Designing a Talent Strategy

Simply put, a talent strategy refers to a business process that systematically closes the gap between the talent an organisation has, and the talent it requires to successfully respond to current and emerging business challenges and opportunities.

The strategy must ensure that ‘the right people with the right skills, experiences and competencies are in the right roles (or ready to transition into same) at the right time’. It drives business performance and mitigates risk.


Within the plan, the strategic elements of where the organisation is headed, the challenges it faces, and the organisation design that has to evolve so as to deliver the strategy, are captured. Within this there will also be specifics on new roles (and portfolios) that should be created, and roles that must change, or be abolished.

The Corporate Challenge

CEOs around the world are striving for growth, operational efficiency, and organisational cultures that support innovation, customer-centricity and service quality.

Limitations are not coming from capital constraints or technology, but from the inability to attract, engage and retain enough top talent to execute against their growth strategies. This challenge puts strategic talent management front and centre stage.

This growing focus on talent management is underpinned by a fundamental revisit of the people agenda. This is happening against a backdrop of an external business environment which is becoming increasingly volatile, requiring shifts in strategy and business models, and new approaches to human capital management.

The Business Case for a Talent Strategy

Talent and risk are intimately connected in ways that can profoundly influence an organization’s ability to create and protect value. Risk touches virtually every aspect of talent management, and talent touches virtually every aspect of risk management.

In addition to research findings that support the need for a talent strategy, it is now widely recognised that:

  • There is a demonstrated relationship between better talent and better business performance
  • Talent is a rapidly increasing source of value creation
  • The context in which we do business is increasingly complex and dynamic
  • Boards and financial markets are expecting more
  • Employee expectations are changing
  • Workforce demographics are evolving
  • A War for Talent is playing off in real time
  • Business models must change to meet the challenges of globalisation and competition.

Increasingly Boards are also realising that a growth strategy is unsustainable without a focus on talent management.

The Situational Challenge

The talent strategy should relentlessly focus on desired business outcomes that ‘talk’ to strategic priorities such as:

  • Driving revenue growth
  • Penetrating new markets
  • Growing market share
  • Effecting horizontal integration
  • Driving cost efficiencies
  • Achieving business turnaround
  • Increasing shareholder returns.

In particular, the talent strategy should articulate the capabilities that are needed to deliver the business strategy.

Simultaneously, the strategy should clearly indicate how the organisation will respond to burning people challenges (e.g. finding talent, retaining scarce expertise and exceptional leaders, as well as succession planning).

Partner of Choice

If you are looking for a partner to guide you through the design process, Ashridge is the perfect partner. At the heart of our advisory services are deeply knowledgeable faculty members with a broad range of experience in applied psychology and effective talent management practice.

Not only shall we guide you every step of the way, but we might also challenge long-held views, assumptions, paradigms, and groupthink.

Process Deliverables

This scalable engagement has the following outcomes:

  • A Board-ready talent strategy
  • A talent scorecard
  • An implementation roadmap.


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