Team of creative people and designers in office smiling and being creative
ATD Blog

Design Your Talent Team to Work Strategically

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

“I want our team to work more strategically. What skill building workshop do you have that could address this need?”

That is a request I have received on numerous occasions over the years. And while building capability is likely a part of the solution, it is not sufficient if the goal is to move from a tactical to a more strategic, business-linked operation. The team must be designed to support and enable strategic work; only then can the skills that are developed transfer into the workplace and be used. Below are four areas that need to be designed to ensure a successful transition to a more strategic function.

Form a Strategic Mission Statement

A mission statement is a short and concise description of the results produced by your team, not just the solutions that are provided. In essence, it is your elevator pitch. An example of a strategic mission statement would be “We provide consulting, learning, assessment, and measurement services that result in enhanced performance of our employees and the organization in which they work.”

Compare that statement to this mission: “We develop the skills, enhance the knowledge, and expand perspectives of all employees.” This second statement is very tactical in scope because developing skill and knowledge is a tactical input—but what is the output or strategic result of that enhanced capability? Business dials never move because of what people know; they move because of what people do with what they know. Therefore, a strategic mission is one that focuses on the result of enhancing performance and the organization.

Align the Team’s Work Process to Support the Strategic Mission

Frequently, a talent team’s work process does not support a strategic mission. Many instructional design processes focus on identifying and addressing learning needs. A strategic mission requires we identify and address performance needs that address one or more business requirements. Therefore, a strategic talent team’s work process needs to include the following steps:

  • Form and deepen partnerships with mid and senior level leaders.
  • Reframe solution requests into discussions of performance and business results.
  • Proactively identify strategic opportunities on which to partner.
  • Determine what performance and business information (if any) is required before moving ahead.
  • Determine root causes for performance and business gaps.
  • Agree with business leaders on the set of solutions required to address identified gaps and their causes.
  • Measure results from solutions for performance change and business impact.

These steps are in addition to identifying learning needs as well as designing and developing learning solutions.


Align Organizational Structure to Support the Strategic Mission

There are multiple aspects to consider regarding organizational structure. Most talent teams with which I have worked do not have the option of adding staff. Yet moving to a strategic mission will add work to an already full plate. The need is to find ways to offload some of the current work so there is available time to work strategically. Here are two proven ways to do this:

Determine how to offload transactional work, if the volume of that work is high.
Transactional work addresses the needs of single people. Requests such as “What course do you recommend for leadership skills?” and “Send me a report of the training delivered to date” are examples of transactional requests. They are high volume with a sense of urgency to respond. If the volume of this work is high, it will overcome the opportunity to work on strategic, long-term projects. Consider technological solutions (like an LMS). Another option is to form a shared service center that is designed to manage all transactional requests. It is very important that people on the team who are accountable for identifying and assessing strategic opportunities not be required to do this category of work.

Identify programs and services that will no longer be delivered by the team.
For example, training programs that build individual skills, such as writing skills or communication skills, would be candidates. Retain the services of external suppliers to deliver this type of program when needed.


Finally, it is vital that there be at least one job on the team assigned to complete each step within the strategic work process. Which job is responsible for building and deepening client relationships? What job is responsible for proactively identifying strategic opportunities on which to partner? Creating role and job accountability that is clear to all is critical to success.

Align Staff and the Team Work Environment to the Strategic Mission

In the blog post I wrote in February 2018, I listed the competencies required of people who work as performance consultants. In addition to hosting some people with those skills, it is vital that the work environment of the team support operating strategically. Some items to consider:

  • Those who are to build and deepen client partnerships must have direct access to leaders with whom these relationships are to be formed.
  • Reward systems need to align with strategic work. It is not enough that quality learning solutions are designed and delivered; it is vital that performance and business impact results are obtained from those solutions. It is also important that leaders are satisfied with the contributions being made at a strategic level. Measures need to be in place to determine the degree to which these results are occurring.

As you can see, skills are important—but so are process, structure, and the work environment. When all of these elements are designed and aligned, strategic work and results will be achieved!

To learn more, please join me at ATD 2018 for the session, “Transition Your Department to Get Into the Performance Business.”

About the Author

Dana Robinson is a recognized thought leader in the areas of performance consulting, strategic partnering, and human performance improvement. She has co-authored seven books with her husband, Jim Robinson. The most recent is the Performance Consulting, 3rd edition, co-authored with Jack and Patti Phillips and Dick Handshaw. Dana is currently lead performance consultant with Handshaw Inc. and can be reached at [email protected]

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.