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Toolkit: The Talent Decision Planner

Building a Talent Decision Map for K-12 Human Capital: How School Systems Can Promote Strategic Talent Management at Scale

A school leader's Perspective

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday in January, and Principal Sarah Salazar is working on next year’s staffing plan. She knows that one of the best 3rd grade teachers, Ms. Nye, is leaving at the end of this year. She accesses her talent management materials, provided by the district, which lists five important decisions for this month. She looks over the decisions about Hiring, and then reads in her Guiding Questions materials about the importance of carefully targeting new hires to fill skill gaps. She looks at the teacher effectiveness data provided by the district. She knows that Ms. Nye was a great team leader, but she notices in the data that one of her particular skills is challenging all learners to achieve at a high level. Principal Salazar now looks at the 4th grade team, and is reminded that Mr. George and Ms. Robbins are also strong in that skill. Principal Salazar knows that Mr. George has been a great team leader and that Ms. Robbins has been looking for opportunities to lead. She makes a note to ask Mr. George if he would be willing to move to the 3rd grade to replace Ms. Nye, and to ask Ms. Robbins to become team leader for the 4th grade. Principal Salazar now plans to look for a new 4th grade teacher who can integrate into an already strong team. She jots down some questions to discuss with her supervisor later that day. It’s 11:00 a.m., and she sails out the door to meet with a parent—feeling confident in having done productive work that morning.



Teaching effectiveness is the single most important in-school factor in improving a student’s academic performance. Thus, the decisions about how to attract, retain, develop, and organize excellent teachers are the most important decisions that school system leaders make in the course of a year. ERS’ Talent Decision Planner (TDP) is a new tool to ensure support for talent managers to know what decisions they need to make, and to make those decisions as strategically as possible. The TDP supports those decisions in two key ways:

  1. Empower decision-makers by clarifying decision-making roles: The TDP provides districts with a carefully vetted and organized list of the crucial teacher-related decisions school and system leaders should make over the course of the year. It does not take decisions out of the hands of decision-makers; rather, it empowers them by clarifying decision-making roles (the who, what, and when), and giving support on the “how.” The TDP takes the district step-bystep through a process of customizing the content in the tool (the decisions, guiding questions, etc.), which then feeds into calendars and other output views to distribute to school leaders.

  2. Indicate what data inform key decisions: Districts increasingly gather more and better data on teaching effectiveness, but many are still developing systems to support principals and principal supervisors with how to use these data to inform specific decisions. Wherever a district may be in its evolution of data-informed decision-making, the TDP helps it create the plan for how to further evolve its data reporting and data collection systems. After the district has aligned in part 1 on the decisions that matter most, and the questions that should be answered to inform those decisions, the TDP shows which specific metrics should be considered to answer those questions and thus inform those key decisions. This gives districts clarity on what data to distribute to school leaders and when, and it makes that data far more actionable for decision-makers, since it is explicitly tied to the questions and decisions they need to engage with to do their job. It also supports districts in identifying what new data they may need to create the data views that will inform the most important decisions.


Building a Talent Decision Map: How School Systems Can Promote Strategic Talent Management at Scale

This paper describes how systems can empower all principals to be strategic talent managers—by mapping out the what, who, when, and how of strategic talent management at scale, and organizing data, support, and timelines around the most critical talent decisions that should be made throughout the year.

Download the Paper

The Tool: The Talent Decision Planner (Excel)

The TDP is a tool that helps central HR teams map out:

  • What human capital decisions are priorities for your district
  • Who should make what types of decisions
  • When in the year
  • How—choosing guiding questions that push everyone’s thinking past compliance to strategy, and choosing what data serve each question

Download the Tool

The TDP Facilitator's Guide

This guide provides an explanation of what the TDP is and how to use it well. The guidebook includes:

  • Suggested steps for how to customize the framework for each school system and create outputs to distribute to school and district leaders
  • Suggested steps for how to prioritize and design data views to inform key decisions
  • Suggested steps for how to evolve data systems to create effective data views
  • Recommended up-front work to maximize impact

Download the Facilitator's Guide

Sample TDP Decision Guides (Excel)

This document contains the twelve sample decision guides that can be created using the Talent Decision Planner - Decision Calendars, the Decisions and Questions List, and Monthly Support Packets, one for each decision-maker (teachers, principals, principal supervisors, central office). The content won't fit your district's context, priorities, and constraints exactly, but we hope that it provides guidance and inspiration.

Download the Talent Decision Planner tool to customize each of these Decision Guides to  your unique needs.

Download the Guides

Sample TDP Data Views

These sample TDP data views connect to individual supporting questions in order to give users an idea of what data views are meant to answer what specific questions, to then inform what specific decisions, and how it could be visuslized.

Download the Data Views

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We welcome the opportunity to partner with your district to better align resources and generate a significant impact for your students, your schools, and your communities.



Talent management should be designed as part of a holistic strategy for system-wide change. This means connecting it to other elements like:

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