Challenging Talent: is your business set-up for growth?

How can business leaders keep those glasses half-full?

That’s one of many questions posed by our Challenging Talent white paper.

In February 2018 we commissioned a OnePoll survey of 500 UK-based senior decision makers across a wide range of industries, in companies with 50+ employees.

We found that a healthy 49% of our survey respondents expected their businesses to experience significant or exponential growth over the next 12 months

However, one key factor in achieving this goal is ensuring you have the right foundations in place.

Is your business set-up for growth? Do you have the right talent strategy and succession plans to succeed?

We’re going to take a look at some of the concerns that exist and bring some real-life solutions to the table.

Where’s the next generation of leaders going to come from?

The 2018 edition of the Global Leadership Forecast found that 64% of the 1,000-plus C-level executives polled listed ‘developing next-gen leaders’ as their biggest challenge.

And in our own poll, 44% of senior decision makers said that they lacked confidence in their talent strategies delivering the results needed.

Having said that, 90% did at least have a succession plan.

So, the strategies exist. But their effectiveness is being called into question.

In addressing these issues we canvassed the opinion of our clients.

Mika Rekkilä, Head of CIO office at 4Finance, commented; “Companies really need to invest in building their own talent pool if they want to compete. As technology drives the creation of more and more specific roles and skills sets, they’ll find it harder to find people that exactly match what they need, unless they develop those capabilities internally.”

The big talent strategy questions 

A strong talent strategy will consider recruitment in a very similar way to customer acquisition. You should start by having a very clear idea about what your organisation stands for and the people you need (the ‘customer’ that the talent strategy should attract). 

 The key things to consider include:

  1. What is the desired cultural fit?  What type of people do you want, what drives them, what motivates them?  Where and how do they look for jobs?
  2. What are your competitors doing to attract these people?  What are their salaries and benefits? Do they offer flexible or agile working?  What are their offices like?  What are their brand values?  All organisations are in competition for the best people. You can’t hope to compete if you don’t know what the competition are doing to entice the people you want.  You don’t need to offer the best salary, but your overall package should be attractive.  For example, you may find lower salaries accepted if you have a strong brand, an ethical reputation or a great development programme.
  3. How are you demonstrating the values and skills you need in your recruitment process?
  4. What steps are you taking to develop a culture and brand that will attract your target recruits?
  5. Where are the best talent? Should you recruit from overseas?  What are the benefits and barriers to that?  E.g. What are the compliance issues?
  6. Are you able to effectively manage all this in-house or should you outsource?

Various organisations have answered these questions in their own way. 

IBM have identified that it’s not just about bringing in new graduates as ‘oven ready’ recruits. To enrich the talent pool you should also look to hire other junior employees with little experience.

Meanwhile, global engineering giant M+W have noticed that the specialist talent they need has often retired. So they use their networks to identify who these people are and entice them back into the workforce.

At the other end of the spectrum, M+W recognise that one of the reasons why engineering talent is in such short supply is the lack of women in the workforce, which cuts the potential pool in half.

In acting on this they’ve been supporting the perception and teaching of STEM subjects in schools to girls and young women.

Strategy wins and succession planning 

When thinking about strategy and succession planning it’s vital to take a long-term view.

Typically, an organisation will have a vacancy, they write a job spec, find CVs, interview candidates and hire. Most don’t plan in the detail they need to. 

All succession plans, like all business plans, will look different but the following are the key steps:

  1. Have a very clear understanding of your culture and your brand.  If necessary, use the brand review produced by your marketing team and adapt it to attract employees.
  2. Now look at your short and long-term business plans. Are you planning to grow, change focus, go into a higher skilled or lower skilled area?  What are your global plans?
  3. Instead of looking at the roles you need to fill, consider the impact these roles need to make and how that links to your business goals.
  4. Look at your current team and their potential to fill these roles. What are their skills experience and their aspirations?  What are the dangers of using these people and of not using these people to fill roles? (Most people will leave an organisation if they are continually overlooked in succession planning).
  5. Identify the best people outside your organisation, but within your market, and proactively speak to them. Even if you’re not looking right now, open the dialogue so that when you are, your talent pool is readily stocked, and you have great candidates already bought into your organisation.

Rekkilä added: “When someone is leaving, the best position to be in is one where you have someone already in the business who is capable of stepping into that role. Succession planning is a vital way of minimising risk when you lose talent, which unfortunately, is inevitable.”

4Finance also reach out to local communities and provide meeting spaces for other businesses in the area. They go to conferences, not to look for people to hire specifically, but to help raise their profile.

Rekkilä explained; “We have future plans to collaborate with universities. For example, if someone is working on their Masters thesis, they could come and work on it with us. Or we could even accommodate a group of students or academics from a university to do some work with us. We believe this will be very rewarding for them and our business in terms of nurturing potential future talent. In the past, we have also offered summer placement roles for students who join us for a few months. This is another way to engage them.”

And finally…

Organisations need to be strategic and think long-term if they are going to engage the right talent. 

They need to align their talent strategy with their business plans. If your strategy and planning is not delivering the right people then you need to review it and consider engaging professionals to identify where it is failing.

Download the Challenging Talent white paper for loads more insight. 

Or email me at to start a conversation about your talent strategy.

If you're based in the US then please get in touch with my colleague David at

Topics: Recruitment, US, pharmaceutical, Environmental, Legal


Tristan Chinn

Tristan Chinn
RPO Business Development and Search Manager
Written on: May 1, 2018


Our white paper ‘Challenging Talent’ found that a large number of businesses are expecting significant or exponential growth in the next 12 months. But does their confidence in their talent strategies back that up?

In this blog we examine:

  • Is your business set-up for growth?
  • The importance of a healthy talent pipeline
  • Talent strategy quick wins


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