How to create your 2021 talent business plan...

Alana Cumming

By Alana Cumming

14 Jan 2021

8 min read

How to create your 2021 talent business plan...

As we resign 2020 to the archives and look forward to a more positive year it is often a time of reflection and planning, never more so that after a year of hugely accelerated change and a major disruption of not just our day to day ways of working but whole industries being turned on their head within a matter of weeks. 


I am hopeful that in 5-10 years time we will look back on 2020 as a defining moment, the year of accelerated change for positive reasons, a year in which we as leaders were given no choice but to stand back and look at our ways of working and the future of our sector and make sure that we are “future-proof”.  


When it comes to business planning, the new year brings a new opportunity on this front also, taking what we have learned about customer and human behaviour to make sure we are ready to move back into growth mode, but how do we put together a resource/hiring plan to support the business plan, a step that in my experience is not always taken and can lead to hiring in distress. 


“Hiring in distress leads to distressed hires” 


Below I have outlined some points to make sure you have given some consideration, even if hiring is not top of the list in terms of urgency, it is difficult to argue with its importance, the best decisions are often the most informed ones right? 




Similar to a business gap analysis or a SWOT analysis, of the goals that you want to achieve this year as a team or as a wider business, where do you have gaps in either ability/skillset or time to achieve these milestones? Can these gaps be filled by upskilling your existing team? Could you increase utilisation or delegate some tasks? If the answer is not clear then perhaps you need to explore creating a new position in the business. 


But also, with the growth that you are looking to achieve this year, let’s say for example you are looking to increase the business revenue by 20%, can your existing structure support that effectively? Can your supply chain? Do you need to find partners that can scale with you, again can you upskill or increase workload for certain individuals or do you need to build a future hire into the plan…? 




Over the last 12 months many of our processes have needed to be improved, our technology, our communication, our ways of marketing our services, business transformation has happened throughout the world, but what about our people? 


Being super honest and looking at your current team, are there average performers that will actually hold the business back from achieving it’s goals? Are there 6s or 7s out of 10 that with the right plan could be upskilled to a 8 or 9 or do you need to consider the wider market for talent to make that possible? 




Another area in which I often see distress and lack of planning is around planned leavers, I am amazed that often with a runway of 6, 12 or even up to 36 months companies still end up hiring in distress “we need someone yesterday”, often ending up with the best of those available in the seat rather than a real game-changer. 


Take a look at the team, do you have anyone that may be planning to retire in the next 12-24 months, do you have any of the team due to be on Maternity leave or take a Sabattical, the more notice you have the better you can plan for the continuation of their success and a handover… 




In the planned scenario there is very little excuse for a lack of forward planning however what about the surprises that life throws up when running a team? The person that decides to relocate due the pandemic? The high performer who is made an offer they cannot refuse? The staff member that you really cannot afford to lose emailing on a Sunday night asking for a quick chat the following day… You know where I am going with this and it’s pretty painful 


Nothing you can do to fix all of these but what you can do is make sure that you are set to react quickly and that you have a pipeline of talent who are semi-engaged and open to talking, ultimately reducing the time to hire, increasing the quality of the short-list you have to select from and allowing you to take care of business rather than adding to the often hidden downtime & opportunity cost of a leaver. 




In the same way that you wouldn’t just take your car to a garage when it breaks, maintenance is super important (just not always urgent) and when done correctly the damage is both less likely to happen but also likely to be less disrupting. Here are a few ideas of tasks you can make sure are running in the background to keep your talent machine well oiled and serviced:  


  • Content, Content, Content – encourage people to follow your brand on social media, often companies think of themselves marketing to either B2B or B2C but what about B2T (Business to Talent)


  • People remember how you made them feel – respond to peoples connection requests, engagement on your posts, make people have a great experience of the brand, those “moments of truth” can lead to brand ambassadors. 


  • Work on your brand as a leader – are you someone that people look up to? Can relate to? Feel they can learn from? Express confidence with humility? All ways that you can differentiate yourself from the competition, in the same way that people leave leaders over companies this also works in reverse. 


  • Never stop interviewing – I don’t mean everyone, but can you ever meet too many top performers in your sector? I guarantee that over a 60 minute coffee you will take some key learnings away and build the pipeline for future hires, why not do a breakfast meet before your day begins? Put the great ones into a contact group and keep those relationships warm… 




If you have identified from the above scenarios that you are likely to need to recruit into your team this year, think about how long that has taken historically? Has it been a challenge? Throw in a global pandemic and people's fear about moving and it certainly won’t be easier in 2021 to hire the very best. 


When was the last time you took a step back and looked at your Employer Value Proposition (EVP)? The reason that people would join your business from or over a competitor? The reason that people won’t decide to take the call about another opportunity? The reason that when you decide to go to market and recruit you will have people raising their hand to come and speak with you? Here are some steps you can take: 

  • Internal engagement survey  how do your current staff feel about working for the business 
  • External feedback survey – work with an external business to gauge market feedback 
  • Salary benchmarking – do you know how your pay, benefits, bonuses and rewards stack up against the competition.




One of the questions my team get asked most often when speaking to clients about partnering on a search is “how long will this take?”, often followed by “I know that is a difficult question to answer”. 


Many factors decide the answer to the above, often the client's process can dictate it as much as the search criteria and availability of talent.  


My best advice for a mid to senior hire would be to start pipelining and talking to your search partners 4-6 months in advance of the target start date and commence a full search process 12-16 weeks before the target start date, typically a search process takes 4-8 weeks (depending on the number of interview stages). 




Hopefully, the above list has been useful, clearly each header could be an article in itself but the purpose was to hopefully get you thinking, would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and what your key takeaways/actions are after reading through. 


If you want to arrange some time to talk through any of these ideas or challenges in further detail then I would be happy to share how other clients have been successful and best practice in this area, I like to think that after completing 400+ searches then you do start to see some patterns emerge. 


Happy planning! 

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