What is talent management? The secret to recruiting success

Last updated:
August 31, 2021
December 16, 2021
min read
Bev Campling
Talent management
Table of contents

For someone who is new to human resources, terms like talent management strategies and recruitment strategies can be confusing. “Aren’t they all the same thing?” and “what even is talent management?”  are questions that crop up all too frequently.

The answer is: no, they aren’t the same thing.

But they are closely related. Talent management and recruitment are all different functions within the broader human resources function of a company.

Depending on the size of your company you can combine all the functions in one department or you may need separate departments to manage the entire process.

And it’s not only the size of your company that dictates how you spread these responsibilities but also what type of business you have and the industry it sits inside.

What is talent management?

Talent management is a process that must be consistently applied. The end result of talent management is to attract and retain strong, high-quality candidates, motivating and encouraging them to reach their fullest potential for the future of your company.

The goal of talent management is to create high levels of motivation within your team that results in long-term employees. The way a talent management process is applied will alter from company to company, but the goal remains the same.

What is a talent management process?

While talent management strategies will vary greatly depending on the size of the company and its industry, they typically involve the same seven components:

  1. Strategic planning around company goals
  2. Talent recruitment and onboarding
  3. Performance management
  4. Learning management and engagement
  5. Compensation management
  6. Career and professional development
  7. Succession planning and offboarding

Talent management vs Recruitment

Talent management is a carefully crafted strategy that’s implemented with the long-term goal of driving performance through attracting, hiring, developing and retaining top talent.

Talent management focuses on finding suitable candidates who have the required skills, are the right fit for the role and the company, and have the potential to be developed into future roles.

Recruitment is the process of sourcing suitable candidates to fill open vacancies in the shortest time possible. It’s less complicated, takes less time, and solves staff shortages expediently.  Recruitment focuses on finding and hiring the first most suitable candidate (mostly skills-based) to fill the role.

Both involve sourcing and hiring suitable candidates. You can implement a recruitment process without having a talent management strategy, but you can’t implement a talent management strategy without having a recruitment process in place.

To better understand why you should implement a talent management strategy let’s break it down further. Even if you have a small business and are wondering what is talent management going to do for a micro-endeavor, read on.

Talent management vs Talent acquisition

What’s the difference between talent management and talent acquisition?

While they sound similar, and despite many people considering them as synonyms, the two are different.

Talent management revolves around onboarding and managing performance.

Talent acquisition, however, revolves around the recruitment and hiring stage.

Both are dominant branches in the Human Resources tree, yet the branches are separate from one another.

Talent management vs Talent development

Talent management and talent development are terms that are even trickier to set apart.

That said, these two terms are not interchangeable.

Talent development surrounds your employee’s professional advancement in terms of their individual skills and capabilities. Generally speaking, organizations will often put training and learning opportunities in place to form a strong talent development strategy. Talent development is about creating an environment that is rich in knowledge and promotes a thirst for learning.

Talent management, on the other hand, is a slightly broader term. It revolves around an organization’s recruitment, staffing, and succession planning for the highest quality employees possible.

Benefits of talent management

When you implement a solid talent management strategy, you’ll be met with a wide array of benefits, including:

  • Better engagement and productivity from your employees - It’s a known fact that employees who are engaged work better. Having a strong talent management system in place will instill motivation, productivity, and heighten engagement within your team.
  • Creates a high-performance working environment - When all of your employees are working to their strengths and genuinely care about what they’re doing, you’ll see a massive change of atmosphere. Suddenly, goals that employees may have felt were far-fetched are all the more achievable.
  • Allows the opportunity of inclusion and diversity - Embedding inclusion and diversity into your talent management strategy is a must. This will help your company gain insight from employees with different backgrounds, opinions, and viewpoints.
  • Helps your company grow a positive employee reputation - When considering the unique strengths of your employees, you’ll allow them to feel appreciated for their own, distinctive skill-set. You’re sending a clear message that your employees are made of individual people, rather than one collective ‘machine’.

4 reasons why a talent management strategy is essential

Implementing a comprehensive talent management strategy gives you more control over your hiring process and results in cost savings in the long term.

  1. Calculated hiring decisions: Quality hires aren’t easy to find. A long-term strategy allows you to develop a talent pipeline of suitable candidates who have the skills, experience, ethics, and personality traits that match your business.
  2. Forward-looking management: Looking ahead brings innovation and progressive thinking to your management plan. It encompasses your business’s future growth and goals by identifying candidates who not only meet the immediate need but can be developed into futures managers or product specialists.
  3. Collaborative hiring: Because the strategy is closely aligned with your business’s goals, it’s a companywide policy, involving all levels of management and staff.
  4. Saving time and money: Poor hiring decisions are costly mistakes that drain your bottom line. Having a high staff turnover also damages your brand by sending out the wrong message to your customers.

