The 6 Bs of talent management: How to protect your competitive edge

This article was originally published on 30 October 2020.

A talent management framework can help an organisation plan through their future talent needs, so they have the right capabilities to deliver on their organisation's strategy. In this article, we dive into the 6Bs of talent management, including what it means and how it can help your business succeed during challenging times and beyond.

We’ve all heard before that a business’ greatest asset is its people. Today, in a world marked by uncertainty this statement could not be more true - as it’s the capabilities and ingenuity of people that will guide businesses through the long journey towards recovery. 

If you took part in our recent Rethinking Manufacturing webinar series, you would have heard about how important people have been – and continue to be - in the development of new products, solutions and ways of doing things to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. To give a few examples, we’ve seen distillers go from gin to hand sanitiser, clothing and 3D printing businesses making PPE and even the first Australian-made COVID swabs.

It’s clear, that with the right people and little bit of Aussie ingenuity, businesses can overcome even the most unexpected situations. The question now for businesses is: how can you best attract, retain and engage with that quality talent that is so vital for long-term success? 

For those businesses who have star talent within their organisation, these issues become more important – in a competitive environment, they need to not only retain these star players but also reskill them to succeed in a COVID-19 world.

As such, understanding effective talent management is crucial. To assist businesses looking to improve their talent management, our People Advisory experts dive into the 6Bs of talent management, what it means and how they can help your business succeed during this challenging time and beyond.

What are the 6Bs of talent management?

The 6Bs of talent management is a framework that helps organisations plan through their talent needs for the future. It helps you critically think through what you need to do to ensure you have the right capabilities to deliver on your organisation's strategy. The 6Bs are as follows:

  1. Build: Developing internal talent (usually a longer-term plan)
  2. Buy: Acquiring the necessary external talent
  3. Borrow: Contracting, outsourcing or bringing in other units
  4. Bind: Retaining key employees and capabilities
  5. Boost: Accelerating planned promotions
  6. Bounce: Removing employees and using performance management or redundancy. 

So, how do all of these elements work in practice?

Build & Buy – how can we develop or obtain new skills and capabilities?

While HR professionals can use all of these strategies in conjunction with each other, ‘buy’ and ‘build’ are the most complementary. Once you've reviewed your future capability needs, you can locate roles where you don't have obvious successors internally. 

There are two options here. One is to hire someone externally to fill that specific vacancy later on, however, sometimes there can be cultural clashes when hiring directly into an executive role. An alternative option is to hire someone sooner but at a more junior level. Then, you can build them up and develop the specific qualities and capabilities your organisation requires. 

It's important to think creatively when buying talent in - review previous strategies to see what has worked and what hasn't, and consider using social media, networking or graduate programs if you haven't yet done so. You should also remember that some capabilities you require in the future may not even exist yet (especially for technical roles), so thinking outside the box is essential when approaching talent management. 

Likewise, you need to be having regular, progressive conversations with key employees to work out their long-term plans and what you can do to help them get there.


When succession planning, it helps to look at capabilities both from a long-term and shorter-term perspective. Once you've identified any capabilities you may need in the next 12 months but not necessarily far into the future, you may want to consider outsourcing or using consultants in order to satisfy this short-term strategic need. 


This also complements your build strategy. Once you've identified who the key successors are, you need to ensure they remain with your organisation. Having regular conversations with these individuals will give you an idea of what they need from your organisation in order for them to stay. This could be flexible work, new career experiences, or training in an area of interest. What all of these employees are going to want to see is an obvious progression path - which leads us to boost and bounce. 

How can businesses upskill their staff for success in the new world?

In responding to a crisis, skill-building, on-the-job training and cross-skilling become critical. Now that you have taken the time to reset, refocus and rebuild your organisation or business for a post-crisis environment, you now have the opportunity to invest in the skills necessary for achieving your organisation’s goals.

From a digital skill-building perspective, it’s important to recognise that you now have a workforce with improved technological literacy as a result of needing to adapt to working from home. Therefore, businesses must focus on building on and growing those skills as well as introducing new ones. 


The boost strategy involves accelerating development for your successors. Sometimes, this may require offering particular training programmes or degrees so that they have the necessary skill set to progress, or it may involve removing certain barriers to promotion from the rest of the company.


Related to boost, bounce involves unblocking a pipeline and ensuring the people who remain in your organisation are the ones that have the necessary talent for success. This may involve restructuring if you find certain people aren't capable of moving into a new role. Or, it might mean moving things around so that someone who has the right strategic talent but gets caught up in the day-to-day operations has the space to learn and grow. 

Everything revolves around the future

The 6Bs are a useful tool for any HR professional concerned about the succession plans and broader talent management strategies of their business. To use the 6Bs effectively, however, it's paramount that you gain a clear understanding of the future direction of your business - what is the business strategy and how are you going to use people to help you get there?

If you'd like to find out more about talent management and succession planning, get in touch with BDO's People Advisory team today. We also encourage you to register for our ongoing People Advisory webinars