By Sonja Gustafson March 20, 2018

Beyond Head Count & Org Charts: Talent Risk Management Defined

Posted by Sonja Gustafson on Mar 20, 2018 10:56:22 AM

DEFINITION: Talent Risk is defined as the potential for gaps between your current technical/professional capacity – the people who perform critical tasks within your organization – and what you will need to staff your strategy 3 to 36 months from now.

Talent Risk Management (TRM) itself is the process of assessing your current technical/professional capacity, aligning your organization around which risks are a priority, and then taking mitigating action to reduce the highest risks.

Suppose you are responsible for moving specific technical expertise – let’s say it’s an online game franchise – from your offices in San Francisco to Bangalore. The group needs to be made up of designers, project engineers, testers, and leaders, and they need to be hired up and running in the next 3 months. Your current San Francisco team needs to replicate its skill sets to India before moving on to their next strategic project.

The problem is your San Francisco team is great at their job but not so great at transferring their knowledge, except maybe for vague “job shadowing.” Plus, the team in India is being hired by recruiters who only have job titles and little else to go on. Most of the untrained Bangalore team members will be hired on a Monday and fly to San Francisco on that Friday for 3 to 4 months to sink or swim. What could possibly go wrong?

This is talent risk.


The field of talent risk management relates to such common business subjects as human resource management, succession planning, strategic workforce planning, human capital analytics, risk management, knowledge management, and employee retention – just to name a few. And yet it is none of these.

Talent risk management sits at the intersection of strategy, people, and risk. It answers the question: who does what work, where? So that you know you have the talent in place to execute your strategy.

Talent Risk Management

What it is not – confusing and sometimes parallel concepts:

  • Competency Models: Although they can be a good tool for hiring workers, no frontline leader can point to a competency such as “innovative thinker” or “drives for results” and say how that will fulfill the technical skills needed.
  • Org Charts: Does knowing who reports to whom ensure you have sufficient capacity to execute your strategy?
  • Head Count: If you know how many “Level 4 Engineers” you have, does that tell you if you have the right knowledge to maintain the unique tool application, process, or program?
  • Job Descriptions: Role clarity can be enhanced by a job description, but the highest priority talent risks should be mitigated at the group skill level or even task level. Job descriptions stop short of that.
  • Succession Planning: Talent risk management and knowledge transfer certainly support succession planning but only after the successor has been named and the transition is under way.

What it is – knowing who does what work, where:

  • Data: Detailed, targeted data to monitor your talent risk profile and tune the makeup and readiness of your team.
  • Dollar-Tracking: It means you know the financial impact of your risk at all times.
  • Basis for Confidence: It means you can say with justifiable confidence that you have enough of the right technical people with the right skills in the right place at the right time to stay productive, innovative, and competitive.

Learn more about talent risk and how to mitigate it in Steve Trautman’s book: Do You Have WHO It Takes?  Download a sneak peek of the book below.

Topics: definition of talent risk management, Risk Management, managing talent risk

Sonja Gustafson

Sonja Gustafson

Sonja is a marketing veteran of over 25 years dating back to the “go-go” days at Microsoft. She was deeply involved in creating and opening up the new markets of multimedia software, including Microsoft Encarta, Microsoft Bookshelf, and Multimedia Beethoven. She then moved on to help bring the first version of the Microsoft’s corporate intranet, MSWeb, and managed a team of crack researchers who did then what Google does now: find answers. Then there were the “other go-go” days of mommyhood where new dreams were inspired and journeys launched within two fabulous children. In 2011 Sonja joined The Steve Trautman Co. as Marketing Director, and continues her drive in helping businesses manage talent risk so that their workforce is ready to roll.

Related Blog Posts

Subscribe to Our Blog