The Talent Cycle and your firm

If you’ve had any experience working with or in human resources, whether with an internal HR function at yours or an employer’s firm, or with outsourced specialist consultancies, you might have heard of the phrase ‘talent cycle’. In layman’s terms, the talent cycle refers to the journey of employees through a firm, from recruitment right through to exit, and it’s something that employers should be aware of if they want to get the most out of their people.

Managing this cycle effectively is rather neatly called ‘talent management’, and is about knowing which people you need to reach your business goals.

Firstly let’s have a look at an overview of the whole talent cycle:

The Talent Cycle


Above are the generally accepted stages in the talent cycle, and each of the steps can be managed by employers again to reach certain business goals. Most people would recognise recruiting and hiring, or perhaps learning and development, but here’s a rundown of each of the factors in the cycle:

Identifying and attracting

As with most of the steps, this one is self-explanatory. When looking at bringing in people from outside of the organisation, you need to be aware of your brand with regards to employment, and wherever possible manage it so that it brings in the sort of demographic you’re after. If your business goal includes rapid expansion, you may want to attract energetic and ambitious staff who will desire certain things from a job role, whereas a position that is more concerned with consolidation might favour experience, and in turn job safety.

Recruiting and Hiring

This part of the cycle might seem like the most straightforward,  but with the average hire costing anything from £500 to £10,000, it isn’t the one you particularly want to get wrong. We’ve got lots more information on recruiting and hiring here, but basically recruitment and hiring often takes an approach from more than one angle to get the right person for the job.


Despite the name, all this refers to is getting new talent ‘settled in’; the first few months of a new hire can be very important. Candidates will have to deal with things like gaining local knowledge, fitting in with the company culture, working well with teams that can sometimes have been operating for a while together, and all whilst working out a strategy for the first phase of their tenure. Having a good support system in place will allow employers to spot any problems early and help employees overcome them.

Learning and Development

Good employees, and particularly good leaders and managers, never stop learning. Making sure that there is a framework for constant learning and development is essential to the development and growth of a business as a whole, which applies to new hires too, no matter what their previous experience is. Rather than an indication of something missing, learning, development and management development is a signifier of a desire to always improve.

Engaging and Retaining

This is where all the investment already put into talent management can become unstuck. Holding on to employees is particularly important if a lot of hard work has gone into recruiting and hiring, and if people who by all accounts are perfect for the firm are still leaving, there could be something wrong here. Crafting a supportive work environment, monitoring problems and addressing them and an ability to deliver on the desires of employees all contribute to successful retention.

Managing Performance

Making sure there are good criteria for success, that people know what is expected of them and conversely what they expect in return is the bulk of managing performance. Our performance management and appraisal page here goes into a bit more detail on this, and how performance management goes hand in hand with succession planning (below).

Leadership Pipeline

What happens if you’re faced with the sudden exit of several employees at a management level? Do you start looking outside the organisation to fill the vacant positions, or look internally to move someone up? The leadership pipeline deals with internal leadership planning, and how companies can nurture their own leaders internally, with the added benefit of dealing with a known entity who similarly knows the company.

Succession Planning

This is where planning for the aforementioned exits comes in again. As we’ve said, having multiple departures can be difficult to manage, and succession planning looks at how each role fits in to the organisation, and evaluates the risks of departure. Having suitably evaluated replacements is the next step, particularly if the goals of the business or the role in question is changing, or is likely to in the near future.


Dealing with the exit of employees is never easy, particularly long-serving and/or seemingly indispensable ones. Its key here to stay on good terms with anybody leaving the organisation, as this will reflect on your firm one way or the other. It’s also important to keep in mind any sensitive information or services could be lost to a rival.

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