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How to win the talent war

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Keeping your top talent away from your competitors is about asking yourself the right questions, says Cynthia Lee Mai, talent management lead (APJ) at Hewlett-Packard.  

It’s not rocket science: if you have talent in your company, they will be highly sought after by your competitors.

To defend yourself in this talent war, a lot of focus must be put on making sure talent is given development opportunities, job rotation, retention, rewards and more. So, how do you determine whether your employee is a top talent you want to retain?

If you use the definition from Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), you’ll be considering the aspiration, ability and commitment of the employee to determine if he or she is a high potential. But with the increasing number of complex and rapidly changing organisations, what else do we need to consider when identifying the right talent for our business?

How do we make sure we are addressing business needs? A good place to start your talent management journey is probably the business strategy of your organisation.

Where are we heading?

Where is the business going in the next one to three years? Where are the key growth markets? What are the critical challenges?

The fact is, the market condition in three years’ time may be vastly different from what it is now. What is important now may no longer be relevant, so if we’re identifying our talent based on what we understand of the business now, we will be focusing on the past, rather than what is coming.

To start the talent conversation, instead of zooming straight into the individuals in the organisation – assessing their performance and potential or development needed – start from the business angle. Ask your business leaders where the organisation is heading. Where are your key investments? What are the few things that the organisation has to do right in the next few years?

What do we need?

Given the business landscape, what are the skills, experience, and behaviors we need in our leaders? What are the capabilities you need to capture the growth and address the challenges? What type of leaders do you need, or what do you need your leaders to do, as you project your business forward?

If the company is going to start expanding into consumer space, it would not be wise to assume your high potential leaders used to enterprise sales are the right people to bring the organisation into consumer business. Assessing potential is about projecting forward. This implies who you identified as your top talent must have the potential to acquire the capabilities needed by the business in the future.

Being clear about the leadership capabilities needed will also help to focus on the correct talent, since it helps to provide a guideline on what we are looking out for.

Where are the gaps and what will you do about them?

If we know what we need in the future, and what we do not have, we can then consider how we are going to address the gaps.

Do we put our top talent in important pivotal roles to help move the business to where we want to go? How do we provide our top talent with the right type of experience to prepare them for the future? What are some hiring decisions we need to start considering if we do not have the right in-house expertise?

Talent management should not be just about identifying and developing talent; it should be a strategic function providing the organisation with the right resources to achieve business objectives.

Strategic talent management, if done right, will play a pivotal role to help business achieve the next level of excellence.

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