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What Is Talent Mapping and How Do You Map Talent?

  • HCM
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 03/30/2023

a hiring manager using talent mapping to recruit a new employee

Table of Contents

Are you cultivating the talent today that your business will need tomorrow? It can be difficult to find and secure high-quality employees these days, which is why talent mapping is so important for your organization's larger talent management initiatives. This process works to help determine future talent needs, assess the viability of your current staff to meet those needs, source high-potential players in your field for future recruitment, and develop a strategic plan to fill identified skills and talent gaps. Here's a closer look at how talent mapping in recruiting can help you meet your staffing goals.

What Is Talent Mapping in Recruitment?

Talent mapping is a strategic approach to help businesses anticipate and meet long-term hiring goals. While businesses may certainly have short-term or immediate hiring needs, talent maps focus on the organization's overall goals and the employees needed to help them get there. This not only involves recruiting the right talent, but it also focuses on talent development, refreshing existing job roles and descriptions as needed, forecasting future roles, retention, and career path planning.

Since talent mapping is a multi-pronged approach to talent management, this process can take shape in many ways. One basic talent mapping example is looking at HR data to identify sales leaders who may be nearing retirement age in the next three years. Part of the talent map process would include identifying potential successors, evaluating any ways in which these leadership roles need to evolve to meet the business's larger goals (e.g., future leaders who have a strong customer service background), and putting training plans in place for those individuals.

What Is Candidate Mapping? Is It Different From Talent Mapping?

Candidate mapping may be part of your larger talent mapping strategy, particularly if the talent map process identifies the need to hire outside the organization. This is the practice of visualizing each step of the candidate's experience and identifying and improving (if needed) each interaction a candidate will have during your recruiting, interview, and selection process. This practice is beneficial because it helps you put yourself in candidates' shoes and better understand their needs in different phases of the journey. It's also a great way to address any spots where there may be friction or an otherwise negative experience.

The key benchmarks to consider and questions to ask when evaluating your candidate map are:

  • Awareness: The initial stage where candidates become aware of your brand. How and where does an individual find out about the company for the first time?
  • Consideration: Candidates research your company and compare it with competitors. How would a candidate learn about your company's employee value proposition?
  • Interest: Candidates express interest in your company. How would they find information to compare different companies to work for?
  • Application: Candidates apply for an open position. What are the steps a candidate takes when they decide to apply for a position?
  • Selection: Candidates go through the selection process. What does the candidate selection process look like?
  • Hire: A candidate becomes a new hire. What does the job offer and hiring process look like?

What Are the Benefits of Talent Mapping?

The benefits of talent mapping are directly linked to a business' ability to help project future human resources needs. The process, while extensive, can result in higher employee retention rates, better overall employee satisfaction, and improved performance. Specifically, a few benefits may include:

  • Reduced time-to-hire rates: The talent map process helps businesses plan and secure the necessary resources for a role before a vacancy comes up.
  • Identifying stars and future leaders: It's more important than ever to keep great employees and eliminate as much as possible the possibility that they're lost to competitors. Developing star employees' skill sets and providing comprehensive career development plans are critical for your future business success.
  • Conserved hiring resources: Talent mapping allows you to prioritize open positions that will have the biggest impact on company growth.
  • Greater return on hiring investment: Much of the time, energy, and financial investment that goes into hiring and training new employees is unavoidable. But the longer an employee stays with a company and effectively contributes to it, the greater the return on investment in hiring that person. This has a positive impact on both new employees and current or tenured ones.

What Are the Challenges of Talent Mapping?

Talent management is a critical component of your broader workforce management strategy, since recruiting, training, retaining, and promoting the right people are essential steps in reaching larger business goals. Nevertheless, there's potential to run into challenges such as:

