4 steps to align your talent and change strategy

Discussing talent strategies

If change is the new norm, why do we still deal in static job roles?

Ask yourself when was the last time your job description was updated? You might have had tweaks here and there but I would take a bet that it certainly hasn’t been updated year on year. However, we’re asking people to change all the time.

So that’s our challenge. When we’re taking people through change all the time, how do we ensure our change and talent processes line up?

Beyond getting your Change Director and Talent Director to sit down together (which is an excellent idea if you can make it happen!) I believe that there are four keys steps to work through:

Step one: Consider the context of your change

Before thinking about your talent strategy, it’s important to have absolute clarity on the context of your change. While our research suggests there are five key contextual factors for change to consider (you can read more on those here), two of these factors are particularly relevant for talent, namely: the level of change momentum and the culture of the organisation.

Firstly, change momentum refers to the speed and scale of the change occurring. So, for example, if your organisation is growing at a fast pace and requiring you to bring on many new employees it’s vitally important to respect your existing talent. If not managed carefully, bringing in new talent might mean that your existing talent feels overlooked and potentially become disengaged if they are not provided the opportunities that they want. The worst-case scenario is that you start to lose existing talent just as you’re bringing in new talent to aid your growth strategy.

Secondly, think about talent in terms of the culture. Who are the people that stand out and embody what your organisation is truly about; the company’s values, behaviours, attitudes, and essence. Identify these cultural icons in your talent pool, get them championing the change and they can unleash a driving force like no other. Lose them and your change could take an unexpected turn for the worse.

Step two: Define where you need to get to

It’s not just about where your organisation needs to get to, but where you need your people to be too. It’s important therefore to have a clear set of leadership capabilities based on your future needs and this can be a fairly straightforward step if you have a very well-defined business strategy and fully understand the leadership implications.

For example, if you have a new system implementation taking place, you’re probably going to need leaders who are really strong communicators, so they can engage people with the change and the new system. However, if your current talent strategy is focused on developing leaders who are more results driven and less communicative, you may suddenly find your change and talent strategies are somewhat out of alignment with each other.

Step three: Be clear on where you are now

Conduct a gap analysis, comparing where you are now from where you need to be; while this may sound like an obvious step, this is actually where we see organisations fall down the most. Often people don’t recognise the biases that they may bring to these conversations and feel that instead, they intuitively know where they are now. Understanding in detail what is experienced at different levels of the organisation is the key part of this step and should be given just as much time and effort as the others. You need to gather all the data to get a true and complete picture of where you are currently in terms of talent and where you need to be.

Specifically, we recommend exploring the gap at two levels:


  • Capabilities: When it comes to change, some of the capabilities will be more important than others and these include: adaptability, resilience and a tolerance for ambiguity. Change is often messy and therefore it’s important that your leaders feel confident in the direction the organisation is going in but are OK that the ‘how’ of getting there may not be crystal clear at times.


  • Readiness: This isn’t just about leaders aligning with what is happening within the organisation, but also whether your leaders understand enough about what is going on. Do they really buy into the change? Have they been able to create their own story around why the change is a good idea? But more importantly, are they ready for the change? In order to engage others with the change, it’s vital that your leaders feel empowered to bring others on board with it.


Once you have a full picture of your capabilities and readiness, you can start considering how to plug the gaps you might have.

Step four: Plug the gaps

Once you have a clear picture of what you have now and what you need for the future, deciding on how to plug the gaps should be fairly easy. Tools such as assessment centres, diagnostics and 360s are a great way to benchmark your leaders prior to developing interventions.

For example, if you’ve identified gaps within the communication of change you might need to provide opportunities for people to make sense of the change. Ways to achieve that could be through a series of leadership forums, town halls or lunchtime sessions. Leaders and managers leading the change may also need to develop their storytelling skills.

Plugging the gaps could also involve bringing new people on board so you’ll need a robust recruitment strategy to ensure you’re finding people with the right skills. If you’re under pressure to recruit quickly don’t fall into the trap of focusing on capabilities alone. A bad cultural fit can have a much larger negative impact on the business than taking a few more weeks to find someone who fits from a capability and culture standpoint.

Aligning your change and talent strategies is not an easy task but hopefully, these four steps help provide some guidance on where to start and the elements to consider. If you’re interested in this topic, I recently presented a webinar on aligning your talent and change strategy which you’ll find here. Or, visit our adaptability page here.


Katie Mahony