixable, striving to hire well, set clear employee expectations, keep good communications, and truly care for staff well-being will greatly reduce the likelihood of either side opting for a parting of the ways.

Career Development

Not every employee wants to be promoted to higher level jobs or have a shift in roles, but many do. It’s important for managers to know the professional goals of each member of their team to keep them engaged and fulfilled–or risk losing them.

Perhaps an analyst has no designs on leading a team, whereas a clerical person may want to work their way up to be a manager of people instead of files. Encourage supervisors and HR to work with employees to plan a pathway for them to progress. Will they need extra training, a college degree that is lacking, or a shift in project assignments or responsibility?

Whether or not an employee is looking to promote up, continued training is a highly valued perk and an excellent retention strategy. That might mean offering in-house seminars on soft skills such as conflict management or business writing, cross-training opportunities in various departments, computer software classes, or paying for employee tuition for college courses relevant to the job.

Understanding what steps need to be achieved is sometimes all the employee needs to go after their goals. As employees show they are capable of more, give them more, including moving them a step closer to their ideal job.

Offboarding and Succession Planning

Employee exit management, or offboarding, is the separation process between you and someone leaving your employ. The order of steps involved vary, depending on whether the employee is giving advance notice and allowed to stay the traditional two weeks or more or whether they are asked to leave immediately because of employee malfeasance or across-the-board security protocol.

Your Offboarding Checklist:

  • Announce the employee’s last date internally to management, HR, team members, IT, and Security, and externally to affected clients, vendors, agencies, and other outside partners.
  • Determine the status of all projects the employee has been involved in and that you have updated information for all external contacts the individual interacts with on behalf of the company.
  • Set deadlines for remaining action steps the employee will finish before leaving. Immediately reassign continuing projects to other team members, introducing them to key clients. If the employee is leaving on good terms, ask the employee to train their replacement and help document things they will need to know.
  • Retrieve any company property the individual may have in their possession, such as keys, credit cards, files, uniforms, laptops, cell phones, or other equipment.
  • Change all passwords to company systems or outside websites the individual uses on your behalf.
  • Ensure you have the employee’s current address and phone number to arrange the final paycheck and later W2 notification. Withhold the final check until all company property is returned.
  • Communicate how and when benefits will end–everything from medical insurance to access to the employee gym.
  • Plan a goodbye gathering and have the team sign a card, assuming the employee is in good standing. Sincerely wish they well–you might have them back one day!
  • Conduct a short exit interview to identify any contributing issues that need to be addressed. Thank the employee for their time with your company. Convey any important findings to management.
  • Provide letters of reference, where appropriate.
  • Notify your PR and Marketing departments for key employee changes that could affect anything from media announcements, collateral, and business cards to organizational charts, staff directories, and office name plates.
  • Update communication systems, such as the employee’s email auto-reply and voicemail or forward the calls until a replacement is found.
  • Prepare the workspace for the next employee.
  • Initiate the hiring process.

In the event of a firing, death, or other sudden departure, most of these same steps will have to be done on a moment’s notice. Keeping this exit checklist and all departmental contact information handy will enable you to transition swiftly, if need be.  

Together, these talent management steps form an integrated workforce plan that can greatly increase your retention rates, saving your company huge amounts of time and money.