How to optimize talent within your organization to innovate and grow in the current market Featured

4:46pm EDT August 1, 2011
How to optimize talent within your organization to innovate and grow in the current market

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are some members of your team who aren’t quite living up to their potential. Have you taken the time to figure out why, or whether these people should even be in these roles within your organization? To compound the problem, perhaps your top performers are starting to look restless.

If you’ve been delaying the task of getting your team in top-performance shape because you don’t know where to begin, the time to take action is now.

“Talent optimization is so important today because businesses and the economy are starting to recover, and now business leaders are challenged by a new concern: talent,” says Meghan Bilardo, director of Organizational Strategy and Assessment at Corporate College. “No longer are they cost-cutting and trying to survive; they’re really looking to innovate and grow, and that takes a new strategy and approach to talent.”

Smart Business learned more from Bilardo about what it takes to win the talent war in a make-it-or-break-it business climate.

Why is talent optimization so important?

To win this year and beyond, organizations need skilled and engaged employees. They can either build the talent that they have on their team through education, coaching and assessment processes, or they can work to recruit talent away from competitors. It’s so important this year — and especially with supervisory and mid-level managers — that people can innovate and that they have opportunities to develop and advance within an organization. Managers must understand their employees’ capacity for new and emerging skill sets in order to help the business reach its objectives.

What are the consequences businesses face by not paying attention to this?

Companies that are limited to the old hierarchical structures are becoming dinosaurs. We’re in a business environment that is more skills-based than ever and we know that talent drives performance. One piece of the puzzle is that organizations don’t understand where their talent lies, what people’s capabilities are, and what they need people to be able to do differently for their organization to win. Organizations must integrate talent optimization into their strategic planning process.

Another piece of the puzzle is the selection process, which includes everything from identifying the critical roles needed to meet business objectives, sourcing candidates and then hiring them. Many organizations do not have the processes and tools in place to be able to make that selection, so, again, they miss out on an opportunity to win.

How can businesses improve their hiring processes so they’re bringing in the right talent?

Begin with the end in mind. What are the organizational goals for this year? What skills, attributes and knowledge do your candidates need to have to meet and exceed those goals? Ensure that your job descriptions are up to date and accurately depict the tasks and responsibilities of each role. Job descriptions should clearly define what a person needs to do to achieve those goals.

Once you’ve identified qualified candidates, another best practice is using testing and pre-employment assessment tools. Using an assessment tool with high validity means that it’s got a greater predictor of success for certain roles, and would also be legally defensible since you’re using it for selection. The goal is to match a candidate’s capabilities with an organizational need. Assessment tools can help you identify knowledge or ability to apply skills, as well as analyzing and problem-solving abilities.

The next piece to focus on is the employment experience. Organizations need to develop a brand for what type of employer they are. Are they an employer of choice? Do the most skilled and talented people want to work there?  With a strong brand you can attract talent from the competition and decrease your time to fill open positions.

Once hired, it is essential to orient new hires to your organization so they can hit the ground running. Managers have a responsibility during the first 90 days to educate, support and check in with new employees.

How will talent optimization help businesses attract and retain top talent?

It relates back to your employment brand. If you are known for setting clear expectations, coaching employees, rewarding high performance, encouraging professional development and delivering bottom line results, the most skilled employees in the market will want to work with you. The best employee talent base is always learning, so businesses must understand what their people need to learn, why they need to learn it and the ROI in terms of increased performance and employee retention. Alignment with training companies and community colleges that offer curriculum and courses is a very important component as well. The entire skill acquisition learning space is evolving very quickly, and if businesses don’t understand this then they’re going to have difficulty in being agile and responsive to the market.

Most companies will burn out talent, as if they’re disposable. The companies that are going to win are those that feed their talent and give them what they need to realize personal, social and economic gain through their organization. That soon becomes the reason a talented person wants to work there: they know that they’re going to have an opportunity to grow continuously and to do new work over time. Those are the kinds of things talented people are going to be looking for when they’re deciding where to work, and they also drive employee engagement.  When engaged, employees go above and beyond, which of course leads to improved financial performance for the organization.

Having a good talent optimization system doesn’t mean you’re always going to win, but not having one means you don’t have a chance.

Meghan Bilardo is the director of Organizational Strategy and Assessment at Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2800 or