Talent Development

Align Roles, Skills & Goals

Which roles and skills are critical to your company's strategy? Align roles, skills and goals in just a few steps.

In this article, we share how to collaborate with business leaders to determine which roles, skills and behaviors are critical to achieving business goals and success. 

We'll also share the formula to use when approaching business leaders to ensure that you’re speaking their language and defining success in a way that is valuable to them. It’s important to help them understand that you’re committed to using their objectives as the measuring stick for success.

How Not to Measure Success

But first, let’s address how not to think about measuring success. This can be uncomfortable since traditional talent development programs measure success in a number of other ways, including:

  • Hours of Training
  • Number of Completions
  • Satisfaction Scores

The issue with these well intended metrics is that the business doesn’t see those metrics as success, but rather as cost.  We have to change the narrative to describing the impact of our development programs in terms that the business understands and finds valuable. 

The Right Formula To Use

Instead, first collaborate with business leaders to determine what their objectives are and what exceptional performance looks like.

In sales, trainees are taught that to sell something to a business, their offering has to lead to either increased revenues or decreased costs.  Talent development should be able to do the same thing, tying skill development activities to an increase in revenue or a decrease in cost in just a few steps.     

Formula 1  


This works best when tied to an actual business goal, such as “lowering turnover” in the example above.  Collaborate with the business on the front end to understand their goals before determining what skills and behaviors are needed to achieve them. Below is a general formula that you could use.  

Formula 2

When you collaborate effectively, you become a true partner to the business and your resource conversations will get much easier.  Just telling the business that your development program is having a positive impact is not enough, however, you need to track behavior change over time and thereby prove its impact on business goals.  More on this in our articles about measuring skills and goals using assessments and reviews. 

Critical Roles

Collaborate with business leaders to understand which roles are critical to achieving strategic business goals.  Fight the temptation to label every leadership role as critical.

There are three filters that you should use when defining critical roles for your organization.  

  • Which roles are critical to “winning”?
  • Which roles are difficult to find?
  • Which roles take a long time to learn?

Disney, for example, considers street sweepers to be a critical role because they interact directly with the park visitors while keeping the park clean – both activities have a significant impact on the customer experience (i.e. the “Disney magic”).

At some companies, an engineer with a rare skill set might be critical, while a CFO is not.  A CFO plays an important role in any organization, but they are relatively easy to find and their skills are very transferable.

Finally, is there a role at your company that takes years to learn?  Having enough experienced operations managers, for example, is the primary limiting factor for many companies’ growth plans due to the years that it takes to build up the required combination of technical, business and people skills.  

Align skills and goalsNow that you know where your organization’s highest leverage points are in terms of critical roles, compare your findings with your organizations multi-year vision and build a map for leadership of which roles they will need to invest in to accomplish their vision.

Notice that we said “their” vision.  You always want to share your strategic recommendations in context of their vision and position your team to be the enabler to achieving it.

Key Take-a-Ways

Collaborate with business leaders to understand what success looks like to them before you begin defining the critical skills and behaviors that will drive goal achievement.

Do NOT measure success through traditional talent development program metrics. The business sees this as cost, not success.

Use a formula that ties talent development activities to a business goal and then to increasing revenue or reducing costs.

Use these three filters to determine which roles are most critical to your organization’s strategy.

  • Which roles are critical to “winning”?
  • Which roles are difficult to find?
  • Which roles take a long time to learn?

Work these approaches into how you collaborate with business leaders and let us know how they work for you. Contact us if you get stuck and need some help!

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