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The "talent data/dialogue balance": why it matters

Talent management often involves a lot of conversation, without insightful data about skills gaps in the organisation.

Paul Lambert, Programme Director for Henley’s People and Organisational Change programmes, applies the concept of the “data/dialogue balance” to guide effective talent management practice.

The idea is that talent management should include action-oriented engagement with leadership and management (dialogue), supported by insightful data showing business impact and progress towards people goals.

But how can we recruit and nurture great talent without drowning in data?

The key lies in unpacking what your business plans mean in terms of the people, culture and organisation. You can then track this (using data) and establish an ongoing dialogue about the results, adapting your approach to maximise the alignment of people and plans.

There are several essential elements to this:

Aligning and mapping talent data to the roles and skills necessary for the business plan

The first step towards business engagement is to relate talent needs and issues to your organisation’s goals, and strategy mapping can be a useful tool for this.

Creating a core set of talent data around the supply and demand of talent

The data will be different for each organisation, but the key questions are:

Demand side:

  • What are the key roles and skills for the future operation of this business? (not just the leadership)
  • When will new staff be needed in these roles (due to retirement, growth etc) and where (geographically and organisationally)?

Supply side:

  • What is the depth of talented individuals (based on current performance and future potential) that might fulfil these roles in the coming years (to create a pipeline)?
  • What factors could affect this supply? (e.g. mobility, geographical spread, retention issues)

Discussing talent from the most senior levels

Talent decision-making needs to be linked to business planning processes, from the top down, and it is important to identify a senior sponsor who will chair/lead the discussions at board and senior-level planning meetings. There are then two parts to the discussions:

  • Setting talent management principles and objectives
    You need to identify central talent principles and policy (such as transparency of opportunity or governance between business and HR); what talent will be managed (typically only critical roles and scarce skills); and how progress will be monitored.
  • Regular progress meetings
    These need to have senior cross-business representation and be facilitated by HR. Meetings (ideally quarterly) should involve a consistent dashboard of up-to-date talent information.

Allowing business managers to drive decisions – with HR as the facilitator

Success happens when the business pushes HR for insightful data as well as support to drive decisions made in the talent planning progress meetings.

Read our full whitepaper on the data/dialogue balance

People and Organisational Change programmes at Henley

We offer four one-day masterclasses, designed to be undertaken as standalones or as a group:

Effective HR Business Partnering 1 focuses on understanding the business partner role; building credibility and trust; examining partnering attitudes; and developing commercial acumen.

Effective HR Business Partnering 2 focuses on the adjacent skills of talent management, succession and performance, diversity and working with HR data.

Our Organisational Development Masterclass is designed to help you understand what is needed to deliver exceptional organisational development at individual and functional levels.

Our Strategic Workforce Planning Masterclass sets out the key elements of effective strategic workforce planning and helps you to approach it more effectively.


Published 27th January 2020
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