Creating a Talent Strategy: Why You Need a “Hard Knocks” Approach

An organization’s business strategy should drive its talent management strategy the same as it does marketing and finance.

Try and imagine a business creating both long term and short term strategy and not including the latter two. Unthinkable right?

While watching the show “Hard Knocks,” which is kind of a reality show for the National Football League, I always enjoy the segments when all the coaches get together to plot strategy.

All hands on deck

The team meeting between coaches has everyone in the room. All hands are on deck. The reason for that is because they are plotting not only the overall strategy, but the weekly game plan too. Although this is only pre-season, the model is the same during the season.

Again, try and imagine a head coach calling a strategic meeting with just the offense — and the defensive coach not being notified, or for that matter, not even being invited.

In these meetings, everyone is involved and everyone is on the same page. There is not a faction or coach worrying or fretting over getting inside the room. Offense, defense, receivers coach, special teams, hell, even the strength coach is in attendance.

What a concept.

Business today demands a talent strategy

As companies gradually make the shift back to profitability, they will realize that the key to renewal, growth and innovation all revolves around people. The knowledge worker is the key to the equation.

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize this. But workers have been battered and are still getting battered daily.

The mindset of the worker

Just last week, Bank of America announced that they are laying off 3500 workers and that the number will probably grow to 10,000 over the next few years. Don’t ever think that this is just an abstract number. Every person, whether employed or not, has either seen or heard those numbers.

Their thought process always comes back to, “will I have a job next year?” Or maybe if a person is unemployed, their thought could be, “will I ever get a job?” This is the new worker landscape.

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The mindset of the worker has gone through a metamorphosis.

Whenever I walk through Penn Station in New York City and see someone on the phone crying, I assume that they just got laid off. I think this because I was on a call one day and saw someone next to me crying uncontrollably. When I asked them if they were OK, they told me that they had just been laid off after working for this company for 15 years.

The strategic thing

HR executives going forward are going to be asked to create and implement organizational capability and talent strategies for the post-recession world. The days of the HR bureaucrat are over. The strategist that occupies this seat will be a tactician that, while understanding the fundamental administrative side of HR, will also have a strategic mindset and can frame the function with strategy.

The organization is going to need and demand it. The workforce is going to need and demand it.

And without the engaged workforce and committed senior leadership, the ballgame is basically over.

So the next time you are aware of the big meeting and you are left on the sidelines, think of the NFL. Your organization demands it.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


3 Comments on “Creating a Talent Strategy: Why You Need a “Hard Knocks” Approach

  1. Hello Ron,  It’s not only HR that should be creating the talent strategy to support the corporate strategy.  Why is it not every corporate citizen’s responsibility to help build a culture/talent pool that supports the direction/success of the company?

    I understand that it takes a few experts to get the process going.  What we, both in HR and executives, fail to do is to educate our middle/front-line managers and employees on how they can support these initiatives.  We just use general terminology and a sometimes ineffective referral reward.  

    almost NEVER say, we need you to find a peer who has these capabilities and whom you know will fit in with our culture.  Who do YOU want to to worth with in order to achieve XYZ?

    Remember that Generation Y employees tend to be more collaborative, expecting diversity, and expecting to make a difference.  So use these general attitudes – not to manage by committee, but to use a broader range of skills and take advantage of all that lovely networking that is so much a part of young adult culture.  Gent them engaged in as many processes as possible.  They are willing and they are interested!

    1. Valerie, I agree somewhat, but HR is is the Human Capital Business and must drive all efforts as it relates.  Marketing and or Finance would not look for outside help in putting together their long term plan. 

      I feel that HR should be in the drivers seat to sync their strategy within the overall business objectives.

      We should own all of this. 

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