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Co-create Talent Strategy with Business

By Mandeep Kaur

“HR leaders do not need to influence senior leaders to agree to their talent strategy - senior leaders need to co-create the talent strategy with HR.”

Now we look at another important aspect – to co-create the talent strategy with the business to keep the business on course. A common assumption is HR leaders need to develop a talent strategy and then “sell” it to the business. Organisations are much more effective when business leaders co-create the talent strategy with HR leaders to enable clear alignment to business strategy and deep support from leaders throughout the organisation.

So what is HR’s role in co-creating the talent strategy?

There are 3 aspects to it:

1. Providing formal avenues to discuss and finalise the talent strategy

HR leaders need to create avenues which provide senior leaders opportunity to identify and maintain the talent strategy. These could be:

A. Talent strategy-setting meetings: It could be the HR Business Partners (HRBPs) collaborating with their business unit / functional senior leaders to identify a talent strategy and socialise it more broadly within the organisation. The HRBP may invite a senior leader from the talent management (TM) team to support this effort. In some organisations, we have seen the TM centre of excellence assign a talent leader to the specific business unit to support its talent strategy. After gaining widespread feedback, these meetings often culminate with a presentation to the business unit to formally “ratify” the strategy.

B. Talent Strategy-Setting Workshops: To guide the talent strategy-setting process, some organisations use a one- or- several-day workshop to discuss the future direction of the business, trends in the talent market, and the implications for the business.

C. Talent Advisory Councils: This is a cross-functional group of HR and business leaders that focuses specifically on talent management topics and decisions for the organisation. This council can set and maintain talent strategies.

2. Guide Leaders’ Conversations and Focus

This is a critical aspect as senior leaders must have actionable and targeted conversations on the talent strategy. These conversations can occur during the talent advisory council meetings, strategy workshops, miscellaneous business-unit meetings, or on an informal basis.

For such discussions, it is useful to create a framework to refer to. This framework could include the organisation’s business goals, strategy, overall talent trends, changes in the future of work, business specific talent needs, gaps, relative effort/impact trade-off, specific talent levers (e.g., build/buy/borrow).

In these discussions, it is imperative that HR facilitates the conversation, and not dominate it. HR plays a critical role in providing talent knowledge and expertise to the business, and enabling business leaders to use that information to develop a more informed, higher-impact strategy.

3. Measure and Provide Data

As HR has a wealth of available data on the talent within the organisation, it can integrate talent analytics or workforce planning with the talent strategy planning efforts. HR can bring data to the talent strategy discussion in many ways. Some key aspects to support the talent strategy setting process are – Insights on critical talent skills, capabilities, behaviours, knowledge in the organisation today and how does it anticipate that changing in the future, critical talent segments today and in the future, way the critical talent segments will evolve, current supply (pipeline) of critical talent and the changes anticipated in the future, likely blocks or leakages in talent pipeline.

Ensuring Business Stays on Course with its Talent Strategy

It is critical to visit talent strategy regularly to see how effectively its various elements (e.g., specific processes, programmes, initiatives) are executed. Three approaches that can help in keeping the talent strategy top of mind of the business leaders are:

1. Update in Quarterly Business Review: HR head should present an update on the talent strategy at the executive committee’s quarterly business reviews. This provides high-level visibility for the strategy and enables the CHRO to solicit feedback and provide relevant updates.

2. Agenda item in Every HR Presentation: Including a slide on the talent strategy in every HR presentation can help to reinforce both the strategy itself, and how a given programme or initiative aligns with it.

3. Calendar-based Talent Strategy Updates: Organisations generally set talent strategy for a three- to five-year timeframe. Every year review the progress on the short-term elements of the talent strategy, and make adjustments for the following year. Every two to three years, the organisations can take a holistic look at the overall talent strategy and make updates as necessary.

Clearly, effective talent management requires not only its alignment to the business strategy, but also active engagement of the business and senior leaders in its planning.


Mandeep Kaur

She is currently working as Talent Management/Leadership Development Leader at IBM. She has over 20 years of experience as a Human Resources leader in varied sectors and geographies.

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