Once defined and implemented, your talent management strategy can be woven into the fabric of your business and brand. It isn’t something that gets filed away and referred to when someone asks “what is talent management again?”. All management and staff throughout the company can contribute to the strategy.

Challenges of talent management

Nothing worth having ever comes easily. There are distinctive challenges when you’re creating and implementing a talent management strategy. If you can be aware of the potential difficulties, you’ll be able to strategize around them.

1. Harvesting passion into your employees

It is very difficult to make someone care about something that they initially don’t care about.

Talented and high-quality candidates are drawn to roles where they feel aligned. This includes their ethos and general beliefs, their attitudes, and expectations.

A strong talent management process revolves around passion, so it needs to start with the candidates you’re recruiting. Your recruiting process and the factors involved must clearly express your company’s ethos, beliefs, and core values, alongside crystal clear expectations of the role. It’s also crucial that you explain how the candidate’s role will encourage the progression of the company as a whole.  

2. Implementing change

Employees generally don’t sit on the fence. They either embrace change wholeheartedly, or they fear it.

Depending on many factors, your workforce may be resistant to the changes you want to put in place.

Furthermore, the expectations of different employees will be unique to them. While some candidates - especially those who are younger - expect to feel valued, appreciated, and be given interesting and satisfying work, others feel that simply paying them on time and giving them a handful of benefits and holiday days is enough.

This mismatch of expectations leads to strategies that land with only some of your employees, making it difficult to increase the chances of long-term workers.

3. Providing work that genuinely engages and satisfies

Talent management pushes your employees to reach their fullest potential, constantly learning and bettering their working performance. This only comes when an employee feels totally engaged and cares about what they’re doing.

This may sound simple at the beginning, but delegating tasks to the right candidate at all times can be challenging, particularly if your company is larger in size.

4. Attracting the best talent

Your recruitment and talent management strategy only works if you’re hiring high-quality candidates, who first need to be attracted to your vacancy.

To gain high-quality candidates, you need to work on your company’s employee benefits. That doesn’t necessarily only include above the average leave allowance. I’m talking about genuine benefits.

Why should the best talent work for your company in particular? What’s so special about your company that will make them feel valued, appreciated, and engaged every day?

Deciding on talent management practices

Before you can design your talent management strategy, you have to analyze and understand your business goals and overall business strategy. Identify both long and short-term goals as well as areas of your business that have potential weaknesses or need more development.

An area of potential weakness could be a department that lacks crucial skills for succession planning, or an area of development where essential skills haven’t been identified yet.

The key to talent management is maintaining the retention of existing top performers and attracting a pipeline of potential top performers so that vacancies can be quickly filled in the future.

To do that successfully you must know what type of people will not only contribute to the success of your business but also buy into your company’s success. Identifying and hiring the right candidates is a time-consuming process that you can’t afford when an urgent vacancy needs to be filled. The right strategy will prevent hiring crises, hiring in haste, and poor hiring decisions.

Once your talent management strategy has been implemented, it must become an ongoing task of improving your employer brand, networking, research, and building relationships with job seekers, passive candidates, and referrals.

Another part of the success will be to have a constant and professional presence online starting with a great careers site as well as being active on social media. What is talent management if you don’t have a strong brand?

Talent management strategy

A talent management strategy is all about attracting the right talent, so what are the points that build the robust framework of a good policy?

  1. Employer brand: Having a strong brand will attract top talent who will want to work for your company. With a strong brand, you’ll build a solid candidate pipeline and easily attract passive candidates with the right vacancy and salary offer.
  2. Brand reputation: You have less control over your brand reputation because it’s based on how your company is perceived. That’s why having a positive and interactive online presence is vital.
  3. Brand love: Happy, motivated employees will help you build your employer brand. People who are happy at work will tell others in their social circle or via social media. Who better to promote your brand than happy employees?
  4. Candidate experience: How candidates are treated and experience all their interactions with your company will affect both your employer brand and the brand reputation. Ensure that all communication processes are considerate and candidate focused.
  5. Recruitment and selection: Ensure that your recruitment and selection processes are fair and transparent. Also, make sure that all of your staff are aware of your process policies.
  6. Onboarding: Hiring efforts don’t end once a candidate has accepted a job offer. Onboarding new employees to make them feel welcome, settled and get them started is a vital first step in employee retention. Up to 69% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer if they had a good onboarding experience.
  7. Employee engagement: To develop your business and employees and you need to engage with them regularly. Implement systems that encourage employee engagement and that also provide feedback. If your employees think that they’re not heard, it will affect productivity and ultimately lead to high staff turnover.
  8. Employee development: Providing ongoing training, learning and career progression opportunities will improve staff retention.
  9. Performance management: Tracking employee performance opens the door to employee development and engagement and can feed into succession planning.
  10. Succession management: Being able to fill vacancies with the best talent relies on a well-developed talent pipeline as well as succession planning. If you can fill a vacancy with an existing employee, you save time, appoint someone you trust and encourage staff retention. Without a succession planning policy and employee engagement, you might not realize that you already have the skills and experience you need onboard.
  11. Inboarding: Just like new employees need to get settled and started through onboarding, so employees who’ve been promoted or moved between departments must also be given the support they need. A good inboarding process improves employee engagement and productivity and will ultimately improve staff retention.
  12. Staff retention: A high staff turnover impacts profits! Staff retention strategies include employee engagement, development, appraisal and succession management.

