Talent Mapping for Strategic Growth: 8 key benefits

Talent mapping is a strategic service that is used by businesses to plan for short, medium and long term talent acquisition. It is used by the most perceptive companies to ensure that a recruitment process doesn’t just result in a quick hire, but rather, that it focuses on the short, medium and long term needs and leads to a number of strategic talent acquisitions over a prolonged period of time. It enables business leaders to proactively build the capabilities of the workforce using an in-depth and analytical process. It involves identifying the capabilities, experience and potential of current employees and aligning those with the growth strategy to reveal talent gaps and development needs.

Now an important component of talent management and acquisition, companies cite several benefits of adopting this approach. Through talking with our clients, as well as analysing research of this critical area, we have identified 8 reasons why talent mapping is essential for strategic growth.

1. Inclusive employee engagement

Talent mapping is principally an internal process used to assess current and future effectiveness, involving the entire organisation across every level and function. While much of the ‘assessment’ is passive and metrics driven – e.g. clarifying the technical knowledge, qualifications and performance of individual employees – it also presents a perfect opportunity for employee engagement. It’s another touch point, where career conversations take place and qualitative data of employee goals and interests are gathered and compared with growth strategy and future investment. Building trust and raising morale are two likely outcomes of any employee engagement initiative, especially when the focus is on understanding and potentially fulfilling career aspirations.

Furthermore, acknowledging everyone in the organisation has potential is often overlooked in traditional approaches to talent management. According to the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), talent management is too often focused on senior roles , or those with senior management potential. If talent mapping is done right, it should be genuinely inclusive, reflected in an individualised approach to adaptive assessment and engagement.


2. Identify potential leavers

Reviewing employee performance and potential isn’t just about identifying talent gaps and training needs within the workforce. Talent mapping can also uncover signs someone may soon leave an organisation, or that it’s time for them to move on to a new opportunity. First of all, taking the time to investigate the tangible impact of employees is always a good idea. Once you’re clear about this, you can then assess the potential each person has to progress or evolve within the organisation, over time. The 9 box grid is a popular talent mapping tool, as it helps leaders visualise where employees sit on a matrix and clarify whether a degree of motivation, reward or training will help them develop their careers.

However, researchers publishing in the Harvard Business Review (HRB) also suggest other observations be recorded which could indicate if an employee is on the verge of quitting. In the study, 13 ‘quitting behaviours’ are identified, which include a decrease in productivity as well as a loss of enthusiasm – a consideration of these behaviours adds valuable depth to a talent mapping exercise and helps guide decision making towards the best possible solution for all parties.


3. Opportunities for internal moves

The most effective talent mapping approach mobilises the whole organisation to record the capabilities, experience and potential of each employee. Only a non-silo mentality will ensure consistent data collection, as well as the detail required to inform talent decisions. According to accountancy firm PwC, compiling a skills and attributes database is a great way to ensure the right people are assigned to the right roles and for selecting which talent can be moved internally to meet short-term business demands. This, on the one hand, is a proactive way to bolster teams so they can deal with sudden changes in priorities and market conditions or pre-empt vacancies and manage talent shortage risks. It can also create new opportunities for internal moves, by revealing skill shortages not previously identified. Training needs, too, are highlighted and training solutions delivered to ensure positions are filled, where gaps emerge.

Ian Brenton, Procurement lead at Asahi Europe, says the most common mistake prospective candidates make early in their careers is having narrow ambitions. Keeping an open mind, building up experiences and embracing flexibility will lead to a more satisfying career, in his view. Internal moves, therefore, are a great way to encourage this mind-set and create happy, fulfilled employees.


4. Succession planning

Succession planning is, of course, a primary objective for any talent mapping exercise. Traditionally, talent mapping processes would only seek to highlight people with leadership potential and ensure only those people were given access to development opportunities. As discussed earlier, though, the focus of development programmes has shifted from engaging with ‘high potential’ leaders to recognising that every employee should have access to career growth trajectories. Talent mapping, in this context, is about broadening your perception of the ‘critical roles’ within the organisation and understanding how those roles could be filled if vacancies emerged. It also encourages the establishment of clear development pathways, whether the function is a ‘specialist’ or leadership position, thereby challenging ‘invested in’ employees to step into and/or create new opportunities for themselves.

