In today’s global economy, businesses depend upon being able to attract and retain talented candidates. This requires creating a talent pipeline that ensures you a team of professionals with the right mix of critical skills and expertise to support and expand your business in a competitive marketplace.

Cultivating and identifying talented personnel is critical to meeting an organization’s current and future needs. It also provides stability and peace of mind, because it gives you the ability to tap the right candidate for the right job when the time comes.

Here are some steps to successfully build your talent pipeline:

Assess your company’s talent needs

Take stock of the organization’s talent needs and identify any existing talent gaps. Build a talent database to keep track of the types of skills and employees the company requires. Do your current employees have the skills and expertise necessary to grow the company? What talents or areas of specialized expertise are required to take the company to the next level in two, five or 10 years? What new company roles do you see arising over time? Which key positions – from senior leaders to line managers to front-line staff – drive the company’s mission? What characteristics, skills or competencies are needed to succeed in these roles?

Support professional development

Look for ways to provide professional and leadership development opportunities to employees, whether it’s through in-house training, industry conferences or educational programs. Offering your most productive and talented employees professional and educational opportunities is worth the investment because these experiences build company loyalty.

Let department directors and supervisors know that employee development is part of their job responsibility. Managers should be looking for employees who have the potential to contribute to the organization by expanding their knowledge and skills. It’s their duty to cultivate employees who will be able to step into more complex and demanding roles down the road.

Businesses that develop and refine professional development programs are in a better position to quickly fill critical positions with loyal employees who understand the company’s culture and mission.

Networking and recruiting go hand-in-hand

Think of recruitment as an ongoing endeavor rather than a task that human resources personnel pursue just to fill a certain position. Develop relationships with representatives from industry associations, universities, professional organizations and social networks – people who may have the talents you need or can refer candidates when an opening arises.

Attend industry conferences with the goal of identifying talented candidates, even if your company doesn’t have a current opening. If you find a promising or viable candidate, enter their contact information into your company’s talent database and periodically keep in touch. This type of networking gives you ready access to people and information that will make it easier to fill critical positions.

Being proactive and thoughtful about building a talent pipeline means your company has a steady stream of candidates – whether internal or external – when you need them.