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4 Steps to Build Your Talent Management Plan

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Fall is the perfect time to begin devising talent plans for the new year.

Before you jump into tactical planning, I encourage you first to adjust your view to the bigger picture - to the objectives and overall direction you are working to accomplish with talent planning. To use travel as an example, pinpoint the final destination and timeframe of a trip as the talent strategy. Your talent plan will specify the stops you map out along the way. I share thoughts about that in the first article in the series here. Pause and set your strategy first. Then you'll have the context needed to connect the specifics of your plan to business goals.

Build a Talent Management Plan; target with dart in the center

Alright, with the talent objectives from your talent management strategy in hand, it's time to build a tactical plan.

1. Begin with the Talent Cycle

Typically, the first step I recommend as you begin laying out tactical plans for the year, is to articulate the talent cycle for your organization. The talent cycle includes talent activities that are static each year and that everyone engages, such as performance management, merit and succession planning.

I like to show the talent cycle in a graphic that you can recycle each year, adjusting timelines and key events as they shift. It becomes a simple way to communicate consistently with leaders about key timelines from year to year. They get used to hearing from you and become familiar with the foundational, repeatable talent elements that you need them to engage with their teams.

Talent Cycle Sample 1

Here's a sample talent cycle that is simple, clear and shows the connectedness of the talent activities that are foundational to a talent year.

annual talent development cycle
Annual Talent Development Cycle, circular view

You can see that this version includes performance appraisals at the beginning of the year, for those utilizing traditional performance appraisals. Performance management feeds into merit assignments in early spring with a callout for career planning if that's relevant for your organization. Talent Reviews (talent planning discussions, such as a nine-box discussion) occur in the summer, followed by succession planning in the fall. Performance calibrations top the year off in the winter before appraisal season begins again.

Talent Cycle Sample 2

This next talent cycle lays out the year in a linear format, and captures an integrated view of talent management, including compensation and development. It is segmented by quarters and uses icons to show the primary activities engaged within that quarter.

This version includes activities for both traditional and continuous performance management. You see that compensation discussions needed are called out throughout the year. Workforce planning finds its place in the summer when budgeting for the following year begins. In this cycle, succession planning is in the spring and talent reviews are in the fall.

Tailor the Cycle to Your Business

There's no one right way to calendar foundational talent activities. Tailor the cycle to your business, closing up appraisals when the budget year ends verses by calendar year. The point is to create a cycle that reflects the foundational talent planning activities you engage with your customers and plot it out in a way that you can refer to with consistency.

If a talent cycle is already available to you, excellent. Layer that first into your talent plan. It's key that you get foundational, repeatable activities planned out first. While it's tempting to jump first to the specific needs, we're going to plan smart. We'll likely need to prioritize.

2. Layer in Customer Specifics

Now that you've plotted out your ongoing basics, it's time to work into the plan specific tactics to support the department needs you identified in your talent strategy work.

Remember those goals that you articulated for specific customer groups? Then you got buy-in with their key stakeholders and your HR partners? Forgotten? Article here. It's time to layer them into your plan. I recommend starting with a pencil and keeping in mind the prep work and timelines needed for the foundational elements you've already got going. Pencil in timelines for your customer goals.

Let's work through an example. For the group that is seeing higher attrition, you and your stakeholder team decide to focus the year on leadership development and stay chats. You partner with the L&D Team to schedule a couple of leadership classes throughout the year, based on your customers preferred timing. You also weave in coaching sessions with the senior leadership team. Stay chats you decide you'll tackle in the second quarter after merit planning.

What about the newly created department who's in need of a solid talent plan? You and your customers deem team building support as a primary focus with a second priority of establishing the basics of good performance management within the leadership team. You layer in two initial teaming sessions, working with your customer on timing. Performance management basics is something you want to tickle each quarter, so that managers don't get to the end of the year without providing coaching or feedback.

My, my. You've got a lot going on already next year. You might be able to engage partners or your team to tackle some of those tasks. Remember, talent management is a team sport. Get others involved and make friends with your partners. They can help you tackle the year most effectively.

The last layer you'll want to add to the calendar are company-wide initiatives.

3. Layer in Company-Wide Initiatives

Company-wide initiatives include talent activities that are outside of the foundational tasks, but impact every work group. An example are the talent initiatives that just rolled down from corporate. Or new compliance training required for a new regulation or product. You might also consider future of work type themes, such as engagement work needed to support a newly dispersed workforce. You get the idea.

Some of these activities will come with timelines. That's why we used pencil for customer-specific needs above - so that you can adjust as you layer in additional activities.

There's not a science I have found to laying out the most effective year for talent management. Some years, you'll be able to tackle tasks across the organization. Other years you've got two mega projects with customers that draws most of your attention.

No matter your plan, I encourage you to stay consistent with the foundational items. Those basics provide a wealth of talent information and management influence to provide value when you tackle specific needs or you have to turn one customer down due the priority need of another.

What I appreciate about talent planning before the next year begins is that you have a strong plan from day one, and can begin working the plan, even as the current year draws to a close. Educate your customers on the plan and show them where they fit in. Get their buy-in and early support. Yes, the year will shift as it unfolds. But because you have a well thought out plan for the year, you know what must be accomplished and what is flexible. You've prioritized and can meet changing business needs as they arise.

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison

4. Develop a Visual Calendar or Timeline

Your plan is spot-on. Well done. I hope that you feel energized that you have a jump on the year already.

At this point, I suggest you get wild and crazy… and develop a timeline or calendar of the year. Whatever visual best suits your audience - do that. My teams have tried adding layers into the talent cycle charts. We've tried calendar views. We've used Gantt timelines. There's not one right way. Pick one and try it next year. You can adjust as needed - because you already have the plan!

Good luck, Talent Folks. Let me know how it goes.


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