Explore the transformative impact of strategic talent orchestration, steering beyond conventional workforce planning to drive accelerated growth and success in the vibrant landscape of scale-ups

By Riemer Ike Fokkema

In the dynamic realm of scale-ups, the focus on workforce and succession planning often takes a back seat to attracting investors and addressing technological challenges. Here, we shed light on the value of a proactive, future-oriented talent strategy and what the shortcomings are of more traditional approaches in this unique environment.

Leveraging talent to accelerate scale-ups

While working with scale-ups we often observe there is little to no time spent on workforce or succession planning. Most efforts go into attracting investors or making the promising technology work well with higher volumes. Once these conditions are met, talent starts to get higher priority yet often still in an unplanned, opportunistic way.

Traditional approaches to succession and workforce planning do not prove helpful either. The starting point is often to look for successors using the current state of the organisation and then identifying which positions are “key” and which talents are “ready”. First of all, in the situation of a scale-up or rapid growth, participating stakeholders all know the structures are nimble. Secondly, almost any role or talented person is needed in view of the massive amounts of challenges along the road of scaling up. As the value added is not seen, the process soon starts to be reduced to merely satisfying the need for governance or control requirements.

Orchestrating the move from a small band to a complete orchestra

What else can be done to enable scaling up from a talent perspective? The biggest strategic challenge is to move from a small group of specialists into a complete multidisciplinary organisation. To use an analogy, moving from a small band to a complete orchestra or even multiple orchestras across the globe. So instead of taking the current organisation as a starting point, it is all about the future organisation with a timeframe linked to the scale up roadmap.

Instead of the traditional focus of having successors in place for key positions, the focus can be redirected to anticipate talent needs in support of growth. Understanding what other areas of expertise, such as marketing & sales, product management or operations, are critical to the scale up roadmap provides the most optimal starting point. To finetune the sense of direction, levels can be used to distinguish differences in proficiency. Following the analogy of an orchestra, for each discipline, violins, cellos, trumpets and the like, you can map out the ideal composition of your orchestra to be a few years from now. Within each section, you determine the level (principal, first, second and third trumpets) and estimate the ideal quantity per level of expertise.

Observe your players continuously

After broadly aligning on the foreseeable state of the organisation and corresponding need for talent, the most challenging part comes into play. That is to realistically map the current and future state of your actual workforce. By providing stages to your talents, e.g. through business and product reviews, you can gather observations about your talents. 

Renown orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker typically take one step further using annual assessments (auditoria) to re-assess capabilities for their upcoming performances. Similar options are available to scale ups by using leadership, 180- or 360-degrees assessments. Observations by the leadership talent consultant enrich these assessments, providing a comprehensive picture of your current players against your to be orchestra.

Anticipating talent to accelerate your scale-up

Now the real strategic part of workforce planning comes into play. Having mapped your orchestra against the foreseeable state of your actual workforce reveals what talent you really need to accelerate your scale-up.

Attracting these talents is mission-critical and not a side or service job. This is where three strategic actions become most critical...

Scaling up is like moving from a small band to a complete and renown orchestra. Anticipating talent needs is mission critical and prevents lack of having the right people to become a bottleneck. Reflecting on this, do you leave talent building to chance or do you adopt a strategic approach to leverage talent for your scale-up? In the latter case, Boyden’s capabilities to globally source, assess and match are worth considering.

Reach out to Riemer Ike Fokkema for expert guidance in strategic talent orchestration and to accelerate the growth of your organization today.

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