Talent management for service leadership teams

What is talent management?

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, ‘talent management seeks to attract, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy individuals who are considered particularly valuable to an organisation. It should align with business goals and strategic objectives. By managing talent strategically, organisations can build a high-performance workplace, encourage a “learning” organisation, add value to their employer brand, and improve diversity management’.


In other words, talent management is about making sure we have the people with the right values in the right roles, and that they have access to the right opportunities, exposure, stretch and development to reach their potential – whether this is in their current role or for a future role


The NFCC has chosen to describe the whole workforce as talent. We all have talents, whether someone is an expert on breathing apparatus wear or the best at listening when a colleague has had a tough day.


Definitions of talent

‘Talent’ refers to those individuals who can make a difference to organisational performance, either through their immediate contribution or, in the longer term, by demonstrating the highest levels of potential in relation to their function, role, or future leadership opportunities.


This connects to the NFCC Leadership Framework in the following ways:

  • Leading yourself: Demonstrates pride in and passion for the service, seeks to develop and innovate, actively listens and is approachable, makes the best possible use of time at work, is self-reflective and aware of their personal impact on others
  • Leading others: Highly developed area of expertise, takes responsibility for decision-making, delegates effectively, develops confidence in others, is people- and outcome-focused, challenges negativity when it is a threat to improvement
  • Leading the function: Broad understanding of the service, monitors the performance, quality, and completion of goals, builds constructive relationships to deliver shared goals, enters into dialogue rather than conflict, solves problems creatively from a position of curiosity
  • Leading the service: In-depth understanding of the service, monitoring delivery and quality and leading corporate change


How does talent management benefit the organisation?

Talent management will enable your fire and rescue service to attract, develop, engage and retain top talent, improving colleagues’ experience and well-being. It is likely to increase productivity, minimise attrition and enable better succession planning.


To achieve our maximum potential, we all need to feel that we are listened to, understood and valued in our roles. It helps to understand your strengths, opportunities for development and other opportunities available to you.


You can help by developing and executing performance goals that are aligned with organisational objectives, and by participating in performance and development plans and discussions. This assists both individuals and the organisation.


Talent management will enable your fire and rescue service to identify and develop individuals, so they are ready to fill future vacancies, ensuring people moving into roles have a level of competence that maintains performance.


What are the benefits of talent management for individuals?

For individuals, talent management can:

  • Encourage continuous learning
  • Identify opportunities for development/promotion
  • Allow the organisation to make informed career management moves
  • Help build a high-performance workplace
  • Promote self-led development


How do we manage talent?

A talent conversation, such as an appraisal, evaluates performance (what is done) and behaviour (how it’s done) but also introduces thinking about an employee’s readiness (ability, engagement, aspiration) for progression/promotion. A talent conversation could also use a talent grid or tool to benchmark where someone sits at a given point in time.


The key to maximising an individual’s potential is the ability to have open and constructive conversations around an employee’s potential, including where they are now, where they want to be and how to be supported to get there


Talent conversations can be standalone or complement appraisal discussions; they could also be one-to-ones or ongoing career discussion throughout the year. These kinds of conversations can also be used to capture an organisational picture of talent (talent bench review) and to identify who will be nominated for promotion pools or leadership development programmes, and can inform succession planning. Outcomes from talent conversations can feed into your service’s training needs analysis and help you identify where to focus your resources (time and money) thus increasing efficiency.


What does this mean for service leaders?

Talent management needs to be driven from the top; service leadership teams should oversee the talent management strategy rather than delegating it to HR partners, and it should be continually reviewed and updated. Talent management should be explicitly linked with strategic planning, as effective leaders are required to fulfil the service’s goals.


Service leaders can also support the necessary allocation of fire and rescue service resources (time and money) to support talent management and succession planning.