As I’ve written previously, corporate strategy is a dynamic, real-time process, where CSOs must anticipate industry and market trends so their companies can quickly take advantage of new opportunities.
Not surprisingly, this makes their talent planning more challenging. CSOs are under pressure to deliver and can’t maintain momentum when they’re trying to operate with open roles. It doesn’t matter whether a slot is empty because a team member unexpectedly departed or a need was just identified. Strategy departments are all about their talent, and to succeed they must have the right expertise in place at the right time.
CSOs can’t maintain momentum when they’re trying to operate with open roles.
As in other areas of the organization, forecasting the strategy department’s resource needs depends on a number of things: current business strategy, planned growth, anticipated projects, possible terminations and other moves within the existing talent. What makes the department’s challenge unique is the speed with which basic assumptions can change. Entirely new areas of opportunity can appear with little notice, demanding expertise that doesn’t exist on the current roster and wasn’t anticipated when you compiled the annual budget.
Ultimately, talent planning is about making sure you have the right talent in place. That means that – despite the pressure to deliver new strategies with speed – your starting point is always the people you count on as your core strategic team. Are they engaged by what they’re doing? Excited by the prospect of what’s on the horizon? Good. But what if they’ve been languishing in the same position for years, with little prospect of a lateral or upward move? You might think a person is doing valuable work, but they may be bored and ready to jump to a new opportunity. If they leave, do you have a plan for how you’ll replace them?
The Strategy Department’s talent planning is an ongoing process.
CSOs must always have a clear view of their talent, so they can deploy their talent to cover current projects as well as those that arise with little lead time. For them, talent planning is an ongoing process.
Leverage your position. Since you spend your days thinking about business trends and where they might go, always consider the near-term staffing impact these trends may have on your department. Sketch out job descriptions and compile a list of candidates before a need arises. Stay in touch with independent consultants who could step into a role quickly, if only as a bridge to a long-term solution.
Stay in touch with your staff. Be aware of their attitudes, their morale and their general state of mind. Pay special attention to people who’ve been working on the same or similar projects for extended periods of time. When talented people get bored, they tend to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
Have a strategy to fill each role. If a key player leaves, do you know how you’d fill the gap? Employee departures are always disruptive, but you can minimize their impact if you have an idea of who can take over various aspects of a person’s role, even on a temporary basis. In some instances, you can do this with existing staff. In others, talent on-demand may be the answer, especially if the position involves specialized skills or experience.
Building the right strategic team requires foresight, flexibility, planning and a willingness to move fast. Be alert to the state of your group’s morale, the possibilities of movement, and be ready for eventualities that can be driven either by business conditions, or by the team itself.