Employer Branding

4 Steps to Creating an Effective Talent Strategy

At our most recent series of Director Clubs, we teamed up with experts from Grant Thornton to lead discussions on the current talent landscape. We were able to draw on the findings of Grant Thornton’s ‘People Power’ research to highlight how talent and skills can be one of the biggest accelerators of business growth, but also one of the biggest barriers.

This research highlighted that 1 in 2 high growth businesses was currently finding it hard to recruit people with the right skills and more than a third found retaining top talent a challenge. With this in mind, one of the areas we covered was looking at different steps to building an effective talent strategy and addressing these challenges. We talked through the four following steps, based on the framework from management guru David Ulrich’s ‘build versus buy versus borrow’ resourcing approach.

1. Build

With more organizations finding it harder to recruit people with the right skills, many are looking to invest in learning and development to build their own talent pipeline from within. Building the skills of existing employees can prevent organizations from needing to ‘buy’ or ‘borrow’ talent. It can also provide the core support needed to ‘bridge’ employees into new roles.

Choosing to invest in learning and development can also bring a wealth of other business benefits. It encourages creativity among employees, which will help to fuel innovative ideas and investment into people’s career progression can help to retain high-caliber employees. Investing in building the skills of your employees will also help to bolster your succession pipeline and if you aim to create an inclusive culture of learning, which enables a diverse range of employees to progress, you will help to create a great leadership dynamic in the future.

Start by running a skills audit to understand what areas you need to build, both now and in the future. Training people takes time, so being able to plan ahead will help to ensure you have the skills and experience needed at the right time. If you identify an immediate need, buying or borrowing talent is likely to be the better solution.

2. Buy

If your organization doesn’t have the capacity or resources to build skills from within, or if you have identified an immediate skills gap, buying new talent by recruiting externally could be the best option. It also has the added benefit of new employees bringing in fresh perspectives, as well as extra skills, which will help to increase innovation.

If you do decide to recruit, make sure you are as prepared as possible to compete for the best candidates. Organizations are looking to make their recruitment processes as agile as possible to reduce the risk of an exceptional candidate accepting a competitor’s job in the meantime. They are considering every stage of the candidate experience, as even the smallest thing could be the deciding factor for potential candidates. We are also seeing an increasing number of organizations really looking to invest in building a strong employer brand to gain a competitive advantage. We support our clients in ensuring that they go to market with the most competitive proposition. Salary is no longer the deciding factor for most candidates and there are many other elements of an employer brand which can provide a competitive edge. Factors which make a real difference to people’s every day working life such as benefits packages, flexible working opportunities, the workplace environment, and an organization’s culture and values all play a big part in a candidate’s final decision.

3. Borrow

In some cases, borrowing talent on a short-term basis can be the best solution, especially if the skills gap identified is only for a particular project or due to an employee on leave. Temporary employees provide an immediate injection of skills and experience without the commitment of buying in a full-time employee. With an increasing number of people choosing to work flexibly, there is a growing network of skilled employees who are available on a temporary basis.

As with buying new talent, borrowing talent can also have the added benefit of bringing fresh perspectives. Temps and freelancers are likely to have worked across many different organizations, both in the same industry and outside of it. They can bring experience and knowledge of different systems and processes which could spark ideas you may not even have considered. Borrowing talent can also further support your internal talent building strategy, as existing employees will be able to learn from them while they are with you.


In today’s fast-changing world, some roles may have evolved or even becoming redundant. Part of an effective talent strategy is monitoring for this and looking to ‘bridge’ or support employees into a new position by identifying transferable skills and training opportunities. If suitable positions are not available within the organization, employers should still look to create a positive exit strategy in which the employee is supported to move on. Current and past employees are the biggest advocates of an organization’s employer brand. Their experience of working for you will affect what they say to other people and what they may share through online employer reviews.

By Gill Buchanan

Gill is a founding Director of Pure Resourcing Solutions has worked in the recruitment field since 1988. Gill’s experience is broad based and includes eight years of specialist recruitment experience within an international specialist recruitment company including five years working within financial services recruitment in Sydney, Australia.