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Building Leaders Who Build the Future: Aligning Talent Strategies with Business Goals

We hear it again and again: People are a company’s most important asset. Even the most brilliant, well-thought-out competitive strategy simply won’t come off without the right people in the right places to make it happen.

That simple truth is at the heart of one of the most elusive goals CEOs face today: aligning talent management strategies with strategic initiatives. It’s a challenge increasingly evident to today’s business leaders. In fact, according to a recent PwC study, only 12% of senior executives feel their businesses and human resource leaders are aligned in terms of recognizing talent as a strategic differentiator and have aligned talent practices with their business strategies.

“The level of concern that CEOs reported about the ability to have the right talent in their companies to be able to further grow was at an all-time high in 2015,” Jeff Hesse, who leads PwC’s U.S. Human Capital Consulting Practice, told CEOs gathered for a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by PwC.

“Only 12% of senior executives feel their businesses and human resource leaders are aligned in terms of recognizing talent as a strategic differentiator and have aligned talent practices with their business strategies.”

While recruiting and retaining top performers has long been a competitive imperative for companies, trends like globalization and urbanization are intensifying the challenge for business leaders, who increasingly face a dearth of talent in the places where they most need it. As Rob Schneider, CEO of the office and hotel furniture company Kimball International put it, “A challenge we’re very much focused on is tracking talent. How can we be the employer of choice everywhere we’re located to track the best people?”

Shifting demographics is another frequently mentioned factor roundtable participants cited as fueling the talent challenge. “We have a bit of a generational gap between the 65-year-old owners and the new talent—a lot of them millennials—coming in,” said Matthew Robinson, CEO of W.A. Robinson Asset Management. “I’d really like to know how to bridge that gap.”

With millennials making up an increasing portion of the workforce, many business leaders expressed similar concerns about attracting, retaining and developing young talent. “Our challenge is building the next generation of leadership,” asserted Ken Bram, president of the valve manufacturing company Ausco. “At 50, I’m the youngest on the leadership team.”

In grappling with all of these disparate forces that affect efforts around talent management, companies can easily lose sight of the big-picture goal of aligning talent strategies with corporate strategy—particularly if human resources is shunted off to the side.

“Giving the chief of human resources a seat at the management-team table is probably the most important thing,” said Hesse, who noted that senior-level support is critical to alignment.

About Jennifer Pellet

As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.