Integrate talent and business strategies to drive better outcomes
There’s no way of knowing when the market will settle into more predictable patterns. What is clear? It’s time to move beyond fight or flight and recommit to talent as a meaningful business driver. Organizations that do so now can transform near-, short- and long-term potential into a competitive edge.
Why shift from survive to thrive today?
Nearly three years of pandemic-era disruption, macroeconomic upheaval and geopolitical tumult have pushed many organizations into reactive mode on the talent front — and that’s understandable. None of this has been easy. Acute talent shortages. Pervasive shutdowns. Across sectors and industries, businesses have worked to stave off talent gaps and protect people all while keeping the lights on. But the reality is, we can’t exist in survival mode forever.
When organizations understand more about the ways talent supply and demand line up with overall business objectives and strategies, they can come out of the gates swinging. A data-backed approach allows us to pull talent levers strategically. What does that mean? With the right human-centred insight, an organization can:
- Aggregate data at the top of the house for a global view of talent gaps and opportunities
- Prioritize the right skills, roles and people at the right time in the business lifecycle
- Fuel business continuity plans with clearer insight into which skills would be essential during another crisis
- Renew the ability to meet evolving regulatory requirements through strategic staffing
- Employ market mapping to understand where top talent lies — and go get it.
All of this becomes increasingly important as businesses emerge from a time of so much change. A meaningful refresh of human capital intel that puts humans at the centre of the plan and aligning talent needs directly to the current business agenda can make a hugely positive overall impact.
How can we refocus talent as a strategic value driver?
As we emerge into the next unknown, talent and business strategies must essentially be one and the same. You achieve that by understanding how the two intersect, and where the gaps lie. The first foundational step is asking key questions that can help overlay what the business is trying to achieve, and what people and skillsets are necessary to reach those goals.
What should you ask first?
1. Which capabilities will we need to meet business objectives? If business goals have changed, chances are the types of skills you’ll need to deliver have evolved, too. Dig into the kind of capabilities folks will need to thrive in their roles now. Get a sense of what’s missing so you can be strategic about any investments or changes you make. Focus specifically on priority roles to fill, working back from the skills required and job families maintained.
2. Do we have the capacity to meet business demands? Beyond identifying required skills, you’ll also need line of sight into exactly how much of those skills are necessary. Clear lines between how much of a given capability the organization already holds in house and how much more it still needs allows you to be systematic about everything from talent acquisition to training, development to automation and more.
3. What’s the ideal composition? New goals bring new talent needs. That said, an effective talent strategy is balanced. Get an overview of what work needs to be done, when and by whom. That holistic understanding may reveal the need for a rearranged employee mix. It could also highlight the ways contingent and gig workers represent an alternative source of talent that can — and should — be considered to deliver business outcomes.
4. How will changing talent needs influence our costs? As a clearer view begins to emerge, you’ll undoubtedly spot gaps that will require financial investment. Maybe that entails building out upskilling programs, layering in new technologies, hiring contingent workers or acquiring capabilities through inorganic growth. The opportunity to move people with transferable skills across job families may also exist, shifting the focus away from specific functions towards pushing business outcomes. Each of these can bring new costs. Be sure to address those proactively as part of the planning process so the business can forecast, budget and invest wisely.
Taken together, capability, capacity, composition and cost provide a solid foundation to start bringing talent strategy closer to enterprise goals. But keep in mind that this realignment should never be considered a one-and-done activity. Rather, it’s a new way of working, one that seeks to foster closer alignment between talent and business strategies — no matter how uncertain or disrupted the market becomes over time.
This more sustainable, human-centred way of planning requires rigour. That means embedding regular assessments into the business’s planning cycle. From here on out, you want to ensure the enterprise is always looking at how human capital must adapt to best meet the broader business needs. This is key.
How can we embrace a longer-term talent outlook?
Talent strategy and planning has to become part of the cyclical business process to work well. This is also true for investing in the underlying factors that help you deliver on the talent strategy, such as career agility and culture alignment. Add these into the discussion by regularly asking:
- Do we have enough career agility to retain top talent? It’s not enough to hire good people. You must also keep them. Progression can be a huge influencer on that front. You want to ensure clear career paths and planning are part of an overall approach in total rewards and compensation. Putting your people at the heart of their own professional journey can enable them to succeed over the long term — while moving your organization forward.
Does our culture align with our overall strategy? EY research shows that one of the six missteps companies make is being “bottom up” as opposed to “vision led.” This begs the need for a guiding set of behavioural principles directly aligned to your business’s purpose. That purpose doesn’t just move people forward in a common direction; it underpins organizational culture. Building that culture requires continuous outreach, engagement and two-way dialogue around shared values, ways of working and goals.