Critical talent – Assessing new demands

External factors are forcing employers to look within for future talent solutions. Bruce Anderson outlines where to start.

Critical talent – Assessing new demands

External factors are forcing employers to look within for future talent solutions. Bruce Anderson outlines where to start.

The current economic uncertainty means businesses need a new level of focus on existing talent to drive growth and innovation.

Critical talent development and retention are viewed as crucial aspects of a well-functioning organisation that achieves and exceeds its goals.

While critical talent management can appear to be a momentous task, it can be broken down into narrower components like any other business strategy.

Three key areas of focus for critical talent management are:


1. Succession planning – ensuring there is no shortage of critical talent ready for key leadership positions.

2. Leadership and talent development - developing leadership competencies and business acumen.

3. Innovation initiatives – using new technology to drive business performance.


Succession planning

The workforce will undergo a substantial shift as a large number of older workers (members of the “baby boom” generation – people born between 1946 and 1964) approach retirement and relatively few will enter the labour force.

This shift in the workforce requires organisations to create succession plans combined with effective leadership development activities to prepare internal talent for the new opportunities. Retaining key members of the baby boomer generation in the workforce is essential to mentor, coach and develop the emerging leaders.

Through new workforce planning processes, organisations are better able to predict positions where the needs will rise over the next four years. These planning processes include defining key leadership roles, developing internal talent and attracting new talent.

Define key leadership roles and identify resources

The traditional roles of leaders are being transformed with an increased focus on the ability to think and act strategically, drive change effectively and communicate intentionally.

Identifying team members who are creative thinkers, agile in ambiguous environments and readily adapt to new practices that benefit both the organisation and customers is key to success.

These individuals are:


• Energised to finding new approaches to increase business performance in cost effective ways

• Competent and confident in leading change

• Driven to provide exceptional customer service

• Communicate in multiple languages to service international markets


Engage, coach and develop internal talent

Before the baby boomers begin to transition into the next phase of their lives, a transfer of knowledge is required. An important responsibility of the transitioning leaders is to develop the next generation.

This development will involve:


• Engaging high potentials in stretch assignments

• Providing training on the expanded skill sets

• Coaching to develop necessary leadership competencies


Attract and on-board new talent

The competition for talent requires organisations to effectively market their benefits in ways that attract and retain key talent.

The integration of new and existing talent will become increasingly important for alignment and successful assimilation into the organisation’s culture. Through a structured on-boarding process that involves internal mentors and external coaches, derailment can be minimised.

Leadership and talent development

There is a need for individuals with leadership experience who can lead organisations resiliently through the anticipated changes. During these times of ambiguity, it’s necessary to teach employees skills in problem solving, critical thinking and change management.

To drive change effectively will require further development of individuals at all levels in the organisation in the areas of:


  • Business acumen – understand all aspects of operating the organisation
  • Strategic planning – ability to plan and execute long term initiatives
  • Process improvement – drive continuous enhancement to current practices
  • Integration – the ability to integrate departments from a unified strategy to optimise the outcome for the entire system, not each entity
  • Collaboration - understand how departments and functions can partner in the delivery of service


There are three leadership practices that are most strongly associated with effectiveness for mid-level and senior executives: strategy, communication, and innovation.

Leaders with competencies in these areas would have the ability to:


  • Take a long-range, broad approach to problem solving and decision making through objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning.
  • State clearly what they want and expect from others; clearly expressing their thoughts and ideas and maintaining a precise and constant flow of information.
  • Create comfort in fast changing environments and willing to take risks and to consider new and untested approaches.


Innovation initiatives

In order to retain critical talent there’s a need for sophisticated practices and learning systems that will engage a different generation of employees. New positions relating to driving practices, learning business partnerships, and instructional system design, can help with the organisation’s return on investment.

The goal is to create an environment and culture where people thrive, trust senior leadership, and feel as though they are an integral part of the care team.

Employees will need to have a say in how they grow their career. Leaders who coach, mentor, and can communicate the vision clearly, will instil confidence and risk taking.

Suggested methods for ensuring innovation:


  • Teaching all employees about the functioning of the business (how costs are calculated, reimbursement, basic budgeting) will promote innovative ideas, increase efficiency, and eliminate redundancy.
  • View business objectives from a team perspective, eliminate the silos and view the experience across all lines.


With the rise of collaborative workplaces and as employees begin to have more say about the way they work critical talent development will matter more than ever before.

Organisations must become experts in attracting and retaining the best talent, especially as the market and the demand for talent becomes more competitive.

About the author

Bruce Anderson is the managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison, which offers talent development solutions throughout the entire employee lifecycle – from onboarding, through career and leadership development, engagement and retention to redeployment and transition. For further information visit




Recent articles & video

7-Eleven repays $173m to employees, as stores improve payroll systems

Seven signs you're being underpaid – and how to ask for a raise

The nine 'levers' to pull if you're serious about inclusion

‘Blue collar bias’: Are you ignoring this worrying workplace issue?

Most Read Articles

New rules for workers as Melbourne lifts lockdown

Halloween: Six HR horror stories to read in the dark

COVID-19: How to build smarter employment contracts