A guide to talent mapping: Improving long-term strategic growth

Read on to learn everything you need to know about talent mapping and how businesses can make it a part of their strategy.

For businesses across industries, talent mapping can be a critical factor in defining your organization's talent sourcing, hiring and management strategy. This helps organizations understand and address their workforce needs — which is proving increasingly vital as companies navigate ongoing talent shortages.

However, despite the value of a comprehensive talent map, it's often an underutilized HR and recruitment strategy. With this in mind, we're taking a closer look at how organizations benefit from this approach and how companies can successfully create a talent map strategy.

Understanding talent mapping

Business, HR and talent leaders today need to make decisions that support improved business performance. Before diving into talent mapping and its purpose, it's important to recognize how talent consulting plays a part in the process.

What is talent consulting?

A talent consulting service helps organizations align people, business and talent strategies using data, analytics and technology — covering everything from how organizations attract and retain talent, to how they consistently communicate their company culture and values. Because this is strategy-focused rather than transactional, the process often includes supporting businesses to:

  • Forecast hiring needs.
  • Source potential hires on various online channels.
  • Build relationships with passive candidates and hiring managers.
  • Evaluate candidates' performance.

Making use of a talent map can help your team answer questions like:

  • How do we ensure we can hire enough people in the next year? The next 5 years?
  • How do we figure out if existing employees are in roles that suit their skill sets?
  • Why do there never seem to be enough candidates applying to our job listings?
  • Why are we experiencing high turnover?
  • Is our talent pipeline strong enough?
  • Should we be hiring contract workers, or hiring permanent, full-time employees?

Talent mapping, on the other hand, is a component of talent consulting. A client would work with a consulting team and leverage a comprehensive talent map to evaluate a company's existing talent gap, discerning high-potential candidates and establishing a strategy that meets its future hiring needs. This involves finding the right talent and placing an ideal candidate in the right job role to bridge the gaps between a company's goals and the personnel needed to achieve them.

There are three essential actions that are required from an organization in order to effectively tackle talent mapping:

  • Identifying future talent needs to drive business strategy and results.
  • Re-evaluating existing job roles and their descriptions to accurately reflect organizational needs.
  • Introducing valuable career path development opportunities to retain top talent.

    Talent mapping in use

    This approach isn't exclusive to the recruiting space. In fact, companies of all sizes across industries are leveraging talent mapping today. A prime example of this is NASA using Neo4j technology to build a knowledge graph that shows the complex and varied relationships between people, skills and projects in their organization. While this is still evolving, managers will be able to take advantage of the talent mapping database to identify skills gaps and boost training in hard-to-fill areas, while presenting opportunities for upskilling and internal mobility of existing employees.

The benefits of an effective talent mapping strategy — and the challenges to keep in mind

A comprehensive talent map can ultimately help organizations:

  • Determine skills gaps and talent shortages: McKinsey & Company reports that 87% of companies are aware that they have skills gaps or will have one within a few years — which is inevitably costly. An effective talent map can clearly illustrate an organization's skills needs to more effectively and efficiently fill job roles or upskill existing talent.
  • Outline learning and development strategies: As organizations define their skills gaps, they can create a more effective recruitment strategy and identify valuable development opportunities for current employees. Training and learning programs are increasingly significant as Lorman reports that 41% of workers consider these opportunities a very important factor in their job satisfaction. By strengthening this focus, organizations can close skills gaps more efficiently and improve talent acquisition and retention.
  • Provide opportunities for internal mobility: A map can also demonstrate where there's room for the movement of present employees. With a more defined view of talent needs, companies can effectively help team members maximize their performance and reach their full potential. This will ultimately help organizations minimize issues with skills shortages moving forward.
  • Retain high-performing employees with career path development: While organizations want to bridge existing skills gaps, top talent wants to continually improve. With an effective talent map, a company can accomplish both of these — which will prove to be a contributing factor to long-term retention.
  • Simplify succession planning: This is essentially a business strategy used to pass key roles down to another employee or suitable candidate. With a better understanding of talent needs, organizations can identify the right candidates to consider as potential successors and help them fill skills gaps.
  • Improve resource allocation: Talent mapping provides insights into an organization's talent needs which helps them make more well-informed decisions regarding resource allocation — such as investments in training and development or recruitment initiatives.

