Where there is a war for talent in an industry, it is not wise to compete on salary.
A better way to compete for talent, where to wage the war, is on leadership and culture.
An IT leadership team I’ve been working with these past few months made a commitment to use a talent mapping process to build tangible learning and development pathways for their teams.
This leadership group is a division of a larger organisation who had just completed a strategic planning process – building their own 3-year strategic plan that cascaded from the overall business strategy.
They understood that in order to achieve their transformation objectives – it was essential to actively engage and develop the capabilities of their people. Their business simply could not afford to buy or retain talent using financial incentives over and above what they currently had in place.
Instead, they focussed their efforts on strategies to create a great place to work and broker exceptional learning experiences, enabling their people to progress their careers and enhance their earning potential.
This team used a simple, yet effective talent mapping tool pictured below – mapping every team member on a 3×3 grid against technical skills (entry, mid, and senior level) vs leadership skills (entry, mid and senior level). This revealed to them the spread of capabilities in their own teams and where key gaps existed in succession planning.
Importantly, before mapping, they defined their capability matrix – benchmarking what “entry”, “moderate” and “high” looked like in each technical stream, as well as for leadership. This allowed them to have an objective view so they could compare skills sets across people and technical divisions.
The talent mapping process was followed by individual 1:1’s between managers and their people to identify individual career goals, strengths, skill focus areas, and learning actions to increase performance. This they captured into a simple table to keep track of agreements and plans between individuals, pictured below.
Additionally, each leader in the IT group shared their talent maps and team performance plans with each other as part of their weekly team meetings in order to identify shared opportunities for cross-skilling, mentoring, on-the-job learning and formal training.
What they found most revealing was working on their own talent map as a leadership team. With their executive and each other in an open forum, they gave each other feedback on where they sat against both technical skills and leadership skills. Most of the time – individuals under-rated where they were in comparison to their peers’ perspectives. That is, generally speaking, their peers saw them as more competent than they saw themselves. This gave each leader great confidence in their own abilities and strengthened the trust and respect in the group.
I commonly work with leadership teams on the creation of strategic plans. But rarely do I see a commitment to the full process demonstrated by this group – moving from the strategic plan to the talent plan necessary to execute. Yes….this process took time. But building learning and development plans with people, having development conversations and building succession plans is the task of leadership. It is not an adjunct to it.
Leaders who understand this, who prioritise learning, development, career growth and capability building, actively grow not just people, they grow the business. They create sustainable platforms for growth by building capacity in teams and clear links between learning and performing. This is how you create great places to work and stand out in a highly competitive market place.
This is how you win the war for talent.