Moving people to a new project, country or even into a new discipline, will likely accelerate ‘leadership’ development anyway. Gary Horsfield, William Grant & Sons’ Group Packaging and Supply Chain Director highlights the importance for global firms to give employees access to international experience as early as possible in their careers – and not only to fulfil leadership roles. Moving talent, in his view, should always be a priority, so people gain valuable understanding of the business from an international context while learning to adapt to different cultures. Then, when opportunities emerge for people to progress, it means they’re ready to take them on sooner.


5. Long view of talent development

Underpinning any internal mobility or succession planning process is the need to develop talent over a long time. Whether that’s broadening or narrowing someone’s experience, talent mapping is a great way to identify specific needs or speculate about unknown future ones and how they may be met through training and development. Leaders often start by reviewing current and future workforce potential. Though, during the last decade, more organisations are using talent mapping to identify critical jobs of the future and determining what skills they will require in five or ten years’ time, to fulfil these roles.

Automation is an obvious driver of this approach. Research suggests 200+ million global workers will need to switch occupational categories by 2030 and most likely re-train because of role changes and the emergence of new occupations. PwC also discusses operational or product expansion as an example of aligning talent mapping with long term strategic plans. As suggested in the previous section, lateral moves can be as beneficial as external coaching or learning, and more cost effective too. And training behaviours is another component of modern development practice, with talent mapping used to assess how embedded values and ‘ways of working’ are across an organisation, and where actions are needed to enhance preferred behavioural and cultural norms.


6. Reducing the time to hire

The previous sections each considered the benefits of talent mapping from an internal perspective. Of course, in an ideal world, all talent needs could be solved internally, but that’s rarely the case for most organisations. Rather than being caught out when a vacancy arises, external talent mapping is another valuable method to ensure organisations gain a competitive people advantage.

As we previously wrote, the ultimate aim of external talent mapping is building a talent pipeline. This enables you to make several strategic hires over a prolonged period, and only when needs arise. Often delivered by a recruitment partner, the method recognises that identifying candidates for multiple potential vacancies, requires a large pool of candidates. Often, those engaged during the talent mapping project are regularly contacted over several months and years, meaning when an immediate need arises, the recruiter isn’t solely reliant upon building new relationships or selling opportunities to the market.


7. Gather market intelligence

Gathering market intelligence and insight into competitor capabilities is a key objective of an external talent mapping process. Once an internal talent map identifies gaps and potential future gaps that could emerge, it becomes a foundation to analyse organisations, industries and people on an on-going basis. This can involve comparing, for example, the make-up of competitor teams and organisational structures, investigating compensation and benefits trends, as well as training and development plans. Stock-piling this intelligence can give businesses a detailed and holistic view of the market for talent,  increasing the chances of hiring the absolute best candidates. It enables decisive hiring, while building a clear foundation for succession planning.

Trend analysts suggest Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data is fuelling innovation in recruitment technology, creating more sophisticated optimisation and data analytics tools that can be leveraged for talent mapping exercises. And companies that invest wisely in the best tools and consultants, will position themselves at the forefront of the industry.


8. External brand building

In the same way that internal talent mapping can lead to better employee engagement, regularly engaging with external talent – either directly or through a talent mapping service provider – can improve employer brand and generally raise the reputation of an organisation.

To attract talent today, companies must ensure that all potential candidates enjoy positive experiences of the brand. Many companies, for example, now participate in talent community building, utilising ongoing networking and other marketing touch points to ensure their brand remains ‘top-of-mind’ for prospective candidates. When the company is ready to launch a recruitment campaign, it’s already one step ahead of its competition, in a tight talent market.

Children fashion brand Petit Bateau did exactly this. After identifying talent gaps within the business, and the need to attract a broader range of marketing skills, Petit Bateau launched a six-part viral online video campaign promoting its employer brand. Interest in careers at the company increased, as more people engaged with the videos.