What are the challenges of talent mapping?

While effective talent mapping can be an incredible aid to an organization's sourcing, hiring and succession planning, there are a few common challenges to consider:

  • The process is resource-intensive: Requiring talent mapping calls for evaluating an organization's talent needs and skills gaps. Along with assessing current employees by collecting data, it makes it a generally time-consuming process that's expensive to implement.
  • It's difficult to gauge skills: It can be tough for organizations to measure workers' skills and accurately identify skills gaps. And while a business can take advantage of skills tests or self-evaluation, it's considerably harder to appraise the skills of external talent.
  • Data is essential for success: For a successful process, organizations need a system to collect and analyze accurate data to help them create a well-informed strategy. This includes data on company goals and objectives, talent market insights and existing employee skills.
  • Predicting future talent needs is tricky: The job market is dynamic and ever-changing by nature, which makes it difficult to successfully anticipate long-term talent needs. To better navigate uncertainty, organizations should regularly reassess their needs and strategy to keep pace.

How to create a talent mapping strategy

If your company is interested in leveraging talent mapping to fill skills gaps and support organizational goals, here is a guide to fostering an effective strategy:

  1. Identify organizational objectives and existing talent needs: Before the mapping process can begin, it's critical to assess needs and establish clear objectives. This might include discussing current skills needs, areas of improvement and how much your organization is willing to invest in recruitment and workforce upskilling.
  2. Determine hiring needs based on these goals: With clear goals and objectives in mind, you can pinpoint high-priority hiring needs. An important question to consider at this point is whether new hires are needed or if existing talent should be upskilled. The answer to this is unique to each organization and depends on the market, plans for growth and specialization needs.
  3. Evaluate employees' skills and current performance: While it can be difficult to appraise employee skills and performance, your company can leverage approaches such as 360-degree feedback, skills tests or self-evaluation for a more accurate evaluation.
  4. Define benchmarks for growth: Defined benchmarks are a necessity to continuously measure talent after creating your strategy. Moreover, this is an effective way to establish expectations for employees and determine skills that are critical for success in each role.
  5. Identify key industry players and their talent strategies: Taking a look at what your competitors are doing differently — including their application process, hiring trends and more — can put your talent mapping strategy on the right track. An effective strategy, when compared to the competition, will be a key factor in attracting top candidates.
  6. Develop a talent management strategy: With a better understanding of talent needs and goals, your organization should foster a comprehensive talent management strategy tailored to those specific requirements. This often involves plans for talent acquisition, development and retention to drive long-term success.
  7. Continuously reassess goals and needs: Your talent needs are dynamic, which means it will be vital to frequently assess them. This will be a linchpin in ensuring your talent-management strategy is up-to-date and aligned with your current objectives.

Why work with an executive search firm for talent mapping?

While your organization might have a highly capable talent acquisition team, working with an executive search firm throughout a talent mapping exercise can considerably streamline and improve the process. These dedicated professionals can provide thoughtful planning and actionable strategies so your organization can be proactive moving forward. A recruiting firm:

  • Provides a stronger ability to hire top applicants from a limited market.
  • Leverages cutting-edge technology to streamline the hiring process.
  • Offers key insights on competitors that your organization can learn from.

Finding support and a true partner in your search for talent

For organizations looking to fulfill their talent needs efficiently and effectively, Beacon Hill can help.

As a leader in professional staffing, workforce consulting, resource solutions and executive search, we deliver unparalleled service to tackle your hiring needs.

Take advantage of:

  • Best-in-class industry knowledge.
  • Full visibility into the process.
  • An emphasis on strategy over tactics.
  • Streamlined sourcing and hiring efforts.

The right search process starts with the right search firm, and we offer a range of workforce solutions that fit your every need. To learn more about partnering with Beacon Hill to complete your next candidate search, contact us today or find a location near you.

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