CEOs Key Questions To HR Leaders On Talent Strategy

The conversations around talent strategy and talent management are commonplace in organizations across the world. Their frequency has increased in recent times, especially after the pandemic hit. Most of these conversations or discussions have a few common faces in attendance – there are representatives from the management in addition to the HR manager. The focus of those discussions is for the HR manager or talent leader, as they are often referred to, to put across their talent agenda for the organization in front of the leadership and chalk out a talent strategy or plan about how they will reach there.

However, it becomes a tough job for even the most experienced of HR managers to convince the leadership about their objective and the way they are going to get there when they don’t have the most important parts of the talent management puzzle properly pieced together. If they can’t answer the whats, hows, and whys of the leadership, the support from the CEO or other executive will start to fade away gradually. That will not only result in the failure of the talent strategy and objectives but also the replacement of the HR leader. 

It is very important for HR leaders to take the questions coming from the CEO very seriously. The CEO is focussed on the overall growth of the company as well as the success of all the processes, including talent management. When all the processes are streamlined, the chances that the talent strategy or for that matter any other would fail are very slim. The questions that HR leaders are thrown at by the CEO are all very smart questions that are central to the good interests of the organization. And if they don’t get good enough answers for those questions, they are well within their right to ask HR leaders to devise a better talent strategy that is worth investing in. 

Most of the HR teams aren’t able to tackle those questions due to two reasons – they aren’t capable enough to come up with the right answers or their answers are ambiguous. This is why the need of the hour for HR leaders is to have a framework in place that will help them in explaining to CEOs and other leaders of their organizations what they are doing, what they are going to do in the future, the reasons behind doing those things, and how everything will combine together to give the desired talent outcomes. 

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With this framework, HR teams will be better equipped to answer the questions raised by their CEO.

Here are three key questions that CEOs ask their HR leaders on talent strategy:

What capabilities can help us win more?

When they have the talent management framework in place, HR will have to waste little time and energy to answer this question. The answer to this question is quite simple. An organization needs both functional and leadership capabilities to put their talent strategy on track. There can only be a few leadership capabilities that will be specific for different organizations. And those capabilities will help in driving the overall performance of the organization. But the role of the HR team doesn’t stop here. They need to work with the CEO and other leaders of the company to determine all the leadership capabilities and ensure that these are a part of all the people processes they design, handle and roll out.

The leadership capabilities that an organization needs to look for in talent should be based on their objectives in the short-term, maybe in the coming 4-5 years. Once these capabilities are identified and mutually agreed upon by HR and company leaders, it is now the responsibility of the HR team to align their talent strategy around reinforcing those. So, whether it is talent hiring, development, compensation, or any other thing, everything has to be done keeping those capabilities at the forefront. 

How to build a bench of performers?

First of all, the HR leaders have to be optimistic about their own capabilities of delivering high-performing talent to the organization. And it is not just about delivering talent, the quantity is as important. If they are not able to deliver the required number of high-quality performers to their organization, they aren’t doing their jobs well. Building a bench of high-performing talent requires identifying capabilities and skills and then coaching talent in those. Cutting corners when it comes to talent coaching and development does more harm than good to an organization.

HR leaders also need to make the CEO understand that identifying talent development goals and coaching employees to meet those goals are tasks that have very little to do with administration. It instead is a part of a talent strategy that needs to be executed properly for it to deliver the desired outcomes. And to ensure that an organization can build a strong bench of performers, HR teams have to follow a talent production process that is similar to the production process of products/services. So, it should be able to help HR teams to develop talent into high performing employees without consuming too much time. 

What’s the talent management plan for the future?

In the answer to this question, the HR team needs to talk about deliverables that they are going to work on in the coming years. There needs to be a complete roadmap that they can share with the CEO to make them understand how they are going to get there. These deliverables should be three most important priorities in the business strategy that can’t be delayed any further for the company’s growth and success. They need to explain in very clear terms to the executive team about the role that talent will have in working in those priorities. The ultimate objective is to make the leadership understand the role of talent in future success. 

Reference: The CEO’s Three Questions About Talent | The Talent Strategy Group | Marc Effron | September 29, 2021

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