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7 slides that every talent strategy needs

Having a strategy for how your business is going to get the best from its talent has always been important. It is made more essential in today's fast changing world where the relationship between organisations and their people is being challenged by remote working. Where the need to transform how we work has arrived quicker than expected. Where large organisations need to recreate their career offer at pace.

A quick note on what a strategy is and isn’t

Strategy is not just a list of activities. Strategy is not a well-articulated set of goals. Both of these are necessary but are not a strategy.

A strategy brings together distinct insights on what is changing, a distinct viewpoint on the context and a set of choices on how to win. A good strategy is obvious in hindsight. A good strategy is dynamic in that it brings together components in new ways that create the positive and negative feedback loops that generate change.

Talent needs a strategy because Talent is always about the future. Choosing what will be different and what needs to be the same. Talent management is about making the choices about what capabilities you need more of, when and balancing the risks to do it. It is made hard by the normal challenges of uncertainty about the future and uncertainty about competitors’ actions. It is made harder by the unpredictability of humans and that everything worth doing takes time to deliver.

Back to what a talent strategy needs

Getting to a strategy needs analysis, data and iterative graft. Telling the story once you have the strategy needs to be simple, clear and compelling.

The seven slides every Talent strategy needs are

  1. What is the role of Talent to deliver the business strategy?

  2. What are the key insights that drive the choices?

  3. What are the changes in beliefs and action that are needed?

  4. What is the portfolio of other talent initiatives?

  5. The costs of Talent?

  6. When will the business see the outcomes?

  7. What changes next?

What is the role of Talent in delivering the business strategy?

This slide needs to articulate as briefly as possible what it is that Talent is setting out to achieve. What are the key objectives from the business strategy that Talent is going to address? What is in, and what is out?

This may be a well crafted sentence, a list of desired outcomes or a clever diagram that shows the scope of play. Above all it is future driven and about what will be different and a view on priorities.

The ideas is to keep it bold and intriguing. To get people to want to listen more as you explain what the job of Talent is going to be in delivering the business strategy.

Suggested Slide format – a prioritised list of key outcomes. Ideally between 3 and 5 prioritised outcomes. (They may have sub outcomes within them)

What are the key insights that drive the choices?

This slide is to share the insights that have driven your choices. Some of these will be general but some need to be specific to the business.

If all there is are general insights around things like changing generational expectations, the challenge of diversity, better leadership, higher engagement or new digital working patterns, the strategy will be generic and lacking bite. Not that these challenges are not very real or important, but they are about society not the firm and are the table stakes to compete not how you win.

Specific insights need to be rooted directly in the business strategy. What are the skills and capabilities that you are going to need more or less of? How are the current demographics and flows within the business of talent going to impact your ability to win in your markets?

These insights will have a time perspective and, like any insight, they need to offer a novel perspective on the world that is only obvious once shown.

Suggested Slide format – Split slide showing general shifts and the specific business insights. A from-to format to show the scale of change. A visual of the changing shape or talent flows of the organisation and what it means.

What are the changes in beliefs and action that are needed?

The third slide is about how the change will be delivered. Specifically, what are the beliefs and actions that you want people in the business to stop, start and continue.

This slide is a cause and effect model. You intend to change these beliefs, leading to changes in these actions which will give an outcome that links to the strategy.

This slide is the instruction set for everyone in the business of what is going to be different. Any manager picking this slide up should be able to see immediately what they need to do to create the necessary change.

Importantly this is not a list of initiatives, it is the actions everyone in the business needs to change.

Suggested Slide format – This can be a flywheel model showing the accelerating impacts of change or a cause and effect model showing how the changes add up to the desired impact

What is the portfolio of Talent interventions?

The fourth slide pulls together all the other initiatives that Talent needs to deliver the outcomes. There will be a chunk of the needed change that comes from initiatives that need to be added to business as usual.

These are the processes, the tools and the programs that Talent facilitates and delivers. Again, these need to link to a cause and effect model of how each initiative builds on each other, amplifies each other and combine to deliver a specific talent outcome.

Where possible some idea of cost and scope should be included. How many people is it going to impact and what is the relative cost?

Suggested Slide format – A cause and effect model showing how the changes add up to the desired impact. A portfolio model showing the scope of the different initiatives mapped against potential impact and risk of delivery.

The costs of Talent?

This slide needs to pull together how much of the company’s money Talent intends to spend to achieve the outcomes. This slide requires judgement as to what is really a Talent cost or business as usual. Some of the costs are opportunity costs not budget costs. So there are choices about what to include.

This slide shows how the money is being spent. Is it on process, tools, programmes or recruitment? And where the money spent? What functions, geographies or levels is the spend being directed at?

What is really important to capture is the big number, not a narrow view of external spend. It ideally should make people think about is it enough or not. It is usually bigger than most people are aware of.

Suggested Slide format – A big number with the components underneath. A segment diagram showing where the investment is going.

When will the business see the outcomes?

There needs to be a plan for activation. This slide needs to bring this to life showing how the outcomes are going to be delivered over time.

Ideally the slide shows the plan for the change, the key activities and the critical path. It is outcome driven not input driven. What is the business going to get by when? What changes will be seen where?

This is the plan for how Talent is helping the business. It should be measurable. The initiatives may change over time but the outcomes are stable based on the needs of the business strategy.

Where it is just a timeline of initiatives the plan loses all power. Of course, somewhere there needs to be a detailed and worked through itinerary of what happens when in what order, but not here.

Suggested Slide format – A waterfall diagram for each major outcome showing how the outcome is delivered by the change in activity over time

What changes next

The final slide is a view of what changes next. What are the immediate actions that are going to kick off over the next 6 months so every one knows what they can expect.

This gives people the mental space to know what is coming and to build a view of how it fits with their day to day activity.

Suggested Slide format – The six month plan with outcomes and who it involves

A final note

Of course, the number of slides doesn’t really matter. You need to provide the level of detail your audience requires. But fewer is normally better. Honing the strategy down to your key messages is what works. You can then frame these messages as a memorable story of how Talent is going to help the business win.

Getting there will always be a messy iterative process because this is hard, challenging work. But it is worth it as Talent drives the success of any business. And it is worth getting a professional to design the slides, so they are more than OK and functional. They need to be exciting and engaging.

The test is when you share the deck, your audience should be able to answer the following in the positive

  • Is it clear what problem Talent is going to solve and how it helps our strategy?

  • Is it clear where Talent is going to focus its energy?

  • Is it clear how our Talent actions will differentiate us from our competitors in a smart way?

  • Do I know what I, and my team, will be expected to do differently?

  • Do I know what I should expect to see next?

  • Am I excited to be a part of this?

If all of these are a resounding "yes", you are in a good place. Enjoy the process.


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