How to Build a Talent Strategy from the Inside Out

It seems rather simple advice to begin any staffing endeavor by filling openings with existing talent before searching externally, but most companies find it hard to embrace.

The latest study from the American Management Association (AMA) American Management Association (AMA) found most companies not necessarily in favor of utilizing internal talent when filling open positions. More than half the respondents (55 percent) said their company has no overriding preference of where candidates originate, and only 34 percent actively focused on developing and retaining current employees.

Ask most companies if they have a talent management strategy, succession plans, and they will answer with a resounding yes; in their eyes, the question seems superfluous. But so many times the staffing scenario looks the same: an open position creates a discussion of existing talent that can be promoted or moved laterally to fill the role that disintegrates into a performance review or a fight over top talent. In order to keep the peace, the company skips promoting someone into a stretch role or acquiesces to the demands of the manager battling to keep his high performer to start the internal search. No one internally is made aware of the opening, and the inevitable external hire joins a process where the only way to move up is to get out.

Faced with this reality, you understand the importance of creating a candidate pool from the inside out, that a talent management strategy must consider existing employees as a viable pool from which openings should be filled first before opening the role to an external hire. Here are some steps to creating a balanced talent acquisition strategy:

1. Update your recruiting strategy

Companies spend a lot of time and money on marketing the company to external candidates as opposed to continually recruiting their current workforce. Both are important. Continually positioning the company as a great place to work reinforces the decision of the workforce and turns them into excited candidates as well as active recruiters. Broaden your campaign strategy to ensure that everyone knows your company is a place that values career advancement.

2. Keep abreast of internal changes

Essentially, this means staying on top of the current state of your employees and where they are in their own career progression and performance reviews. Know which top tier talent is ready for a new role, understand who might need a position that could challenge them further, get on top of where the business might be expanding, contracting, or someone might be heading out the door for one reason or another. The time to have a conversation about the right candidate and skills for an open position is ideally before it’s needed. Constant action beats reaction any day.  

3. Build your talent bench

If the excuse is that you don’t have people who are ready to take on the new roles, it’s time to create opportunities for your current employees to become the staff you need for the future. We hire for current need, but it’s shortsighted to continually import new skills when you can build them internally. Prepare your current workforce to take you to the stars, and then bring in external talent to enhance that existing talent pool. Otherwise, you’re looking to continually shed employees as your company grows, which will cost a fortune in recruiting bills.   

4. Don’t enable talent hoarders

There’s often reluctance among managers to relinquish top talent to other divisions. This practice never works for this one reason: talented people want opportunities to grow and progress. Hire around them and they’ll quickly look elsewhere. Better to let them know you value their performance than to give the impression that you plan on keeping them in the same position forever.

5. Perform due diligence

Companies continually benchmark against their competitors, so take time to benchmark your top talent with the external marketplace. It stops you from becoming complacent, and can also where you might be deficient. It's a real litmus test and keeps your employment brand in the eyes of potential recruits.

So when developing your talent strategy inside out, keep in mind the choice is not whether to recruit from the inside or out, but how to do both simultaneously. You want your top talent capable of assuming expansive roles while also remaining tuned into the external marketplace. Performing both ensures an active talent and retention strategy that makes sure you always have the best people to lead your company well into a profitable future.  

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