Talented employees are the backbone of any organization, and, finding the 'right fit' for your organization can be complex. In the present day’s knowledge economy, the differentiator for success lies beyond technical or functional excellence. Whether it is a product or a services organization, talent is the single most critical factor. Organizations that consistently achieve results are those who have talent with multidimensional strengths.

With digital technology pervading all aspects of our lives, dynamics at the workplace have transformed radically over the years. Organizations have become flatter and hierarchical structures have been slowly declining, which emphasizes the need to increase speed and engagement. Career and social contracts with employees have changed with the workforce demanding rapid career growth, compelling and flexible work places, purpose and increased earnings. Therefore, it is imperative for talent management to start right from the time an organization starts engaging with its potential employees at the time of hiring, and continue right through the employee’s tenure at the firm.

In a landscape as competitive as ours, what should our approach be to build the right human capital?

Clichéd as it might sound, one of the most integral aspects that Business and HR leaders ought to focus on is a well-thought through Talent Strategy. In simpler words, it is knowing what kind of talent is needed at different levels, identifying the best talent sources, and, most importantly, estimating the cost of acquiring and retaining the relevant talent that is aligned with the organization's profitability and productivity goals. Ultimately, winning organizations are those that can effectively corroborate their talent needs along with their business strategies.

Businesses looking to attract and retain the best employees need to make strategic decisions about their hires that answer four integral questions - who, when, wherefrom and how. To support a competitive and growth-oriented work environment, they also need to make the right investments on their talent through work tools, rewards, benefits, learning, and recognition among other things to ensure retention.

As per the latest industry trends, global performance leaders have three things in common - they invest in intellectual assets, they play in fast-growing markets, and they have the most efficient operations. That could mean setting up operations in cities and towns where top talent in a particular industry would most likely want to live, work and play.

Organizations with the right talent strategy ensure a diversified talent mix that include fresh graduate or post-graduate hires from select institutions to build a pipeline for the future, lateral hires from related sectors, and even talent from completely unrelated industries with the expertise to provide an elusive skill gap. While this mix would depend on the business and growth ambitions of an organization and the stage of evolution it is at, it would need to be reviewed periodically for the organization to stay relevant and competitive in the long run.

The talent strategy would also need to assess the source mix of incoming talent. The more diversified it is, the more likely an organization is to attract the talent that is best suited for it. A caveat here is that the definition of 'best' would vary from one organization to another. There are several occasions wherein companies get into a trap of competing for the same talent just to 'fit in' to an aspirational employer brand. For instance, organizations might want to hire fresh business graduates to build a talent pipeline for the future, but forget that hiring from the country's top B-schools might not necessarily be relevant for them in the long run. The good news is that there are talent options available at different price points, and, being smart enough to identify what works for your organization is what intelligent recruiting is all about.

Employee experience is another aspect that is gaining increasing importance for HR now. Once you hire the right talent, it is important to create rich experiences for them holistically around careers, culture, compensation and benefits. Balancing the different elements beautifully makes it irresistible for talent to migrate. Culture and engagement are key differentiators for your employer brand, and it is imperative to ensure that your people practices bring alive the employee advantage you would like to offer. Today, employees expect clarity in goals, challenging work, access to information and management, real time honest feedback, and timely recognition. They are more receptive to feedback even if it is critical or negative, as against no feedback. The biggest value addition that feedback brings, is in reinforcing transparency and fairness in the organization, and learning at an individual level, which employees value.

Lastly, developing a learning culture is no longer just another fanciful idea. It is becoming more imperative for companies to cultivate learning if they wish to remain in business. With a clear majority of employees wanting career growth and fulfilment, poor or nonexistent training leads to lowered engagement levels and business performance.

With increasing use of technology and automation, some traditional jobs are becoming defunct, and roles that are emerging require quick thinking, creativity, and high social and emotional intelligence. This makes the ability of an organization and its employees to learn, more important than ever. Companies with nimble learners can react quickly to disruptions, adapt to meet the demands of a changing business climate, and harness a wealth of ideas for new products, services and processes.

The key to effective talent management is the active sponsorship and ongoing attention of an organization's leadership. For that, top leaders need to invest in creating engaged leaders who in turn build engaged teams under them. Accountability for people goals and metrics in addition to business results stand out as what sets apart the leader organization from the rest, because at the end of the day business success is all about its people. Organizations that lead with talent, clearly articulate attraction and retention of talent as a strategic priority, and are best described by their employees as a place where you can do great things while having a great time.