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What is talent mapping?

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When you think of talent mapping, the first thing that might come to mind is hiring. There’s a hiring need, a business case is made for an addition to headcount, the budget is approved, and the recruitment process begins. 

But talent mapping is so much more than that. In fact, talent mapping is an integral part of a talent-optimized organization—especially at companies that are focused on growth.

At The Predictive Index®, talent mapping plays a pivotal role not only in aligning our talent strategy to our business strategy, but also in elevating our human resources function from a necessary evil to an indispensable strategic partner.

So, what exactly is talent mapping? And what can it do for your business? Read on to find out.

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Talent mapping 101

Talent mapping involves finding the right talent, putting talent in the right roles, and retaining top talent through career pathing. It’s a continuous activity that grows and iterates with the business as needs change. 

Talent mapping requires you to take three essential actions:

  • Proactively identify any new roles your organization will need to drive its business strategy
  • Refresh existing job roles and descriptions to more accurately reflect your organizational needs in executing your business strategy
  • Create compelling upward and lateral career paths and communicate those advancement opportunities to retain top talent

It’s crucial that all mapped roles are tied to delivering tangible results to propel your business strategy forward. Just as important, talent mapping needs to be visible in your organization.

Successful talent mapping requires thoughtful planning.

Intentional and strategic talent mapping to business needs requires proactivity asking and answering as many questions as you can ahead of time. At PI, regardless of whether we’re looking to add to headcount or move someone internally, these questions need to be asked:

  • What are the behavioral demands of the job?
  • What will the new hire do for the balance of the team? (E.g., behavioral attributes, diversity, distribution of work, etc.)
  • What are the anticipated needs for the new hire?
  • How will the new hire’s compensation affect equity across the team, if at all?

Once those questions are asked and answered, the talent mapping process can continue. Without the proper prep work, a well-intentioned HR team can unintentionally shoot itself in the foot

For example, a candidate may successfully make it through the interview process, but at the offer stage, it’s revealed that no one discussed budget and this ideal candidate is now outside the compensation range of what the business can afford. This puts the business in an uncomfortable position and creates a negative candidate experience. This could have been easily avoided with the right communication and prep work.

Communication is the difference between proactive strategy and reactive measures.

Talent mapping requires a lot of behind the scenes work, but that doesn’t mean it has to live in the shadows. When people don’t understand a process or reasoning behind a decision, they make their own assumptions—and not always the right ones. 

At PI, we value transparency, and so we’ve designed our processes to reflect that. When it comes to talent mapping, we communicate openly about available career opportunities. For internal candidates interested in making a move to a new team, we make sure they understand they need to go through the same hiring process as an external candidate. Hiring managers are made to understand this, too. 

Without communication and transparency about the process, there’s the risk of confusion. 

If an internal candidate were to quietly move through the process and suddenly be hired into a new unknown role on a new team, this can be misinterpreted as an appointment. While the HR team, hiring manager, and candidate all were aware of the work that went into that transfer, the perception by others might be that this was simply the prize in an office popularity contest. And that creates cultural unrest and distrust of HR. 

When it comes to building and maintaining culture, talent mapping is key.

It would be easy to hire talent with the hard skills necessary to perform a job well, but that would mean missing out on an essential aspect of talent mapping: culture.

There’s a reason why Peter Drucker’s “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” quip resonates with leaders across industries and functions. A business strategy is only as good as the people driving it—and those people create the culture that defines the business.  

When talent mapping is done right and employees feel empowered in their roles to deliver the tangible results necessary to execute your business strategy, the right culture emerges. 

As the company grows and you continue to hire, redefine existing roles, and communicate advancement opportunities, your culture will be reinforced. It might even evolve into something greater than you imagined. 

Talent mapping will always be on pace with the business it serves. A culture of high performance will beget more opportunities for growth. For strategic HR teams who are flexible and proactive, deviating from an established headcount plan to meet new business needs is a non-issue. 

At PI, we constantly find ourselves at a 50/50 split between recruiting for roles anticipated the year prior and new roles opened in the last six months to accommodate a shift in business needs.

Through talent mapping, you can develop evangelists and leaders to drive your strategy.

Effective talent mapping creates evangelists and leaders at all levels. When employees are in the right roles—and are able to tie their performance to tangible results that directly impact the business strategy—they’re more likely to be engaged and stay with you. When you engage and retain top talent, you will see your business performance grow stronger.

And sometimes top talent comes in a different form than what you might think. That’s why it’s important to see talent mapping as a chessboard, not just as individual hires for individual roles. 

Hiring the right talent is key, and so if a candidate were to interview and perhaps be considered overqualified for that particular role, it’s important to see if there will be any leadership opportunities that candidate could grow into. If yes, spend the next several months assessing leadership potential. Promoting from within creates evangelism, and especially in a fast-growing company like PI, this can’t be undervalued.

Talent mapping is not a one-time action.

It’s a continuous process that will directly impact your business strategy. When done right, you will have the right people in the right roles who build and reinforce your culture, creating evangelists and leaders along the way who will drive your business strategy and propel growth. And it will make your HR team an indispensable strategic partner. 


Will is the Director of Talent Optimization at PI.

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