Make Your Talent Strategy a Priority

by YPO member Kurt Wilkin, CEO of HireBetter

Among the many concerns that keep business leaders up at night, talent is one that seems to cause the most heartburn. When it comes to the people part of business, hiring and firing decisions and talent priorities somehow become less straightforward.

The solution is a proactive talent strategy, but what that strategy looks like can depend heavily on what role you play within your company’s leadership. When you are a chief executive, founder or chairman of the board, you own the vision, and your challenges may look something like this.

Most business leaders do not have a true talent strategy. Talent is almost an afterthought. But when you wait until you need it, you’re already behind the eight ball. You end up hiring someone convenient; perhaps someone in your network or from a job posting. You are reacting as opposed to being intentional. You may never know what could have been with the right hire.

Making talent planning a habit

Focus on cultivating a long-term perspective with regard to talent. It’s kind of like flossing your teeth, working out or journaling. Everyone knows they need to do it but it’s so hard to do consistently — it just has to become a habit. You should be thinking about your talent needs 12 to 18 months from now, which allows you to be strategic, not only with talent decisions like new hires, employee headaches, succession planning, etc., but with your business as a whole.

When talent planning is done right, it can be the fuel you need to ignite business growth. And when you bring in next-level talent, it can open your eyes to the holes in your team, because you see what next-level talent looks like and you yearn for more! We know this because we’ve seen it all too often. There are usually limitations within the existing team that hinder your ability to meet your goals. Ever heard the phrase, “Today’s hero is tomorrow’s problem”? Outgrowing your team is a real problem for high-growth companies.

What happens if you fail to make long-term talent planning a habit? Your business can suffer in ways you may not even recognize. The wrong person can stunt or inhibit your company’s growth. A less obvious outcome is that your growth won’t be as profitable as it could have been. At the very least, you’ll be more reactive, fighting fires and knee-jerking just to get people in seats where you have an urgent need. It’s risky, and you are more likely to make bad hires.

Visionary leaders often have “corporate ADD.” We love new ideas, we shift focus constantly and then get bogged down in the tyranny of the urgent. We must recognize that talent strategy and talent planning are core to the success of our missions. We can leverage the power and authority of our roles to set the tone and priorities, and then empower our operating partners to execute them.

YPO member Kurt Wilkin is the CEO of HireBetter. As an entrepreneur, Wilkin has experience growing, scaling, and exiting high-growth companies and now devotes his time to helping business leaders unlock their own success. His responsibilities include strategic client consultation, client satisfaction, recruiting and practice development. Prior to founding HireBetter, Wilkin founded and led The Controller Group (TCG), a professional services firm focused on accounting, technology and recruiting, acquired by Tatum in 2006. He began his career with Ernst & Young and later served as Controller and VP of Finance for eFANshop. He is an alumnus of the University of Arkansas, a Certified Public Accountant, an active angel investor and a board member for several companies and nonprofits. He lives in Austin, Texas, USA, with his wife and three sons, and can usually be found coaching youth sports around town.

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