How to Develop an Effective Agile Talent Management Strategy

Not long ago, it was very easy for corporate giants to attract the best talent across a variety of industries. It was a simple process because everyone dreamed of being employed by them and they had the budgets to offer attractive benefits packages.

But this isn’t the case anymore. Today, we’re living in an age where corporate vision and mission statements have lost all meaning when it comes to motivating and retaining top talent. This is due to the fact that we are now living through a period of rapid acceleration and expansion where agility and growth play a central role in managing talent.

As the majority of employment development programs fail to work (for example, employee assessments, career plans, and talent management), it has become a major hurdle to overcome for enterprises moving forward. This is primarily because they still have dated rigid processes in place that can’t be adapted to the exponential digital age.

So how do you get around this? What are the flexible ways of engaging with top talent?

Large companies have had to get creative to gain an advantage like strategically using external experts. Since technology and the globalization of talent mean accessing and leveraging talent without ever owning them, companies have had to become agile, lean, and fast to acquire highly skilled individuals to fill critical gaps.

As a result, managers today are employing agile talent management strategies that compliment their business goals and purpose to get the job done.

HR has to Operate Faster than Ever Before

A smart world demands HR to function much faster than ever before while adapting to the company’s dynamic agility and pace. Furthermore, it’s imperative to have agility in talent management strategies to keep up with the speed of change that’s experienced in the job market.

Companies that are quick to incorporate agile strategies have a competitive advantage over those who have been slow to adapt.

What’s Agile Talent Management?

Fixed HR budgets and strategies are quickly becoming futile because they restrict flexibility in a rapidly changing talent market. Consequently, these are largely irrelevant and ineffective.

However, an agile talent management approach can be perfect for your organization. This is because your strategies will be constantly shifting to address the evolving needs of the market. For example, a strategy implemented during the first quarter may become irrelevant by the next because of the changing dynamics of the talent market.

Your agile talent management strategy should also be flexible and scalable to handle lower or higher volumes of work. This means that your cost structure and your pool of talent should be able to move up or down to meet the needs and expectations of the new normal when it comes to work levels.

Agile Talent Management Manifesto

As you might have noticed, agile talent management is highly influenced by agile software development protocols. So let’s take a look at the core principles that make up the agile talent management manifesto:

  • Staff development above talent management processes and tools
  • Business goals above individual development plans
  • Responding to change above sticking to the plan
  • Recognition of talent above everything else

To develop an efficient and effective agile talent management strategy, you will have to have your finger on the pulse to respond in an appropriate manner. Here are four external environmental factors to look out for when monitoring the environment.

1. Evolving Economic and Business Factors (Local and Global)

This can take the form of changes in interest rates, the stock market, unemployment rates, and currency fluctuations. You have to keep an eye on these factors as your business will be highly vulnerable to changes in economic factors.

2. Business Strategies

You have to also be aware of your business strategies and directions, not forgetting those employed by your competitors as well. This will include new corporate ownership, expansion into new product markets or regions, and higher growth rates.

So there must be a clear understanding of what their resource needs are, the impact of external and internal forces, and how it all translates in terms of resource levels and volumes.

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3. Strategies Embraced by Competitors

You have to be aware of how your competitors’ talent management approaches evolve. So you will have to be in the know when it comes to expansion plans, large-scale hiring, turnover, layoffs, hiring freezes, changes in leadership, mergers, the strength of the talent bench, and changes in their brand image.

4. Changes in the Talent Marketplace

To effectively manage your strategies, you will have to monitor increased demand for innovators, salary expectations, company loyalty trends, and incorporation of new HR technologies.

How to Build an Agile Talent Management Strategy that Works

It’s imperative to constantly be aware of factors that can have an impact on your talent management approaches. So here are a few key components you have to consider when developing your own talent management strategy.

1. Consider All Growth Modes

Your plan has to include both upward and downward growth rates with the budget and capacity required to achieve company goals on an annual basis. But achieving these goals heavily depends on multiple internal and external variables (which may or may not be in your control).

So to have a plan that’s realistic, you should have at least three talent management scenarios:

  • Slow/no-growth mode
  • Cost-cutting and retrenchment mode
  • Innovation/rapid growth mode

You can do this by calculating the potential range of shrinkage and growth by looking over the past six years. By doing this you can identify the minimum, maximum, and average growth rates during that time period.

You can develop an efficient plan by calculating the biggest range between the minimum and the maximum to get the maximum range of variation

2. Minimize Bureaucracy

Deep bureaucracy and red tape will derail a company’s ability to be agile in a rapidly changing environment. To be flexible, nimble, and fast, your company must be set up to enable fast decision making to promptly react to changes.

Further, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, so your plan must enable flexibility and capability to be applied to different areas within the company. This means that not all business units and functions should adopt a particular strategy.

As a result, one business unit might be growing rapidly while another will move forward at a slower pace. This means that your talent management strategies might be varied across departments.

3. Build Capacity and be Capable of Shifting Rapidly

You have to work with your talent management functions to ensure that they are capable of moving rapidly into the next lower or higher new growth mode. This should happen right after the shift in environmental factors.

Additionally, you have to also consider the strengths of the current talent pool. Once you do that, you can come up with ways to best exploit their skills and capabilities.

The ability to shift rapidly will come with building capacity by cross-training within the company and identifying high potentials in successors for vital positions that will be key to your overall plan.

4. Develop Some Identity Metrics

Metrics will play a critical role in helping you choose the appropriate course of action. So it’s a good idea to approach this with clearly defined metrics and key agility indicators that will help you keep track of your progress while monitoring your overall plans and goals.

Find some Agile process metrics in this blog post.

5. Prioritize Business Units and Services

Even if you have abundant financial resources, you might have a limitation when it comes to staff and leadership. As a result, you have to prioritize and focus your efforts where you can have the highest business impact.

Further, it will help to develop a plan for a well-managed contingent labor component to quickly meet the likely range of retrenchment spurts and growth. All this can be achieved only with continuous sharing and learning, so it can help to incorporate a best practice sharing policy.

The best way to approach this is to plan for slack periods where you will have the time to temporarily shifts workers into alternative jobs where they can be cross-trained. At the same time, you should also plan for a sudden surge in workload where designated overflow of employees will be required over the short-term.

Finally, don’t forget to include the following in your agile talent management plan:

  • Develop a backfill plan (to quickly replace someone in a key position)
  • Use if-then scenarios (the use of agility assessment tools to test the readiness of managers)

As we continue to respond to a digital environment with continuous rapid and relentless innovation, leadership will be required to be attentive, flexible, and nimble. But planning is very difficult, so that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

To handle a wide range of potential talent management problems and opportunities built into them, you will have to constantly develop new strategies to remain agile while building strong businesses abilities and enhanced growth.

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    Andrew Zola is a freelance writer, designer, and artist working in branding and marketing for over ten years. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.