Talent management framework

It’s important for your company to craft and implement a talent management framework.

As with everything, this will be unique to the business’s specifics, however, there are a few key elements you should be focusing on. The Center for Executive Education keeps its talent management framework simple by including:

  • Your talent acquisition methods and process
  • Your talent development strategy
  • Your manner of performance management (including the KPIs you’ll analyze over time)
  • Succession planning
  • Level of talent engagement
  • Results of the organization as a whole

Once you start creating your talent management framework, you’ll find that you’ll include more than 6 elements to fit your company’s mission and talent goals. That said, it’s helpful to use the above as a backbone and extend if you need it.

As with any framework, the simpler you can make it, the easier it will be to track and assess. After your first draft, try to refine it as much as possible by editing the steps, keeping a detailed annotated version elsewhere to refer to when you need it.

Optimize your recruitment strategy to flow seamlessly into your talent management framework

It’s important to optimize your recruitment strategy for a seamless transition into the rest of your talent management process.

With that in mind, here are the steps you’ll need to take for a natural flow from recruitment to talent management.

1. Develop your strategic plan and know your skills gaps

The first step in your talent management process – the one that comes before recruitment – is to take an honest look at your company’s needs and goals. Where do you want to be in five, ten, fifteen years? What skills and expertise are you missing that will get you there?

Once you have that strategic plan in place and have identified the holes you need to fill, you can start to recruit candidates to fill those gaps. This plan might also talent management programs to grow employees into different roles and responsibilities.

2. Beef up your employer branding

Once you know which roles you need to hire for, take a look at your employer branding. Define who you are as an employer, what your values are, and what candidates can expect when they work for you. This will go a long way in convincing the best talent to join your team.

It will also set the tone for what candidates can expect during their talent management program. Do you offer career development plans? What does your compensation plan look like?

These are all major considerations in talent development, and defining them in your employer branding will show your candidates that you’re committed to their growth.

Recruitee offers a quick and easy career site builder that lets you brand and pitch your company to job seekers.

3. Write clear and compelling job descriptions

Once you have your plan and brand in place, you can start building out job descriptions. Thorough and honest job descriptions outline from the start what your candidates can expect from the role and your company.

This is a critical step in your talent management process, as it sets the stage for all other components, especially onboarding, development, compensation, and performance management. Making sure you’re on the same page with your candidate about what is expected of them from the start will make for a much smoother talent management process.

Be sure to invest the time in your job descriptions, and clearly outline job titles, duties, required skills, and expected salary, at a bare minimum. Recruitee also offers users over 200 free job description templates to get you started.

4. Manage your candidate funnel using an Applicant Tracking System

Now it’s time to start gathering candidates. If you’ve laid the groundwork for your recruitment well and advertised on the proper channels, you should be receiving a wave of qualified candidates. This is another critical step in your talent management strategy and one that can be streamlined by using an Applicant Tracking System.

An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is a piece of software or app that helps automate the recruitment process. An ATS can help with collecting applicant data, tracking candidate progress through the recruitment funnel, and sorting for qualified applicants based on skill and experience. Most importantly, it gives recruiters a detailed overview of the best candidates to guide their hiring process.

Using an ATS for recruitment not only helps you hire the best candidate faster but the data collected can also be used to optimize your overall talent management strategy.

Having a holistic view of how candidates were recruited, and what type of talent management they received can help guide your strategy going forward.

5. Keep optimizing your talent management strategy

The talent management process is just that: a process.

It requires regular work, feedback, and engagement from everyone in an organization. And while talent management may not always be as successful as you would hope in unlocking the full potential of your organization, laying a solid foundation of recruitment best practices is the best way to ensure that you eventually hit that goal.

Digital talent management

Now that you know what talent management is, you can see how an ATS allows you to integrate and improve your talent management strategy. Data-driven screening and selection tools easily provide fairness and transparency. Integration with online portals and social media gives your employer brand the best exposure.

Add to that the data analytics of an ATS and your talent management strategy can be implemented throughout your business and managed in real-time.

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