This Lee Colan opinion piece on startup talent pipelining, lists major action points alongside ways to cultivate a talent development mindset. Whether you’re the company founder, the Chief Operating Officer or the Human Resources Director, these points give some backbone to the many lines of enquiry talent development throws up. I’ve summarised his five steps from the article and added insights from our own leadership network:


Analyse the future needs of your business to ensure your talent pipeline does not lag behind. Identify the future positions that are considered critical to achieving your business goals. Next, conduct a ‘what if’ analysis to understand the impact to your current leadership team when a key player leaves. This will help you scope your talent management initiative.


Create an employer brand to help potential external candidates self-select. Your brand should not be for everyone. It should inherently attract those who relate to it and nudge others to look elsewhere.


Conduct periodic talent reviews to ensure that your plans are on track and still relevant versus the demands of the business. Often, at a lower level in the organisation, a 'hard-driver' may be very successful; however, at higher levels or in a new service line someone more adept at ‘soft power’ may be required.


Giving the best people developmental experiences that make business sense is key. These might involve cross-functional experiences, global assignments, coaching and carefully selected professional training. We would add that empowering the individual to craft their own professional development is particularly effective. This approach is evidenced in recent management studies.


Compensation is one tool of many and often not a primary motivator for the very top performers. It’s crucial to tell your top performers who they are, thank them for their contribution and recognise and nourish their aspirations. This could involve exposure to your top management and access to challenges that make business sense. Non-cash forms of recognition can serve as powerful retention tools, especially those that allow the very engaged to fly further and higher personally and professionally. Leaders in our network have greatly appreciated the opportunity to buy back holidays, the enablement of location flexibility and the funding to access sought-after executive coaches.

In most cases, talent pipelining will often involve a campaign and process that brings together research, relationship building and employer branding. Consider Collingwood Search to partner you in a way that allows your business to fully capitalise on existing resources or design and deliver the full process as a long-term managed service.