Develop a talent management strategy and see your business flourish

Most businesses will agree that their employees are their biggest asset. To find out more about managing talent at Fasthosts, we spoke to Stacey Ings, HR Director. Stacey has seen the business grow considerably in the last five years and believes that good talent management is essential in planning for the future…

What is talent management all about?

It’s about identifying the potential in people and deciding how best to manage that within the business. By understanding what people want to do when they join us, we can work out how to help them progress whilst meeting business objectives. It’s not just about the role you’re recruiting someone into when they join; it’s about investing in the development of their skills in order to fulfil a future business need.

How do Fasthosts attract talent?

It’s important to try and create the right external perception. We try to do this through publishing case studies on our website showing what jobs we have within the company and how people have progressed within the company so far. We still have a lot of work to do to improve our online presence and we recognise that social media is our biggest asset. We have cut right back on using agencies and recruit directly, many of the people we recruited in the last year were members of  professional networking sites but this isn’t a tool that we utilise enough currently and we are looking to change this.

What resources are used to develop people?

We have an in-house training team that identify training needs both at a business and an individual level, deliver internally designed training courses, write e-learning material and organise external courses including technical and professional qualifications. We use formal development plans and annual appraisals which are directly linked to the pay review. We place a high emphasis on employees taking ownership for managing their own development (supported by their line manager) and expect a minimum 50/50 contribution in terms of an employee’s ability to push for and find relevant training. We encourage people to use a learning style that suits them best and try to tailor their training to this.

How do you keep training costs down?

We actually have a very healthy training budget for a company of our size and it’s rare for a request to be declined but talent management doesn’t have to be expensive. What has worked well is having training courses that have been written and delivered internally but externally accredited; enabling the employee to gain a formal qualification. An example of this is our Management Academy course for current and future leaders which, is accredited by the ILM.  In addition we also have coaches within the business who help colleagues develop specific skills.

What advice would you offer a SMB business looking to develop a talent management strategy?

I’d suggest they bring someone in with good, strong business skills that can act as a mentor to help develop more junior members of staff. I’d also advise building good relationships with local schools and colleges which in turn would build a better name for the business in the local area and create a talent pipeline. Essentially, schools hold the talent of the future so appeal to students early on, support them part way through university and then bring them back in when they’ve graduated.

And how can a business retain talent if there aren’t the progression routes?

They should look at the challenges and benefits their jobs can offer and not worry about job titles. Success should be measured on where an employee is placed within the business, what their peers think of them, how well they are challenged and perceived within the business.

It’s about empowering the employee to believe they can make a difference, recommend changes and understand how that will develop them and impact on the business.

What are the plans for Fasthosts over the next twelve months?

We’re a short way off launching our learning portal which will enable employees to search for courses available to them and have a go at some learning bites that may ignite a new passion. It’s important we don’t forget about the support areas of the business which need developing as much as the technical side and break the trend of just one career path being available for certain jobs.

We’re also looking at creating a talent pool that will work across all areas of the business.

Based on what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you were starting out?

I think it’s important to acknowledge when we need an expert and recruit this talent in with the view to develop people internally to take that role on in the future.

Provide people who want to develop with the appropriate support for them by making sure the support mechanism that is in place suits how they work and what they need.  In addition it’s important to find out how they feel about the development plan that they are going through and check things haven’t moved too quickly for them.

Does the effort that is put into developing people outweigh the frustrations when they leave?

Absolutely! You only need to look at how many internal promotions have been made over last 12 months to see that. It’s positive even if people leave, knowing we have developed and utilised their skills for as long as possible.

It is better to develop employees and lose them than not to develop them and lose them as a disgruntled employee that could have had the potential to progress and stay within the business.

And you need to consider what happens when they leave. Are they going to recommend us as somewhere to work or are they going to say Fasthosts isn’t interested in how they manage their talent or develop people.

What things make talent management successful at Fasthosts?

Being a relatively flat structure can make traditional career advancement difficult but our biggest strength is that we are flexible and respond quickly to the changing business environment. We allow people to gain exposure or informal experience through projects in a safe learning environment.

I think it’s vital that objectives are set for employees and they have the ability to achieve them.  In addition it is essential that the company is open about what they can do and how they can support employees in their development whilst never promising something that they can’t deliver on.

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