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  • Tara Rethore

Need Talent? Take People Out of the Equation

The executives I advise are consistently asking staff what’s needed to fuel performance in 2022. In most cases, people are top of mind, particularly given the “Great Resignation” and resulting “War for Talent”. Those terms refer to individual capabilities – the loss of them and resultant scramble to replace or retain people in sufficient numbers.


This was exactly the situations Joanne and Alberto (both CEOs of mid-sized organizations) recounted in recent conversations. While their situations are quite different, both CEOs immediately listed several critical vacancies that impeded the company’s progress toward goals.


Understand the collective.


Alberto and Joanne named specific positions – blank boxes on their respective org charts. To get clear about what was needed, I asked each of them about their business objective and what capabilities are most important to achieve it.


For Alberto, the ability to scale up quickly is paramount. He also needs a ready supply of specialized technical expertise. For Joanne, it’s about leveraging technology to deliver value more efficiently and effectively.


Exploring further with each of them, it became clear that the needed capabilities and the empty positions were not perfectly matched. Before thinking about individuals, first understand the collective: what are the behaviors and competencies your team needs to succeed?


Take people out of the conversation.


Reviewing organizational capabilities sets the tone for what’s needed across the entire organization – both enterprise-wide and for each area of the business (like manufacturing or product creation, sales, finance, IT, service delivery, and operations). It’s about human capital – yet not about individual performance, per se. So, take people out of the conversation.


Instead, specify what each role contributes to the success of the team, and what’s missing or needs a boost. With this understanding, match individual capabilities to organizational roles. As Alberto and I discussed: this does not mean “shoe-horning” someone into a vacant box on the chart.


Design roles that best suit where you are.


Knowing what's needed for success allows you to design roles that best suit where you are in your strategic journey. From there, you can determine where and how you will develop and redeploy the talent you have while also being clear about the talent you must hire or replace. It creates a direct connection between talent and strategy. Done well, it offers the additional benefit of streamlining the flow of information.


Further, taking a strategic approach to role definition can be an effective tool for talent retention. Consider what new opportunities for career advancement and professional development your staff wants - and your business needs. Seize the chance to acknowledge the contributions individuals have already made to the team, even as you redeploy talent and address collective capabilities.


Having a ready supply of critical talent – in sufficient quantity and quality – is always important for your business. Once again, current market forces make this a top concern of CEOs. To address the impact of labor shortages, start with the destination (your vision). CEOs that guide their teams to take a step back before acting strengthen the connection between strategy and what’s needed to fuel 2022 performance. This approach helped both Alberto and Joanne to avoid chasing unicorns, particularly in a tight market for talent.



Want to learn more about assessing your organization’s capabilities? Check out the Assessing Capabilities Flowchart Aid on p. 155 of my book, Charting the Course: CEO Tools to Align Strategy and Operations.