Identifying potential future challenges helps to guide the sourcing of the talent to deal with them; but how much of that talent is already sitting in your own company, waiting to be identified and used? In this installment, Sarah Babb suggests a few ways of unearthing this talent.

Because one cannot always anticipate what the next business challenge will be, it is difficult to plan for talent management.

It is recommended that Human Resource professionals plan around scenarios, just as business leaders build strategy out of scenarios and environmental analyses. Consider the “what if?” scenarios – What if we win the World Cup 2010? What if the Rand plummets and oil price skyrockets? What if our company is bought into a BEE deal? What if we do not reach 6% GDP growth? Identify what the impact on your business will be and the requirements on your Human Resources will be. Human Resource planning considers the external labour market, structural changes, role changes, and internal current capacity. All of this is then amalgamated into a plan for Human Resources. It is in this process that you define the core capability of your leaders and of your key roles across the functional areas of the business.

Many businesses do have role profiles, but they remain untouched for 3 years or more! Businesses change every year, so you need to find a streamlined way of keeping the profiles relevant.

Performance management processes ought to feed back required changes in the profiles, and changes are to be made within the HR job profile policy guidelines. For example, the group or head office policy will require strategic competencies and values to be integrated into all profiles, and changes at a business unit or departmental level would need to be within these parameters.
Restructuring roles or organisational structure issues would also need group or head office level input and guidance. This will ensure strategic alignment.

Knowing your current talent
Once the role profiles, competencies and behavioural attributes are defined, the next step is to consider what the current level of talent is across the business. This will impact the decisions of where to source the required talent from – either through internal progression or external sourcing.

The most overlooked process is that of identifying real potential and talent within the current staff. An often-used term is that a business must build “bench strength”, and have a “cover ratio” of talent ready to step into key roles, be they technical or leadership.

This provides enormous opportunities to retain talent, through the provision of multiple career pathways within the business. In order to know potential and to know what gaps need to be filled, a skills audit will provide a snapshot of current talent ratios as well as an overview of the required development gaps.

A skills audit can be defined as “a process for measuring the competence and capability of an individual and group” Multiple tools are available to conduct a skills audit, some of which include:

• Customised in-house assessment centres
• Psychometric tools
• Competency-based interviews
• Workplace evidence
• Workplace skills audit
• 360 degree evaluation
• Team surveys

There are advantages and disadvantages to the skills audit tools, and they must be developed and selected according to the talent profiles, as well as according to the business needs. Be sure not to select talent audit tools only for efficiency reasons. They must be valid and give you a holistic view of your current talent.

The talent evaluation must consider the person’s potential, experience, values, aspirations, and competence. Consider that a person may have the skill and potential, but may not have the interest in taking up future leadership roles, nor of moving across disciplines. It is useful to get feedback from peers, managers and subordinates to gauge prior behavioural traits. Without engaging with the person themselves through the audit process, there may be a complete mismatch of expectations from the individual and the business. Balance the needs of the individual and of the business, and a match of talent will be achieved. Engaging talent provides benefits to the individual as they achieve their goals, and to the business as high performance is achieved.

Look out for Part III of this article on Women Inc. next week.

This article was published on Women Inc, the complete resource for the working woman. Women Inc offers articles on entrepreneurship, management, personal effectiveness and issues beyond the workplace (

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