  • Struggling to get companywide buy-in: The success of strategic talent management hinges on a companywide commitment. Your HR team may play a leading role in making this happen, from identifying talent management as a strategic priority to determining how and where that focus will be applied. But without total buy-in — from company leaders, employees, and supervisors — talent mapping initiatives may fall by the wayside.
  • Addressing gaps in the process that led to turnover: Looking at data from past employees (particularly information gathered during exit interviews), you may realize that there were gaps in the process that led to star workers leaving. Plus, they took skills and knowledge that may be crucial for the business to get where it needs to go. This can be difficult to come to terms with, but you can leverage these findings to make concrete changes: implementing stay interviews, considering boomerang employees, and evaluating the company's process for gathering employee feedback.
  • Gathering necessary HR data: Talent mapping requires a considerable amount of data, and this information could be housed in many disparate systems, hard to track down, or a combination of both. Consider how an integrated HR solution that houses recruiting, hiring, time and attendance, employee training and development, benefits, and other employee information can give you easier access to HR data that's critical for making larger business decisions.
  • Helping employees find a balance between training and work responsibilities: Training, while great for further developing your workforce, takes time and effort that needs to be prioritized as part of employees' workloads. Consider streamlined training programs that can make it easy to offer a wide range of valuable learning opportunities for your employees and can help you keep track of their progress.


How To Talent Map

The specific components of your talent mapping process will be unique to your business, but in general it should take into account both existing and future hiring needs, as well as strategies that can help the business reach its long-term goals. The process for how to talent map may include the following:

Develop Ideal Candidate Descriptions

An ideal candidate profile helps guide HR or hiring manager teams to find and hire better candidates. This serves as a generic overview regarding what's required or desirable in relation to a specific position's skills, education, pay range, level of experience, etc. Part of your research should include speaking with managers who hire for each of these roles, as well as current team members who would interact with someone in this role. Ultimately, the more you know about the composite makeup of ideal candidates, the easier and faster you can hire the right candidate when the time comes.

Get a Pulse on Industry Competitors

Leading the company into becoming an employer of choice requires careful analysis of how your hiring approach and tactics stack up against competitors. Specifically, which positions, skills, certifications, or even departments do they have that you may not have? What does their hiring process look like? This type of information can help you better understand which organizational components and recruiting strategies are in place for your competitors to reach their own goals.

Competitive research may also be useful as part of your retention strategies. For example, after conducting some employee interviews, you discover that there is no development path for engineers past a certain level of seniority. At the same time, research reveals that one of your competitors has an engineering management track in place. This could entice your current engineers to leave for an organization with more opportunities for those in this role, which also could lead to reevaluating career pathing in the engineering department.

Assess Current Employee Performance

Talent mapping uses a specific formula to evaluate the readiness and performance of your current workforce against the changes ahead. The goal is to identify high-potential employees whose future development aligns with your strategic priorities. For example, if one of your biggest needs is developing mid-level sales managers for field offices, which employees have the fundamental skills and interest to pursue that career path? During a talent mapping exercise, you're looking for a mix of current performance and future growth potential that indicates a long-term match. Additionally, promoting from within is a great way to reemphasize the business' commitment to employee development and growth.

Create a Database of Passive Candidates

The competition for finding top talent is simply too steep these days to take a reactive approach to recruiting. You also have to be realistic about promoting from within: some current employees may be a natural fit for future opportunities, but there will certainly come a time when you have to look outside the business to fill a role. Building a passive-candidate pool can help you address both of these challenges.

This may look like proactively contacting ideal candidates, building relationships, and even gauging interest from past employees for future positions. Cultivating engagement with passive candidates can help set the business up for success when the time comes to fill open positions. Ideally, pulling from this pool can help you both reduce time-to-hire rates as well as bring on individuals who have the skills and interest to work for the business.

Understand Future Needs

The value of talent mapping is directly linked to its ability to help project future human resources needs. For example, an engineering firm might need to build its capacity to work with certain target technologies or a software firm might want to hire programmers who are familiar with specific languages. Where are your field and your company headed in the next five, 10, or 20 years? What skills will be needed — by level, department, and job function — to thrive in that changing business environment? Start the talent mapping process by determining your growth path and then working backward to the skills, expertise, and education your team needs to make that happen.

Set Your Business Up for Success by Creating a Hiring Strategy for the Future

Overall, talent mapping allows businesses to create a roadmap for succession planning, future recruiting, and employee development initiatives. By understanding what talent is needed to achieve future business growth, it's possible to invest in the right activities today to make that vision a reality tomorrow.

Think you might still need assistance hiring the right employees? A hiring service can help.

A talent management software can help you manage your employees through the entire employee life cycle to learn more.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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