How to Increase the Impact of Your Talent Initiatives with Organization Guidance System (OGS)

By Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood | April 11, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Talent discussions should start by identifying targeted business outcomes that matter to business leaders. 
  • Organization Guidance System (OGS) Talent informs decision-makers about which talent initiatives drive key outcomes.
  • Combining OGS with talent discussion shifts talent initiatives from descriptive to prescriptive, delivering profound improvement.

We know it matters. Some go to war for it. Professional sports teams draft for it. Actors and musicians audition to show they have it. Others consider it the ultimate solution and try to manage it. Agents contract for it. Organizations build plans to leverage it. Some are innately endowed with it while others strive diligently to earn it. All try to grow it. Talent.

Talent (called workforce, individual competence, skills, expertise/know-how, a synonym for employees, and so forth) has been the hallmark of HR for decades. A multitude of programs and initiatives and untold millions have been invested to attract, retain, and upgrade talent. Yet, how do business and HR leaders know which talent initiatives deliver results?

We have spent the last three years creating an Organization Guidance System (OGS) that informs the impact of four human capability pathways (Organization, Leadership, Talent, Strategic HR) on five key results. 

In this article, we report the findings from our Organization Guidance System aggregated survey results across several global companies about which talent initiatives drive the following key outcomes: 

  • Employee 
  • Strategy/Business
  • Customer
  • Financial
  • Social Citizenship

Step 1: Identify and measure key outcomes

Prioritizing talent initiatives starts with identifying desired targeted business outcomes. The columns in Figure 1 suggest five stakeholder results that a company may prioritize [1] employee (well-being, competence), [2] business strategy (differentiated position, ability to execute), [3] customer (net promoter score), [4] investor/financial (profitability), and [5] social citizenship (environmental, social). Instead of talking about an innovative talent initiative, HR professionals should start talent discussions by identifying desired results that matter to business leaders.

Step 2: Distill and measure key talent initiatives.

Based on previous work outlined in the book Talent Accelerator and in Why of Work, we identify 18 talent initiatives we can assess. Based on global results, we determined that these 18 talent initiatives could be distilled into 10 initiatives that an organization could invest in (see Figure 2). We created a 40-item index (4 items for each of the 10 initiatives) to determine the extent to which each of the 10 talent initiatives exists in an organization.

Figure 2
Ten Primary Talent Initiatives
Talent Initiatives Assessment (To what extent do…)
1. Talent Acquisition We bring the right people into our organization
2. Manage Employee Performance We facilitate employee improvement through standards, evaluations, and rewards
3. Develop Employees We find ways to help employees become better
4. Encourage Diversity, Equity, Inclusion We grow the best talent available, no matter where they come from or what they look like
5. Manage Employee Careers and Promotions We manage careers and succession opportunities
6. Communicate With Employees We share information with employees, so they know what is expected
7. Retain the Best Employees We have the ability to keep our top performers
8. Manage Departing Employees We remove employees appropriately
9. Track Employee Engagement

We have good ways to track employee emotional response to work

10. Create a Positive Employee Experience We ensure employees have a positive personal experience at work


Step 3: Report status of talent challenges

We collected data on how well an organization performs on these ten talent initiatives (see Figure 3). This figure reports the overall mean (column A), variance (column B), and reliability (column C) of the measures of these 10 initiatives.

This figure indicates which of the 10 initiatives are better done (positive employee experience (#9) and communication (#5)) and which score lower (retaining employees (#6). The results also confirm that these are valid measures of the 10 dimensions.

Most talent research ends by showing global averages and comparing them to the scores in column A.

Figure 3
Talent Initiatives: Basic Statistics
Talent Initiatives A
How well we do it?
(1–5) Mean
Standard Deviation
1. Talent Acquisition 3.45 0.68
2. Manage Employee Performance 3.28 0.76
3. Develop Employees 3.08 0.85
4. Encourage Diversity, Equity, Inclusion 3.22 0.78
5. Manage Careers and Promotions 3.07 0.82
6. Communicate With Employees 3.31 0.82
7. Retain the Best Employees 2.72 0.86
8. Manage Departing Employees 3.15 0.75
9. Track Employee Engagement 3.26 0.85
10. Create a Positive Employee Experience 3.35 0.83

Step 4: Report guidance on talent practices

To move from these talent descriptions (Figure 3) to prescriptions, we offer guidance in Figure 4. This figure shows the relative impact of each of the 10 initiatives (rows) on the five outcomes we measured (columns B, C, D, E, and F). By using a variance decomposition model, we can better understand how different talent initiatives will deliver different results.  

Figure 4
Talent Initiatives: Basic Statistics
Talent Initiatives A
Global Mean
Strategy / Business
Social Citizenship
1. Talent Acquisition 3.45          
2. Manage Employee Performance 3.28          
3. Develop Employees 3.08          
4. Encourage Diversity, Equity, Inclusion 3.22          
5. Manage Employee Careers and Promotions 3.07          
6. Communicate With Employees 3.31          
7. Retain the Best Employees 2.72          
8. Manage Departing Employees 3.15          
9. Track Employee Engagement 3.26          
10. Create a Positive Employee Experience 3.35          


The findings in Figure 4 dramatically shift the discussion of talent from how to improve weaknesses in talent management to what dimensions of talent have the most impact on your business results. We report the global findings by the 10 dimensions of talent management effectiveness. Please note this guidance is aggregated across the global companies that used OGS. Individual organization results will vary based on specific needs and desired targeted outcomes. Some findings include:

  1. In general, the talent activities with the most overall impact on results are acquiring the right people and tracking their employee engagement. The overall least impact is managing employee performance.
  2. Employee results are most impacted by acquiring the right people and tracking employee sentiment.
  3. Business strategy results are most impacted by acquiring the right people and managing careers and promotions.
  4. Customer results are most impacted by creating a positive employee experience, tracking employee engagement, and acquiring the right employees.
  5. Financial results are most impacted by developing employees, managing departing employees and succession, and creating a positive employee experience. 
  6. Social Citizenship results are most impacted by communication with employees, developing employees, encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion, and acquiring the right employees. 


The implications of implementing the Organization Guidance System into talent discussions are profound. Depending on the results an organization seeks, business and HR leaders can utilize the information from the Organization Guidance System to provide data on where to focus talent initiatives.

Read the Organization Guidance System pilot results of the three other pathways: Leadership, Organization Capabilities and Human Resource Department.

Learn more about the Organization Guidance System and contact us to get started.

Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped how people and organizations deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

About the author

Norm Smallwood is a partner and co-founder of The RBL Group. His research and consulting focuses on helping organizations increase business value by building organization, leadership, and people capabilities that measurably impact market value. He has written extensively about leadership and organization effectiveness in eight books and over a hundred articles. 

About the author
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