The Missing Link: Talent Optimization

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For organizations who are serious about getting where they want to go, talent optimization is everything.

Most organizations have a strategic plan. All organizations have specific business results they hope to achieve. What lies between plans and results is PEOPLE. Ironically, we find most organizations skipping over the objective assessment of whether they have the right people in the right roles, coached by leaders who have the skills to engage and develop them to achieve desired business results. Desired is a keyword. For executive teams that are content with letting each year unfold and see how they did, talent optimization isn’t all that important. However, for organizations who are serious about getting where they want to go in the best, most profitable way, talent optimization is everything.

At ADVISA, we’ve been helping leaders optimize their talent for more than 33 years. The good news about that is we know what it takes. If you agree that aligning your people strategy with your business strategy will increase your odds of achieving business results, read on to discover the essential building blocks of talent optimization.

In this article we’ll discuss the importance of a business plan, defining company culture, and planning what comes next.

You need a business plan.

Whether you do your strategic planning, ascribe to Verne Harnish’s one-page strategic plan, follow the EOS™ methodology, use the Six Disciplines of Execution™, or something else entirely, you must have a vision for the future with measurable goals and objectives to guide your team’s efforts. Organizations without a plan are rudderless, accidentally successful at best. Given the tight labor market and record low unemployment, the best and brightest people will seek to share their time and talents with organizations that are clear about who they are and why, and explicit about where they’re going.

Define your intentional culture.

The key word here is intentional. Most organizations neglect culture, let alone set out to create and shape it. Culture is a mighty secret weapon. Your competitors can’t copy a high engagement work culture, and it can buoy your organization during times of uncertainty and volatility. Culture is your best weapon in winning the talent war. The easiest way to define your intentional culture is to create or refresh your core values. An organization’s core values become the pillars of the intentional culture. Once values are clear and explicit, leaders can model them, recognize them in others, and hold people accountable for personifying them. How have you defined your culture?

The people plan comes next.

The people plan includes the following important elements.


How do you know if you have the right people in the right roles to execute against your plan? You must have tools and a process for answering this question each year. A disciplined and objective approach to evaluating your talent is what informs your next steps. You can’t improve if you don’t know what’s broken and what’s not.


Only after you’ve assessed how likely your current talent is to execute your plan successfully can you begin to adjust the design of the organization to increase your odds of success. What boxes are missing on your org chart given your strategic aims? Where do redundancies exist? What changes do you need to make given where you are in your business life cycle? Do you need more folks who will take risks? How about those who thrive on processes and will help you scale? Do you need more communicators and influencers? What about learning agility? Can your current team learn and adapt fast enough to keep pace with market shifts?


What talent gaps exist? What is your recruitment strategy? Where will you find the people you need to fill those gaps? Who owns the development and execution of the recruitment strategy? Do people understand the business plan and the culture plan? Have they objectively defined each role in the organization in terms of the behavioral and cognitive demands for success? Have you partnered with managers to ensure that key performance indicators align with business objectives? Does this insight inform the way you write job postings and the way you conduct interviews? Is there a structured interview process in place? How are you leveraging technology to ensure consistency, scalability, and efficiency in hiring? How does recruitment flow into onboarding to ensure new talent is welcomed and immersed in learning about the organization, their role, and the team.


What is your development strategy? Sometimes talent gaps can be filled by upskilling and developing our existing workforce. Aside from filling gaps, high performers want to grow, do meaningful work, and be challenged intellectually. Who owns the important work of coaching and developing people in your organization? HR? Managers? Both? Do leaders and managers know how to coach? Do your systems for performance management and learning drive performance and engagement or are they “check the box” activities? How do you measure engagement? Are managers held accountable for engaging and developing their people or just achieving business results? Do managers have the tools and training they need to feel confident doing “the people stuff.”

Leadership development

Beyond the general development strategy, you need a specific plan for developing current and future leaders. At ADVISA, we believe leadership development is the most important investment an organization can make in their future success. Interestingly, we also observe that most organizations do not have a comprehensive, multi-level, long-term approach to leader development and succession planning. You can’t understate the urgency and importance of 10,000 Boomers retiring each day.

Employer branding

In the same way that you invest in your external marketing and branding, you need to ensure that your employer brand is strong and vibrant, that you keep employees excited and inspired to perform at high levels. The employee experience matters and the way we communicate, celebrate and reinforce our important cultural pillars becomes our employer brand. It’s what we’re selling to prospective employees; consequently, our leaders and managers must deliver on that brand promise every day lest we lose credibility and erode trust.

We’d love to hear your feedback. How is your organization incorporating your people strategy into your business strategy? Could your employees record a video talking about your intentional culture? More importantly, would they all be saying the same thing?