Your star employee has handed in her notice or your business has expanded, and you need to hire someone new. The impulse might be to hire someone as quickly as possible to minimize disruptions, but it’s much more effective to do some talent planning so your new hire reflects your current and future goals. Think of your business like a cake and your employees like the ingredients. You can’t just throw ingredients into a bowl and expect to bake a cake successfully. You need to follow a recipe such as the one below:
1. Understand the purpose of your cake. First, you need to know what kind of cake you want to make. Are you making a cake for your grandma’s 90th birthday or for a raucous bachelor party? Is it a fancy cake for a sophisticated palate or a plain cake for fussy eaters? Are you feeding five people or 200? Your vision will drive the kind of recipe you need. Similarly, you should have a clear vision for your company. Are you a healthy fast-food chain that is hoping to expand geographically? Are you a software value-added reseller that is expanding into another vertical? Are you a hotel chain that is trying to rebrand? This will tell you what kind of talent plan you need. Just because vanilla layer cake has worked well in the past does not mean that hazelnut crunch might not work better now.
2. Identify possible cakes. Before you start baking, you need to think about who will be enjoying your cake. If you want to dazzle pre-school princesses, look is probably more important than taste. You are going to need a big fancy cake, preferably with a lot of glitter (subtle flourless chocolate cakes need not apply). Let’s say you run a chain of small hotels trying to rebrand and are in need of a new customer service director. Will your ideal customers travel for business or pleasure? Do they have a tight budget or do they expect a first-class experience? Has your ideal customer profile changed since you last hired for this role? Thinking about how the job has changed will help you identify the type of person who could help you execute your vision.
3. Select your recipe. Once you know that you need to make a fancy princess cake that is heavy on the glitter, you need to find some inspiration and a recipe. You can research “fancy princess cakes” on Pinterest and see what appeals. You might discard the cakes that require $200 worth of ingredients or a trip to a specialty store based on budget and time constraints. You might discard other possibilities because you have not mastered fondant icing. Eventually, you will find a recipe that suits. In your business, you need to figure out what kind of person would best help you get to where you want to be, keeping resource constraints in mind. If you are trying to upgrade your level of service and redefine your hotel as a luxury brand, you might not want to hire the manager from a competing mid-price chain.
4. Take stock of the ingredients. Once you know what recipe you are making, you need to gather the ingredients. First take a look in the pantry; in the consulting world, we call this a talent audit. Whenever you are replacing or hiring a key member of staff, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your other people, too. What skills do you have? What skills do you still need? Who can you train? Who should you hire? Perhaps you already have all the ingredients you need. Perhaps there was a more junior person in your organization who now is ready to take on an expanded role. Perhaps someone can make a lateral move to broaden his experience.
5. Source new ingredients. Let’s say you’ve taken inventory and need vanilla extract. What type of vanilla extract do you need? Do you need the organic, hand-blended variety in the fancy glass bottle or is the generic-label variety fine? This is the stage where you need to draw up a list of specific skill requirements for the new job. In the case of a replacement, it’s tempting to simply use the existing job description, but if you want to maximize this hiring opportunity, you should determine what skills you need today and in the future. Review your existing talent pool. If your hotel chain is well staffed and your only missing ingredient is someone with a luxury approach to customer service, you might be able to take a creative approach to hiring. Could you hire someone from a luxury retailer or a restaurant group and then train her in the specifics of the hotel world? The interview process will show you what ingredient might work best in your business.
6. Mix the ingredients together. Once you have found the missing ingredient, you need to mix the ingredients together. In business, this is the onboarding stage and it’s good to give it some attention as you don’t want your cake to flop or burn. If you don’t have a good new employee orientation program in place, now is the time to create one. At a minimum, you should take the employee out for lunch, make her feel welcome, appoint someone who can answer her job-specific questions, get any company specific training underway, and make sure she has some projects to tackle. Before long, the new hire will be up to speed and contributing to your business.
Talent planning can seem complex, but if you follow the recipe above, it’s really a piece of cake.