Get Talent Planning Right for 2022: How Routine Reviews Get it Wrong This Year

Congratulations! You made it through 2021 performance evaluations.

Before patting yourself on the back and using those results to dive into 2022 talent planning, take a deep breath, stop, and think about the new context. Organizations gearing up to do their routine talent review and succession planning processes will likely get it wrong for 2022.

Between the War for Talent, the Great Resignation and COVID-19’s trigger on the search for meaning at work, we are in a period that is anything but routine, and leadership and HR’s focus needs to shift three ways:



Emphasis on high potentials

Key functional contributors

Succession for key roles

Succession for key skills

Individual successors

Developing a pool of successors

Think back on your most recent organization talent review -perhaps using that old friend the 9-box grid (you know the one -ranking potential on one axis, performance on the other, resulting in designations like high potentials/Stars, high professionals, problem hires, core employees, etc.). Be honest; where does the bulk of the leadership conversation happen? It is almost always on the high potentials and the problem hires. If that is true for your organization, you are endangering your business. 

Changing your mindset to focus on key contributors -high experts who deliver high performance -can get you better results and organizational sustainability now. Replacing key contributors who have the deep technical or functional skills and particular market knowledge your company needs to thrive into the future is always daunting, they now may be in fact harder to recruit than “high pos,” and you may have even lost some already. These employees are at considerable risk of “brown out” or dropping in engagement, today. While high potential employees may be at increased risk of being “poached,” they are less likely to be at risk of lowered engagement since they still get access to opportunities, recognition, and management attention. You could be leaving your key contributors more vulnerable to being lured away by a strong job market -especially for highly skilled workers.

The high professionals have likely been in their fields/roles awhile, and the three things they need to stay engaged may have been ignored: new learning, recognition that matters to them, and the ability to work on projects they find motivating. Without these, they will either leave or more likely, burn out. Leaders who take responsibility for career conversations with this group, providing the kind of learning and work that matters to them, and recognizing their contributions, can turn this around. 

You can gain further organizational advantage by doing skill succession planning at all levels and having some of these key contributor employees engage in upskilling other members to create skill sustainability for the business. Mapping the technical, functional, and market skills these high professionals have, as well as the leadership skills traditionally identified in succession plans, and then reviewing the “core employee” group (average potential, good performance) to assess who would be strong candidates to train can build engagement and ensure talent depth in the areas that considered the most important for your organization. Conducting this type of review provides managers insights about the talent multiple levels below the most senior members, and enough time to create mobility rather than the need for outside hires.

Lastly, while this climate does require organizations to have replacement plans for key roles in the event of a sudden departure (the “if a bus hits X” scenario plan), long-term leadership succession planning is more successful if it is focused on developing pools of leadership that could run aspects of the business rather than focusing on which individual could be readied to fill a particular role 1-2 years from now. Organizations and positions are constantly in flux and those roles may not exist in that time frame! And it is more difficult than ever to retain key individuals -plans that attempt this put the enterprise at risk. 

Reviewing the skills needed for where the business will be in 2-3 years, and the corresponding skills gaps for leaders at least two levels down, can ensure that when the need arises and the jobs morph, you are likely to have people ready. The inevitable gaps left by retirement and resignation can be used as opportunities to develop multiple others -dividing jobs to provide those opportunities, assigning interim leadership, or advancing someone earlier than planned with lots of support. 

Change your 2022 talent focus to identify the key contributors you cannot lose, skills you cannot run your current and future business without, develop your bench, and stage a winning battle in the war for talent!

Additional posts from Penny Locey:

Should I “Settle” for a Lower Level Job Offer During COVID-19?

Dreading Those Career Conversations?

5 Skills HR Teams Can Use to Improve 2021 Talent Engagement & Mobility

Don’t Talk Performance -Discuss Value and Change the Review Experience

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