A Strategic Plan Without a Talent Strategy Isn’t a Plan

“So what happens if I create strategy and ‘ignore’ the talent side since we have never paired the two together?”

As a senior faculty member for the Human Capital Institute, I was leading a two-day strategic workforce planning session recently in Singapore when that question was posed to me. I stopped in my tracks and tried to take my facilitator hat off while putting my consultant hat on.

Strategy minus talent equals failure

I thought, “How could you not include talent?” If the CEO and her team are developing their strategic plan, this process cannot be complete unless the talent implications are reviewed. I like to think of it as shining your strategy through the prism of talent. It is meaningless to conduct or create a strategic initiative if your talent configuration is not there. If your plans are to move your organization to the proverbial “next level,” your chance of being successful is hampered because consideration of the organizational capabilities is not in the equation.

Today, as business leaders struggle to get their organizations back on track, the organizational leverage and its connection to the enterprise are becoming more important. The vast majority of companies develop a business strategy that typically covers market positioning, investment, growth and other major initiatives. This is normally a rigorous process; however it is rarely paired with the talent strategy of the organization

Who is going to execute?

Execution by its very nature begs for talented individuals being in the right spot to increase the chances of success. You can lay out the best strategic direction covering all the key areas within your organization, but if you are not equipped, or the talent implications are not taken into consideration, your success could be hampered.

For any company to confidently pursue its strategy in this uber-competitive environment, organizational considerations have to be recognized as the key to unlocking organizational success.

Every organization must make significant investments in its talent to be successful. Success requires visionary leaders and exceptional talent at all levels. Not only must there be organizational strategies, but also strategies to keep that talent current, motivated and focused.

Understand your talent capabilities

Whether it is managing talent worldwide or nationally, you must have a thorough assessment of your workforce to know your organizational capabilities and achieve superior results. Every organization needs to support a culture of high performance where teamwork, accountability, results and recognition are engrained.

In a study by Right Management the question was asked, “Do you believe your organization’s talent management strategy is aligned with its business objectives?”

These were the responses:

  • 37% — Yes, the strategy is aligned to meet our business objectives.
  • 46% — Yes, but the strategy is only somewhat aligned to meet business objectives.
  • 18% — There is no alignment with business objectives.

That means 64% are at various stages of misalignment. It also means that strategic initiatives that could possibly have resulted in untold millions in opportunity were lost. These numbers will probably not move significantly unless the mindset of leadership changes and talent levels become paramount in the strategic equation.

Rethink the talent/strategy equation

Any organization that creates an effective talent management strategy not only enhances the brand of the organization, but develops a DNA of its workforce, workgroups and roles that are paramount in driving strategy. With this knowledge in place, no matter what the endeavor or strategic emphasis, you have a way to analyze the directions through the talent you have.

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This DNA-driven process with profile data, workgroup analysis, trend analysis, talent levels, organizational culture and talent capabilities may prove that the strategy was the easy part. However, once you create this profile of your workforce, you have a snapshot of the capabilities of the organization.

This fact-finding initiative will give you a blueprint of your workforce, enabling any leader to thoroughly assess their initiatives through a talent lens. Once this overlay of your workforce is done, it should become part of the standard process in strategy creation. It will provide a level of laser-like focus that you would not have had if this most important step were not included in the process.

So as your organization seeks innovation, globalization, market superiority or whatever goal, the defining line will be the capabilities of your talent. Use it and increase the level of execution.

Don’t use it and you are pretty much assured business as usual.

Ron Thomas

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.