Human Resources: Linking strategy with talent -- Are you asking the right questions?

Many companies use the last quarter of the year to nail the final sales, plan the strategy and budget for the next year. Come January everyone hits the ground running. But how robust is your strategy implementation track record? Use these strategies to see how your talent lines up.

Using insider knowledge and expertise, the Generator Group's articles in our Expert Network are designed to present thought-provoking ideas, information and workplace trends that will help manufacturers and retailers alike acquire, retain or develop their workforce to drive business success.

Many companies use the last quarter of the year to nail the final sales, plan the strategy and budget for the next year. Come January everyone hits the ground running. But how robust is your strategy implementation track record?Want to add some risk insurance? Try looking at how your talent lines up with your strategy.

The power of strategic questions

We think that one reason executives miss opportunities for optimal performance is that they don’t have good alignment between their human resources practices and their strategic intent. They just aren’t asking the right questions. So, at your next strategy meeting, why not finish up the session with some of these questions? It’s guaranteed to start a dialogue that will be remembered (and make you sound very smart).

Questions to stimulate a talent-management dialogue:

Regarding how your managers manage talent:

  • How does your business vision and strategy feed through into your people strategy? For example: Does the new strategy require the organization drive new behaviors? If so, how does it feed through into your reward strategy?
  • If you hired a fully competent new employee to help implement the strategy, how long would it take before they were able to fully assimilate into your company’s culture and environment to make the contributions you are counting on?

  • What are you doing to stimulate innovation? Does your organization encourage responsible risk-taking? What specific examples and practices give you confidence in your response?
  • Are your human resources practices responding and evolving based on proactive analysis of actual business results -- or are your human resources stuck in corporate inertia? When was the last time you changed your interview practices, performance management systems or reward strategies? Who “owns” talent management in your company?

Regarding how you are managing the scarcity of talent:

  • Is scarcity of talent an issue for your company? How about in three years? Under what conditions would scarcity become an issue for your company?
  • Does your company have a mechanism for evaluating the causes of attrition? Would your company be able to detect trends in defection? Could they do so in time to respond effectively?

Regarding how you are cultivating talent:

  • How effective are your efforts in employee development? How do you know you are providing the right experiences for the right employees? To what degree do you hold executives accountable for developing their reports?
  • How do you know whether or not you will have the talent you need? How “individualized” is your employment experience? Do you structure careers to take advantage of individual strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your company’s compensation strategy? Do you focus on retaining high-value employees? Do you pay ‘below market’, ‘at market’ or ‘above market’? Do you develop specific compensation strategies for specific positions? Why or why not?
  • If a career in your company was to be described in terms of a brand, what are its principal attributes? Does your brand hold sufficient appeal? What simple steps might be taken to improve the appeal of your employment brand?

Regarding how you are developing an expanded (global) talent pool:

  • What are you doing to get the most from a global workforce? What mechanisms enable or inhibit global collaboration? What specific experiences can you cite to give you confidence your company is deriving all it can from its global capabilities?
  • What is your experience in attracting and retaining talent in emerging markets? Do your local HR executives have the experience and resources required to make sophisticated decisions and implement effective strategies? How reliable are the human capital metrics you receive from offshore facilities? How do you know?
  • What are you doing to attract and retain talent in emerging markets? Are you an employer of choice? What are you doing to maximize your employment ‘brand’ recognition among potential emerging markets candidates?
  • Do you have policies in place to easily and quickly move your talent around the globe? Are they adhered to and do they deliver the value you want to achieve for your business? How do you measure the value and cost of your international assignees?

--Elaine Lees

Elaine Lees is a partner and vice president of talent management at the Generator Group, which is an integrated talent management services firm delivering executive search and talent management consulting to brands in apparel, footwear, hardgoods and softgoods, retail and more. For more information about the group’s work or working with it, go to


Customers don't know how to ask good questions

A SNEWS® Training Center article brought to you by SNEWS® and TrainActive/Tom Richard Sales Education Disappointed you aren't making more sales? Perhaps it is because you are talking about your products too much and listening to your customers too little. Customers often don't more