CASE STUDY: Nigel Wright talent mapping exercise secures procurement pipeline

About the client

A FTSE 250 food company with several manufacturing sites in the UK and the US.



Our client wanted to change the way its procurement division approached talent acquisition. Its procurement division employs a matrix structure across various sites in the UK. While indirect spend is centralised, all direct spend, as well as packaging, is devolved to the sites. From a recruitment perspective, this meant multiple agencies supported procurement talent acquisition, leading to inconsistent service levels as well as varying quality and cultural fit in the candidates identified for positions at different sites. This devolved approach, which gave every procurement line manager ownership of recruitment, had created a chaotic system undermining the effectiveness of the organisation.


The challenge

Nigel Wright’s first project was to fill 15 live vacancies, as well as conduct an in-depth talent mapping exercise during a 12 month period. Succession planning and reducing the time to hire were the drivers behind this project. Our client was keen to secure a ‘bench’ of people who could be introduced to the business quickly following internal promotions or when individuals were performance managed out of the organisation. Educating the market about careers at our client was a primary objective of the project. As an own label business, our client’s reputation as an employer isn’t as strong as the more familiar branded goods manufacturers.


Nigel Wright solutions

A monthly retainer fee, as well as completion fees for each hire, were agreed. Our UK Associate Director coordinated a four person team who delivered the work and was the main point of contact between Nigel Wright and our client’s Group Purchasing and Supply Chain Director.

We provided weekly update reports, sent to the Group Purchasing and Supply Chain Director, as well as four purchasing directors who reported into the Group head. The reports highlighted all prospective candidates identified to date as part of the broader talent mapping project, as well as the status of each assignment. Monthly review meetings also took place between Nigel Wright’s project team and our client’s procurement leadership team.

As well as Nigel Wright’s extensive database, consultants sourced candidates via LinkedIn, various external employment databases and through referrals from their network of senior contacts across the food and drinks industry. The Nigel Wright candidate pack – a ten page document created by our in-house marketing team – outlined our client’s history, structure, values and capabilities, and gave a flavour of its culture as well as of opportunities that existed within the company. This provided a consistent message to the market of what it meant to work at our client’s business.


The outcome

The final talent mapping document included 973 people. Individuals engaged during the project had experience across packaging, ingredients and indirect spend in the UK food and drinks sector. They also represented a range of procurement professionals, from NPD Buyers (earning around £25,000) to Controllers (earning up to £90,000).

Conversations took place with around 50% of the individuals identified during the project. Our client met with 30 individuals identified by Nigel Wright in the first 12 months. In addition to filling the initial 15 open vacancies, a further 22 people have joined the organisation following the talent mapping exercise. 70% of those individuals are still employed by our client.

An intimate understanding of our client’s culture, as well as the career opportunities available at the business, were central factors in delivering a successful project. Despite a large number of conversations taking place, our client benefited from consistently high levels of service.


How can Nigel Wright support you?

In support of our clients’ future business plans, Nigel Wright offers a robust talent mapping and succession planning (TMSP) service. Our sector expertise across the world means that we can provide our clients with an in-depth analysis of how their organisational capabilities compare to others in the sector, whether it be the fooddrinksfashion & lifestylehomewarebeautyhealthecommerce & retail or luxury sectors. We can then use our extensive networks to help our clients plan for the future, by identifying the right talent internally and externally for their business.

Our TMSP service has become increasingly popular with clients over the last few years. Some notable recent examples of companies we have assisted in this capacity include L’Oreal and Henkel in the Middle East, DBApparel in Europe, Grupo Siro in Iberia and the Americas and Greencore in the UK. If you are interested in finding out more about our TMSP service, as well as our other services, please contact us.

Free whitepaper

Great Ideas for Your Employer Brand

This free whitepaper discusses the current 'problems' with work and how positive employer branding initiatives can help to address these issues.

Mit der Übermittlung Ihrer Informationen bestätigen Sie, dass Sie unsere Privacy Notice gelesen und verstanden haben