Organizations are always looking for ways to excel — whether by innovating, improving performance or gaining a competitive advantage. But what sets great companies apart from the rest? An important ingredient for success is your people. That’s where talent management comes in — it’s the foundation on which to develop strong employees, and therefore strong organizations.

What is talent management? It is the integrated process of attracting, developing, motivating and retaining great employees. This includes finding the right talent and giving them the tools they need to succeed and thrive. Talent management ultimately drives performance, allowing your organization to fulfill its mission and achieve its goals. 

Since talent management encompasses a variety of practices, let’s break down the four pillars of talent management here.

1. Attract great talent

Before you can practice talent management, you’ll need to find the right talent. Once you determine your hiring needs and fill out a job requisition, the recruitment process can begin. Learn how recruiters identify, select and hire talent in this post.

2. Develop employees that excel

Congratulations! Your talent attraction efforts paid off and you’ve hired a new employee. Now it’s time to get them up to speed on the company and the responsibilities of their role. The first step in employee development is onboarding, which is the process of integrating new hires into the organization and familiarizing them with your company. Schedule formal orientation sessions, provide online learning tools and create opportunities for new employees to get to know their team members. Onboarding is a critical step for new hires to feel confident in their role, increasing their likelihood of success. Strong performance and integration with the team early on also increases the odds that new employees will stay with your company long-term.

Learning and development isn’t just for new hires — it should continue throughout an employee’s tenure. Internal or external training, such as an online education series or access to formal credentialing programs, allow employees to gain specific skill sets and expertise to help them grow and thrive in their career. Many companies also offer learning and development perks, such as tuition and conference fee reimbursement. Learning and development investments pay dividends for employers because ultimately this helps employees do their job better, which will contribute to your organization’s overall success.

Performance management is another way to support employees on their learning and development journey. Setting tangible goals and metrics for each employee creates accountability. Managers should have open and honest conversations with their direct reports regularly — frequent and immediate feedback is commonly used by agile companies. 360-degree feedback, in which employees receive input from peers and managers alike, is also a common practice. Round out your performance management toolkit with coaching and mentoring programs that provide additional support and guidance to your team.

3. Motivate your staff to succeed

Keeping employees motivated and engaged is key to productive and happy teams. Research from Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a world expert on happiness, shows that happiness is an important factor when choosing where to work while lack of happiness is a leading reason people consider leaving a job. Fostering a sense of belonging and purpose and providing rewards, perks and recognition are a few ways organizations can motivate employees and create a positive work environment. Indeed recently launched the Work Happiness Score, which gives employers insights into their employees’ key drivers of happiness so they can improve their employee experience. 

An upward career trajectory and opportunities for promotion are critical motivators for employees. Provide opportunities for staff to explore their strengths and interests so they can better understand what pathways they would like to take while contributing to organizational goals. Your HR department can outline various career pathing options, including both vertical and horizontal movements, to help facilitate these conversations.

4. Retain top performers

All of the factors described above contribute to higher employee retention rates. If the right people are selected, developed and continuously motivated, they are more likely to stay with your company. Organizational culture, or the values and behaviors that create your company’s unique environment, also plays a role. Use surveys and interviews to gain feedback from employees and examine metrics, such as turnover and attrition rates, to shed light on your talent management strengths and opportunities for improvement. 

The pillars of talent management don’t stand on their own — they interconnect to form a strong foundation on which to build a thriving business. Similarly, talent management isn’t just a role for HR. To become even more successful, all leaders at your organization must break down silos and collaborate to implement a successful talent management strategy. By working together to attract, develop, motivate and retain great employees, you will create a resilient organization that stands apart from the competition. 

This is part of a series covering fundamental topics in HR and recruiting. Want more? Learn more about what is recruitment or what is a job requisition.