Moving the talent plan into the Boardroom

27 Nov 2018

Moving the talent plan into the Boardroom

Creating a talent plan that’s effectively coupled to your business strategy means your board will have to play a major role to secure the best talent in a highly-disrupted world.

Business strategies are being reviewed on much shorter cycles than ever before.

Inextricably linked with these strategic reviews is an organisation’s talent plan. It must be frequently re-crafted to ensure the right talent is in place to tackle fast-changing and often unpredictable business demands.

However, as the Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index 2020 illustrates, many boards and leadership teams are slow in recognising this fundamental dynamic.

Keeping your talent plan fresh

When a talent plan is in place, it is traditionally refreshed every three to five years. That is no longer viable in a world where the speed of disruption, digitisation and rapid marketplace changes shows no sign of slowing.

Having the best talent is the lifeblood of any organisation – ever more so in this rapidly-changing world.

And that means tackling everything from recognising and rewarding potential, to leadership assessment and development, and ensuring your executive team is adept at effectively implementing talent strategies.

The talent buck stops with the board

Broadening this out for a moment, the mandate of the board - in addition to including CEO and leadership appointment and succession - should also include ensuring that a current talent plan is in place. Elevating the talent plan to the highest level of strategic oversight ensures that the organisation can effectively respond to rapid change.

Enlightened boards understand the importance of making changes to the talent plan when circumstances demand it. The hardest part, perhaps, is often that the board needs to also 'look in the mirror' to ensure that as the business evolves, it, too, has the right talent and competencies in place to govern effectively.

Of course, boards also need to ensure that the right leadership team is in place so that the company strategy is understood by all; that employees, in turn, understand their role in it and that employees' aspirations and potential are acted upon.

Retaining great people is absolutely essential.

A good talent plan also includes risk mitigation and succession planning.

What would happen if an unexpected and unplanned emergency were to require rapid replacement of a key executive or board member?

Five key elements of a strategic talent plan

An effective talent plan must be:

  1. Driven by the company’s business strategy or changes to the strategy.
  2. Informed by a clear understanding of the current and future business model and organisational structure.
  3. Fully cognizant of the key roles that are strategically important within the business.
  4. Honest about where your talent needs to be upgraded.
  5. Aimed at maximising, on a continuous basis, the deployment of your best talent to the most impactful roles.

Agile reactions to changing talent needs

Before anything else, this is an important question. Do you have proactive executives in place who are adept at making radical changes to the talent plan when strategic business needs demand it? Because in a world of disruption, those needs are going to change more often and faster than you expect.

To achieve the five elements highlighted, the right people at the highest level have to be involved.

It may be necessary to appoint someone from within the business, or even an outside consultant, to provide strategic leadership in this area and effectively deal with rapid change. But the board’s role doesn’t stop there.

The board’s key role on talent

As the Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index 2020 reveals, talent is very much an issue for the whole senior leadership team, board or otherwise. In fact, confidence in  nearly all aspects of talent sits at an alarming level: below 21%

For the board, it is also clear from responses to the Index that it is their actions and outlook that is vital in securing the best leadership talent. For example, offering an attractive sense of purpose and vision in addition to pay, reward and carer progression.

“Talent development is among the top priorities and responsibilities for the board and for senior executives,” says Eric Beaudan, Global Head of Leadership Services at Odgers Berndtson.

“It’s not just an HR issue, it’s not just a CEO issue, it’s a business survival issue.”

Attracting talent is one challenge, retaining it is potentially more tricky. To do this consistently takes an actively-managed and dynamic leadership succession plan focused on identifying and nurturing high-potential talent which has the ability to learn and adapt as the organisation does.

Changing the board’s focus

Presently, the majority of boards spend most of their time on governance and business matters but only occasionally focus on the strategic talent agenda.

Traditionally, boards have focused on hiring and firing the CEO, executive compensation, reviewing and approving the leadership team, and so on. But in recent years, the connection between the business strategy and the talent plan has become more apparent.

In addition, as the Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index confirms, the active management of a talent plan has become more important as the board partners with the CEO to drive greater agility and performance.

This emerging practice is driving optimum results for more forward-thinking boards. Those who don’t put talent high on the board agenda will reap the consequences.

Besides key findings around talent, the Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index also deals with the following issues:

  • What is the profile of a ‘confident’ leader?
  • How confidence in leadership is tied to higher revenues
  • Why a leader’s track record is no guarantee of future success
  • How leadership is being redefined
  • The keys to securing the right talent
  • The three clear lessons for today’s boards and C-Suite teams

Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index

Disruption: overcoming leadership's crisis of confidence.

Download report now

To view our current, most recent 2022 edition of the Leadership Confidence Index, click here.