I receive at least 20 e-mails a week from executives and entrepreneurs asking “How do I recruit top talent?” I’ve adequately addressed my favorite boomerang question in many previous pieces including three of this blogs most-read posts: “How to Win the War for Talent” “Team Building” and “Who Should do the Hiring“. So in today’s post, I’m going to take a different approach to deal with the talent question by not focusing on recruiting but on dealing with the balance of the talent management lifecycle.

Consider that while the “war for talent” has been waged since the dawn of capitalism things aren’t getting any better. In fact, with the continued advancement of technology, impending mass retirements of baby-boomers, and the impact of globalization on commerce the war for talent will only proliferate over time. In other words, organizations can no longer afford to assume that they will always be able to attract the talent needed to execute business strategy. Rather, it is necessary that companies be proactive and address the reality that few if any, organizations today have an adequate supply of talent, whether it’s at the executive, management, or staff levels. Talent is an increasingly scarce resource…

Given that talent scarcity is impacting all businesses, it is critical to link talent strategies to business drivers which makes it easier to decide how to deploy, promote, and develop talent from within to best serve the future needs of the enterprise. It is also critical to understand that business environments are shifting and that a company’s talent management strategies must be adapted to current market conditions in order to remain competitive. As an example, cycle times have shortened where 90-day business plans are more common than 5-year business plans and talent is often virtual and/or mobile as opposed to desk-bound. If you don’t manage talent according to new paradigms and take advantage of opportunities to cost-effectively leverage your talent you will not only be at a competitive disadvantage, but you will likely lose your existing talent to competitors who understand the landscape better than you…

Let’s begin by defining the talent management lifecycle as being comprised of the following 5 phases: 1.) Identifying; 2.) Recruiting; 3.) Deploying; 4.) Developing, and; 5.) Retaining.

Furthermore, each of the 5 phases mentioned above can be broken down into subcategories. As an example Identifying can be broken down into definition requirements, profiling, etc., Development can be broken down into initial training, continuing education, coaching, mentoring, etc., and Retaining can be broken down into motivating, compensating, challenging, etc.  Virtually every client I have had at least some form of recruiting strategy and process in place at the time of my initial engagement, but very few had processes or strategies in place for the balance of the talent management lifecycle.

While I don’t mean to give the topic of recruiting short shrift as I firmly believe you should always have your hook in the water trolling for talent, recruiting is just one piece of the talent management puzzle. I believe far too much emphasis is put on recruiting and not nearly enough time is spent on the identification phase and likewise, not enough attention is focused on developing, deploying, and retaining the talent that has already been hired. In fact, my experience shows that most employers have better talent than they might think, but it is the fact that they are not developed or deployed properly that gives them a skewed perspective when it comes to assessing their own talent.

In the text that follows I will break down each phase of the talent management lifecycle so that you can begin to incorporate each of them into your company’s strategy:

  1. Identifying: The identification of talent should be a constantly occurring event. It should take place prior to recruiting in that if you haven’t identified your needs/requirements and aligned them with identified solutions comprised of the skill sets, competencies, experience, and talent level you are seeking then why even begin the recruiting process? Furthermore, it is critical that you seek to identify future leaders from within the ranks so that you can start to develop them for higher and better use activities.
  2. Recruiting: For those of you who know me or have read my posts in the past you know that I am a believer in the ABH (Always Be Hiring) philosophy. You never know how long it will take to find top talent and if you wait until there is an immediate need you will likely find yourself conducting a desperate search and hiring the wrong person for the job. Additionally, you should hire the best talent that you can afford. If you hire tier-one talent you’ll receive tier-one results. If you hire based upon how cheaply you can bring someone aboard you will get what you pay for.
  3. Deploying: Looking for a sure-fire way to catalyze revenue growth? Focus your best talent on your best opportunities. One of the most common mistakes that I see in companies today is that they have the wrong people doing the wrong things. When conducting employee interviews at client companies one of the most common complaints that employees’ voice is that they are underutilized and not challenged. Just because someone was hired for job “x” doesn’t mean that they can’t or shouldn’t be deployed for job “y”.
  4. Developing: Along the lines of number 3 above, if you are not developing your talent your wrong…A lack of talent development will create lost opportunity cost, but it will eventually lead to attrition in the ranks as unappreciated talent leaves for greener pastures. Development should start on day one and never stop. New employees should be trained and mentored by more senior employees and you should consider hiring an outside coach or mentor for senior executives. If you want to watch your employees achieve great things groom them for increased responsibility and develop them for greater challenges.
  5. Retaining: If an employee was worth hiring and developing then they are certainly worth retaining. Much has been written about the exorbitant costs of employee turnover so I won’t belabor the point other than to acknowledge that the costs are indeed high. I have a 4 part recipe for retaining talent and the ingredients are as follows: Motivate, Challenge, Recognize, and Reward. Pay your people at the top-end of the market, utilize employment contracts, deferred compensation, and other forms of golden handcuffs to make sure your talent doesn’t jump ship. Protect your human capital investments in order to maximize your return and manage your risk.

Bottom line…Allocate more time and attention to existing investments over new investments by operating on the bird in hand theory…If you have 90 employees and your headcount ramp calls for adding 10 new hires are you going to sacrifice the 90% for the 10%? In a properly run business, it should not be an either/or situation as a good talent management plan would allow you to pay attention to both new recruits and existing employees. A focus on implementing sound talent management strategies will improve performance and morale while lowering costs and risk.