Talent Planning—It’s Not Just for Big Companies

Do you think your organization is too small, or that it’s too early to do some Talent Planning (think ‘workforce planning’ or ‘succession planning’)? Sure, it may not be urgent, yet. And it may seem a little vague or complicated.  And most small businesses don’t have someone designated to do the work.  But it’s never to early to have a plan, and it’s costly to wait until you have a critical talent need and nobody to fill it.

You — small and medium-sized businesses, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, and start-ups — are so important.  I’m passionate about your success because you create 80% of the ‘jobs’ out there.  You innovate, you determine what products and services are available, you create cultures, you define experiences for your team members and customers.  You make a difference. And I see opportunities for you, as well as some big risks, around how and when you think about the talent you need to succeed.

There are usually unknown variables that make it challenging to commit to (or even imagine) a future talent, workforce or staffing plan.  It can seem like you’re better off just reacting to needs as they come up, and hopefully those needs won’t come up very often… or at just the wrong time.  Talent Planning probably sounds like a lot of extra work, maybe even ‘fluff’ work, and you need to be focused on defining strategy, and getting funding, and growing revenue, and innovating solutions, and winning customer loyalty.  I get it.  I really do.

I have just a few questions for you though, while we’re on the subject:

·      How long does it generally take you to fill an open position from the time you identify a need? Is it more than 30 days?

·      How much does it cost you when you have a vacancy?  (include opportunity costs, relocation or hiring incentives, recruiting assistance, new hire’s pay while they’re ramping up, cost of new hire training, etc.)

·      Is the recruiting process painful for you or your team — does it take a lot of your time and focus away from other critical activities?

·      How long does it take to ‘onboard’ a new team member, and how much of your personal time or other management time is involved?

·      What’s your success rate? Have most or all of your team members stayed with the organization and contributed meaningfully in ways you expected, or even exceeded your expectations and made your business better than you could have hoped?

·      Is your business growing or changing in ways that make you wonder whether you have the right level of talent for the future needs?

If any of these questions made you think you should probably be doing some kind of Talent Planning, then the question becomes:  How can you do it in a way that gives you a plan of action, and some comfort about the future, without complicating your business and sucking up a bunch of time?  Here are some ideas:

1.   Add a “Talent” agenda item to your strategic planning sessions!

2.   Do scenario planning with your team, and discuss the talent requirements (knowledge, skills, abilities, values, locations, etc.) of each:  What if we grow X amount?  What if we don’t?  What if we expand Internationally?  What if we add XYZ products/services?

3.   Make a bet on, and a plan based upon, the most likely scenario.  As with any strategy, having a direction (even if it changes) is critical to getting anywhere.  Keep the other scenarios on the back burner and revisit them.

4.  Do a gap analysis between the planned needs and your current talent.

5.   Starting now, today, build up a pipeline of internal and external talent with your talent scenarios in mind.  Ask your best people, including yourself, to do constant outreach, networking, mentoring, etc.  This sounds like a lot of work, but it helps build your business in numerous ways (benchmarking, innovation, professional development, marketing…).

If this sounds simple and do-able, great — go do it!  If it sounds valuable but you doubt you’ll make time to do it, then find someone to help you make it happen.  If you have questions, feedback, comments, thoughts, please reach out and let me know.  I’m always open to a good discussion about talent.

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