How to Design (or Redesign) Your Talent Management Strategy

Talent retention is a huge concern for employers. Addressing this challenge requires great insight into your organization, industry and market. In many cases, retention or other critical talent issues may require significant adjustments or redesign of your talent management strategy. In 2021, for example, 63% of organizations indicated they would invest moderately or heavily in improving the alignment between talent strategy and business goals, according to Brandon Hall Group research.

There are so many variables involved in addressing a talent strategy that employers can make significant missteps if they don’t have a deep understanding of how the strategy should evolve. In Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Outlook 2021 study, at least three in five organizations indicated they are planning moderate or heavy investment (in time and money) into the following people strategy priorities:

Top People Strategy Priorities*

It’s critical to take a systematic approach to developing the talent strategy so that it’s aligned with business objectives. A key part of the process is identifying the barriers or gating factors that must be addressed in designing, altering or redesigning a talent strategy. Then, there must be a process for identifying the linkage between talent strategy and business objectives before identifying the scope of change needed.

Failure to take this type of systematic approach can lead to assumptions or misinformation that can result in significant flaws in the talent management strategy.

  • What are the barriers or gating factors that make the talent situation difficult and complex?
  • How can you best identify the links between talent strategy and business objectives?
  • How do you identify the scope of change needed to address the situation?

Design Thinking is a methodology for systematically breaking down the gating factors of almost any situation. It is well-suited for the difficulty and complexity of talent management strategy design. There are three main parts of Design Thinking related to building a strong talent management strategy:

Understanding the Gating Factors What does it take to understand the gating factors for a talent management strategy? First, we must know the part of the workforce impacted. The employees are multi-generational and highly mobile. They are pressed for time and strive to have a work-life balance while being asked to take on new tasks, develop existing competencies, learn new competencies and reskill and upskill to meet fast-moving business objectives. Then we need to understand the barriers for the organization. The result is a clear picture of what you will face in developing talent strategies that will be mutually beneficial to the employee and the organization.

Potential Gating Factors for the Employees

  • Working conditions
  • Generation
  • Lack of meaningful work
  • Level of coaching, mentoring, feedback
  • Lack of career advancement opportunities
  • Recognition, appreciation
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Time available to learn
  • Competency development needs
  • Upskilling and reskilling needs

Potential Gating Factors for the Organization

  • Insufficient budget for managing and developing talent
  • Inability to define new skills or capabilities needed by the business
  • Lack of compelling development opportunities for top talent
  • Difficulties recruiting top talent
  • Difficulties identifying high-potential internal talent
  • Difficulties retaining key people
  • Insufficient pipeline of future leaders
  • Lack of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Business leaders’ reluctance to share talent across the organization
  • Business leaders’ inability to motivate and nurture key talent

Identify the Link Between Talent and Business Objectives. A crucial element of Design Thinking is crowdsourcing problem-solving. This requires a talent leader to manage a diverse team that can bring several points of view to uncover the gating factors and potential solutions. The team should:

  • Identify the business objectives that must be addressed.
  • Create a clear picture of the work environment.
  • Provide a profile of the target audience(s) for talent interventions.

Identify the Scope of Change Needed. Design Thinking can also be used to crowd-source solution ideas. Again, this requires a talent strategist to lead a team in ways that provide each member an opportunity to share their thoughts on how to meet the talent challenge.

The biggest challenge for the talent leader is to emerge with a resolution on the best course(s) of action, especially if the team has identified solutions that don’t have much overlap in their approaches. The leader must work to:

  • Ensure every solution is heard and vetted with the team.
  • Identify elements from each solution that bring out the best thinking of the team.
  • Gain consensus from the team on the best way forward by leveraging everyone’s thoughts.

Talent management leaders must be the catalysts for moving the team toward a full understanding of the challenges that will be encountered in trying to develop and implement talent solutions to meet the needs of the business.

In summary, Design Thinking gets to the root causes of problems and challenges, forging solutions specifically tied to those root causes. Because they are complex, with many ways of addressing them, taking a systematic approach can be difficult. Talent leaders must be able to follow the Design Thinking process and avoid jumping to solving the problem before gaining a full understanding of its scope after a full airing of opinions. Through careful analysis and collaboration, Design Thinking can get at the heart of hard-to-solve challenges.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.