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A Talent Management Strategy

When asked "Which tool do you believe can best help you meet your [recruiting] goals over the next year," 20% of the respondents to a recent survey conducted by Yahoo! cited better screening tools, 17% pointed to improved candidate tracking, and a whopping 63% said that what they needed most was a clear talent management strategy.
That’s a pretty strong consensus (at least, in our field!), but what exactly is "a clear talent management strategy?" What are its components and, no less important, how do they influence the success of a recruiter?
The answers to those questions, it seems to me, are absolutely essential if our faith in such a strategy is to be vindicated by a larger yield of superior candidates.
So, what exactly is a talent management strategy? Webster’s Dictionary defines strategy as "the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions."
Said another way, a strategy can be effective only if it has the following two components:
(1)an objective that benefits a group, & 
(2)an inherent competitive advantage.

The objective in war is victory; the advantage can come from a larger fighting force, better technology, superior leadership, or even the weather. In recruiting, the objective is also victory, in the War for Talent; the advantage we recruiters need is whatever differentiates and strengthens our organization’s value proposition as an employer.
A talent management strategy, then, involves "defining and promoting an employer so that it can acquire an unfair share of the best talent in the workforce."
As I’ve noted in previous columns, the best talent is comprised of two cohorts: 
Those rare individuals who possess skills that are critical to business operations and are in critically short supply; and

Those rare individuals whose contribution to the enterprise significantly exceeds the norm and raises others to that same high level of performance.

Every employer wants to hire such workers, but the supply is insufficient. There simply aren’t enough rare skill holders and rare performers to go around. That isn’t a future dilemma; it’s a present day reality. It is the here-and-right-now labor shortage that has turned the labor market into a war zone.
In such an environment, employers have only two possible outcomes: they can either be winners or they can be losers. There is no middle ground.
Either they hire all of the best talent they need, or they don’t. And if they do, some other employer will not be able to. Therefore, the only talent management strategy that makes any sense is the one that positions an organization for victory, and victory can only be achieved by recruiting more of the best talent than the competition.
If that’s the objective of a talent management strategy, how is it achieved? What gives an organization a competitive advantage in the race for an unfair share of the best talent? In my view, the one element that provides such an edge is knowledge of the client. In other words, the most effective talent management strategies are "client centric." They are shaped by those whom the strategy is supposed to serve: the hiring managers whose positions we are trying to fill and the high caliber candidates with which we are trying to fill them.
To ensure that a talent management strategy serves hiring managers, we must develop the strategy with hiring managers, themselves. In other words, the talent management strategy doesn’t belong to recruiters or to the Human Resource Department, but to the enterprise. It is what the enterprise must do to capture an unfair share of the best talent.
To achieve that objective takes a team effort, so we must meet with the hiring managers, engage them in a dialogue, and ultimately achieve agreement with them on three key issues:
(1) The definition of a "quality worker" (i.e., the best talent),
(2) The role each party (i.e., recruiters and hiring managers) will play in recruiting such workers, and
(3) The metrics that will be used to measure the enterprise’s collective performance in doing so.
To ensure that a talent management strategy serves the top talent an enterprise seeks to hire, it must also be devised in conjunction with those workers. Obviously, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to get their direct input, so we must use surrogates to acquire this perspective.
Who are those surrogates? The top talent an organization already employs. We must meet with them and ask for their insights and counsel on three key questions:
(1) What methods and venues work best in reaching people just like them, the top prospects in their field?
(2) What factors in the organization’s value proposition as an employer motivated them to accept its offer and, therefore, will likely motivate other top prospects, as well?
(3) How might they help the organization reach out to and sell other rare skill holders and rare performers on joining the organization?
A talent management strategy is not a silver bullet in the War for Talent. Having one doesn’t ensure victory. Not having one, however, almost certainly undercuts your performance. And, having a good strategy, "one that has a clear goal and provides a real edge" is probably the single best way to achieve success.

Written by Peter Weddle, a recruiter, HR consultant and business CEO turned author and commentator. He has authored seven books, edited six others and published dozens of articles in professional and trade magazines.