Cross-Border Business Blog

Posted by David McComb on September 12, 2017

The Talent Pipeline

David McComb, one of InterTradeIreland’s Trade consultants, takes us through the importance of people in our business, the value of a talent pipeline and considers the benefits of graduates being part of this talent pipeline.

People - our greatest asset?

We often use the expression,”our people are our greatest asset,” but do we really mean it?  In some cases we may not have asset we need, we may have an underperforming asset or have no sense of the assets we need in the future.  When looking at our organisations we focus on the need for working capital or improved cashflow, on our business systems and processes, on acquiring new equipment or technology, on sales and marketing plans.  Whilst these are all vital in sustaining and growing any business, they are often focused on at the expense of our greatest asset – our people.

The value of a talent pipeline

Ensuring a steady stream of the right people with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes is critical to equipping our businesses to realise their future plans.  Each generation creates the work environment for the next generation, yet the young people we employ now face a working future very different from the one that created the organisations that we currently work in. Things are changing radically in the labour market, in our economy and in society and this new talent will have to lead us through those changes.

Attempting to categorise new entrants into the job market is ongoing, but the mix of cultures, education backgrounds, intellectual traditions and age-groups means that categorisation brings little benefit, the focus needs to move to working with individuals, enabling them to shape their own future and the future of our organisations. We need to focus on nurturing and harnessing the talents of each person. We need to provide them with employment and development opportunities in organisations whose purpose, culture and commitments demonstrate that they are organisations worth working for. Reassuringly however, the next generation of talent want the same things we have all always wanted; to belong, to feel valued, to be challenged and to grow.

Graduates and your talent pipeline

New entrants into the job market come in many forms including; school leavers, apprentices, unemployed, those returning to work or graduates.  Graduates in particular provide a ready source of skilled, technologically savvy, energetic and ambitious young people and should form part of the talent pipeline for any business. 

Here are 5 steps to recruiting and developing your graduate pipeline. Success in building your pipeline will hinge around your ability to integrate these steps.

      1. Plan

Senior management involvement and alignment to your business strategy are the essential starting points.  Start by analysing the future needs of your business to ensure your talent pipeline corresponds with your future needs.  Also essential is defining the competencies you need to drive the growth of the business, this will ensure that you are targeting the graduates you need

      2. Attract

Remember that not only are you looking for the right graduate, but they are also looking for the right employer - matching is critical to longer term success.  What you have in place for your existing graduates will influence your desirability for potential graduate recruits.  Social media is a very powerful tool and research into your work practices, your development approach and the opportunities that exist, is relatively straightforward. Attracting the right graduate is now a multi-channel activity ranging from use of social media, recruitment websites, word-of-mouth or via a graduate programme. Increasingly organisations are creating their own in-house graduate programmes to attract and develop in house talent.

      3. Assess

Fortunately there are now a range of inexpensive and simple to use assessment tools that can supplement your judgments on a graduate’s knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Here are four key areas for assessing your graduate talent:

  • What experience do graduates need prior to working for you and what is essential in terms of degree background?
  • What should graduates know about your company before being offered a role?
  • What competencies will graduates need in order to help the organisation achieve its goals?
  • Are they a match for your existing team? Will they fit in yet challenge existing behaviours and performance levels.

Conduct regular reviews of your talent to ensure that your plans are being implemented, that bench strength is sufficient and the right people are still being developed and rewarded appropriately.

     4. Develop

Using the services of a specialist Talent Management organisation can reap significant rewards in developing your graduate talent.   Development of graduates isn’t just on the job or an occasional training course.  It will typically include a blended approach including diagnostics, workshops, team-building, coaching, mentoring, improvement projects, evaluation and accreditation.   This approach typically leads to higher satisfaction, better retention and better performance as well maintaining the focus on capacity, capability and succession requirements.

Best practice recommends that your development experiences should include: profit and loss responsibility, people and project management, working with peers, understanding your business, building control systems, building courage and resilience, influencing skills, as well as defining and solving problems.

     5. Reward

Rewards appropriate to current performance and future potential are important at any level in the business.  It therefore follows that those businesses that offer above average rewards, recruit and retain above average graduates! However, it's not all about compensation.  Graduates need feedback on their performance, they need thanked for their contribution, they need to be continually developed, they need exposure to senior management and customers and they need to be stimulated and challenged. Non-cash forms of recognition can also be a powerful retention tool.

People are our greatest asset and graduates are an important element of this.  Being intentional in managing your talent pipeline in general and your graduate pipeline in particular are key components in ensuring that you have a high–performing asset.


David is a Director with Full Circle Management Solutions, the consultants who deliver our Acumen Sales and Marketing Programme. He is an experienced consultant and trainer with 29 years’ experience working in aerospace, telecommunications, printing, food and consultancy.  With a strong project management background, David’s focus is on working with individuals and organisations who share his passion for continuous improvement, lifelong learning and excellence in business performance.