Don’t be a slave to best practice – 10 talent dilemmas you need to contemplate


When an organisation builds its commercial strategy, it looks at the gaps in the market, considers its strengths (and competitors’ weaknesses) and takes account of the forces shaping its sector. The goal is to stand out – to be special.

But when you create a people and talent strategy for your organisation, you could find the process follows an altogether different path. It’s much more likely to be driven by the question of best practice. If this is the case, you risk following the herd rather than finding your own way.

In reality, just because best practice delivers results for one business doesn’t mean it’ll deliver for another – even within the same sector. The context your organisation operates in, the needs of your people and the beliefs and values you hold as a business all make your organisation distinctive. Like your commercial strategy, your talent strategy should be built around what makes your organisation special.

Start shaping something special

We know from work with our clients that one of the most important elements that shapes an organisation’s talent strategy, is the beliefs senior leaders have about the ‘right’ way of going about talent management.

For example, best practice might say talent management is all about differentiation – identifying those individuals who are the most important to the organisation because they possess the greatest potential or the most critical skills. But if, as a senior leader, you believe that everyone has talent and the potential to grow, and your role as a leader is to unlock this potential, following a talent strategy focused on differentiation won’t sit comfortably with you. Chances are, you’ll comply with the process but not commit to the intent or outcomes.

We believe building a great talent strategy starts with understanding the inherent beliefs of the leaders responsible for developing and delivering it. And we have a simple and effective way of teasing out these beliefs by encouraging leaders to consider 10 key questions that sit at the heart of talent management. These questions aren’t easy to answer and involve trade-offs. We call them the ‘talent dilemmas’.

Where does your organisation stand?

The top 10 talent dilemmas are the issues leaders need to debate, agree and communicate on before an organisation creates its talent strategy. Why? Because we know that, left unresolved, these dilemmas will unstick the most carefully constructed strategy. They’re outlined below.

Move forward with a shared set of beliefs

Once you’ve identified the dilemmas, you’ll need to get your senior leaders together to reach a shared view on the talent principles for your organisation. It’s these principles that will create a blueprint to enable your organisation to focus on where it wants to lead the market and where it might be fine to follow.

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