Last September, just a few months into my tenure as CEO of Slingshot SEO, I introduced the concept of "Talent Mapping" to our management team. Though the idea and process of talent mapping were quite new to our young but ambitious team of leaders, they embraced the concepts and have since taken this strategy to new heights.

Here are seven steps we took to create a talent map for our business. They can be applied to many growing businesses. As steps are outlined below, their implications for business success will become apparent.

1. Which Talents Does Your Business Need?

We began by identifying the talents that are key to our business and vital to serving our clients. In this step we didn't specify whether we had people that possess said talents; rather we identified the need for the talents themselves. For this step, it was important to consider the big picture, so we looked beyond obvious skills such as sales or customer service. We focused on pinpointing what could truly make a difference, even if the skills were hard to come by.

2. Finding the Right People.

Obviously, the next step was to discover which individuals in the company possessed the talents and skills we needed. Past experience has shown me that it's often surprising how valuable certain people are to your company in a different way than they were being utilized. The enlightenment is further enhanced when those individuals are mapped in relation to your other employees.

3. Finding More of the Right People.

Next we outlined skills needed in new hires in order to provide the talents specified in step one that weren't represented in our organization. Our hiring process became quite strategic from there on out.

4. Anticipating Changes.

In this step, our focus shifted to identifying any members of our team who might be at risk of leaving for any reason. This part of the exercise also included stating why and when team members might leave. Looking back now, 6 months later, most of our predictions were spot on!

5. Anticipating Growth.

We then asked each leader to identify employees who were hungry for career growth and ready to take on more responsibilities in the next 12-24 months. This step posed some of the greatest challenges, especially when I asked if anyone would be promotable more than one level higher in our company within the next 24 months! Once again, time has proven our leaders to be a bit prophetic in their analysis. These predictions are especially true based upon our 100%+ growth rate.

6. Planning Ahead.

Step five led our team into succession planning for certain roles within our organization. This step was so vital I'll explore it in more detail in a later post. It can expose critical gaps in your future organizational structure no matter how flat it may be.

7. Create a Visual.

The final step was for our leaders to map their team on a grid or matrix. Summarizing findings in a visual manner was key to our success in this process. Our vertical axis had these values starting from the top: Exceptional, Outstanding, Meets Expectations, Below Expectations, Unsatisfactory and Too New to Rate. Our horizontal axis had these values starting from the left: Too New to Rate, Marginal, Well Placed, Promotable and High Potential.

Why and how did our team so readily embrace these concepts? Perhaps the answers to those questions can only be found by giving it a try. I can ensure that you and your team will enjoy the process and reap the benefits of talent-mapping time and time again. We sure have at Slingshot SEO!