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Aligning businesses with talent strategies in the 'new normal’

Now, more than ever before, it is imperative to align business goals with talent development strategies, in order to accommodate changing business dynamics. It is safe to say that businesses, which achieve the ideal alignment, will be the ones who emerge successful in the New Normal.

The challenges posed by the breakout of COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly transforming the way we conduct business globally. It has put business strategies and skill development preparedness of organizations to a rigorous test. It is now amply clear that business and talent development strategies are intertwined and cannot be looked in silos.

The current corporate climate is unlike any before. This dynamic evolution has prodded organizations to invest in their existing employee base, more than ever, to nurture talent for new skills that are taking center stage and defining businesses world over. Organizations are pooling in their best capabilities to navigate through this new landscape, wherein the required skills to run a business successfully are continuously evolving. We were gradually proceeding towards a world dominated by skills rather than hierarchy, and the COVID-19 situation has made it critical to bring this transition faster.

Now, more than ever before, it is imperative to align business goals with talent development strategies, in order to accommodate changing business dynamics. It is safe to say that businesses, which achieve the ideal alignment, will be the ones who emerge successful in the New Normal.

The need is to identify technologies or platforms that are powered by Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Machine Learning, and Virtual Reality, which will not only create value for the clients but will also equip organizations to invest in the right kind of skills. How an organization manages to match a skillset with a specific business goal, will directly impact the way a business survives, thrives, and flourishes.

The role of HR throughout this process is critical. While digitization pushed organizations to develop training modules in-house in the recent past, given the talent shortage, the ongoing pandemic situation has ensured that Human Resource leaders now also have a permanent seat at the leadership table. HR practices need to nuance talent strategies, which will be in tandem with the overall business strategy. This would give the required impetus to the talent function to fine-tune strategies in a manner that will take care of the human part of the equation necessary for business success.

A few things to keep in mind while charting out a talent strategy in alignment with business strategy:

  • Proactively identify areas of business that can be automated, improved, or innovated upon using technology. This will give an insight into the kind of skills companies need to invest in, to upskill and reskill existing employees. Make considerable investments in relevant digital solutions.
  • Define value proposition objectively to the end-user – both internal and external. Prioritize the deployment of strategy based on expected ROI.
  • Plan a prudent mix of high-risk, high-return, and steady-state investments, taking into consideration the technology/digital disruptions, socio-economic influence, and the geopolitical situation.
  • The need for the right talent will impact all aspects of a business. It is important that talent needs are identified across functions as customers increasingly look for augmented value add, easy user interface, efficient customer service, and delightful experience.
  • It is vital for organizations to build cultural values within their talent development efforts, which will drive all the three strategies – Business, skill, and talent – together.
  • Build an agile and flexible talent development model, which is sustainable and can withstand future influences, especially in terms of technology and digital domains.
  • Map the required roles and skills to specific business outcomes. Strive to build a business map that is unambiguous and clearly defines the outcome.
  • It is also crucial that the compensation and benefits model is at par with the skills, in order to attract and retain the best-of-the-best talent.

Once the business strategy is in place, a thorough survey of the required skills is a must to build the talent funnel. A handshake between the overall business and HR is an effective way to achieve that. Let’s put it this way – while the subject matter experts will bring to the table a dossier of technologies that could impact revenues positively, HR will handle the human aspect to match the right skills to achieve that revenue target.

The 7B approach of talent management – build, buy, borrow, balance, bounce, bind, and bot – is an effective way to define the skill sourcing strategy. However, it must be acknowledged that not all skill gaps can be filled through the building, binding, balancing, or bouncing, while borrowing can prove to be helpful only in the short term. Building the relevant talent pool in the house can help to a certain extent, in terms of present-day requirements, but it has its limitations. Not all of the existing talent can be reskilled to meet future business goals of an organization. But, the build approach can be instrumental in nurturing talent with the identified new skills. Buy and Bot are probably the only two long-term impact methods that can prepare a company for futuristic skills. Research and innovation will play a key role in this. This is where HR must wear the Learning and Development hat and objectively push the envelope to find a sponsor to allocate its resources – money, manpower, and moments (time).

When devising a skill strategy, talent strategy will always be a part of it, and HR functions must be mindful of it. But make no mistake, just incremental repurposing of traditional talent sourcing and management methodology will most definitely fall flat. To ensure a future-proof strategy, following are the points that need consideration:

  • Anything that is repetitive and has a step-based approach, must be automated.
  • For skills that are fungible and can be built in house, efforts should be made to reskill existing talent with overlapping competencies.
  • For complex skills in the areas of new technologies and specialized services, niche sources must be discovered – be it consulting, networking, or leadership references.
  • In addition to all the above, a continuous focus on identifying and building future skills is a must. This will involve not just building a pipeline proactively, but will also necessitate collaborations across functions and even industries.

Call it Design Thinking for talent buildup, but it is irrefutable that aligning business and talent strategy is a holistic approach to grow businesses and the talent that aids it. Either of the strategies, business or talent, are ineffective unless they work in tandem, especially in today’s unprecedented times. If we manage to achieve the synergy, sky is the limit.

This article was first published by People Matters