If You Want 100 Years of Prosperity

Talent puddles workshop

By Alison, Ettridge

‘Why you need a talent puddle’ was the topic of last week’s client workshop in Newcastle. We’ve run these in a number of locations and in each one the ideas and viewpoints are fresh.

Our stance on talent puddles – in case you’ve not heard the term before! – is that there’s no point having a ‘pipeline’ of talent that’s a static list. In order to make it work, the pool or pipeline needs to be constantly cultivated, refreshed, and it needs to deliver ROI whether you’re actively hiring or not.

Why do you need a talent puddle? Companies adept at recruiting enjoy 3.5 times revenue growth and 2 times the profit margin than other companies according to BCG and the market is ripe for it – 87% of executives planned to look at new opportunities last year says Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey.

So how can our clients better cultivate their pools and pipelines into puddles that deliver for the business day-in-day out? Reducing people risk, making the business more agile, reducing disruption and creating an in-flow of great people? No easy task. Our clients highlighted the pace of change, the demands of globalisation, and a need for a new way to approach talent as key areas to address.



One of the principal areas we talked about was networks. There is an openness to referral programmes but most participants agreed that they could make more use of professional and informal networks. Something I recommended was building processes that make sure hiring managers mine everything they can from both successful and unsuccessful candidates.

Even if someone isn’t suitable who do they know that might be? And if they’re a great candidate do they know anyone else of a similar profile? This process is resource heavy but it does pay dividends. There is a wealth of information in CVs and in personal networks that is currently not collated and shared due to a shortage of resources and processes.

Succession and SWP

Succession needs a bit of a refresh – or perhaps the management consultancies offering succession planning need a new model! The nine box model of names that’s reviewed annually doesn’t cut it in today’s matrixed organisations and changing business environment.

Whilst all saw the benefits of an ongoing and proactive approach, most still need to resort to search firms when the unexpected happens. Here is a perfect example when HR or TA can step up and propose a fresh approach the succession and likewise, to strategic workforce planning. A robust approach (incorporating scenario planning) that’s as dynamic as the world in which we work.


HR is often tasked with creating strategies and goals with very little on which to base them. A common theme in our discussion was the difficulty in measuring progress toward goals, and the lack of insight available compared to other areas of the business.

If HR is to take strategic people decisions, it’s important that the team is well informed. For example, if it’s to set diversity targets and apply this to talent pipelines, the business first needs to know what’s desirable, realistic, going to make an impact – before deciding on an approach.

I think HR needs to be bold here and insist on the right insight rather than being rushed into setting objectives too hastily.

Hard work pays off

“If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people” says the Chinese proverb.

It’s not easy to grow people but the hard work does pay off. Our clients shared examples of strategic yet practical talent management activities that support the business now, but that also help to plan for the future. For example, getting face time for potential senior key hires with the CEO – no easy feat.

Being proactive about talent management is resource heavy and requires commitment but the return on investment speaks for itself, and you certainly don’t have to wait 100 years to start seeing it pay dividends!


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