Posts Tagged ‘HR management’

Talent Management: fad, buzzwords, or truly achievable?

Despite being a much talked-about strategy and one routinely listed in business publications as one of the top business priorities, effective talent management remains an elusive aim for many organizations.

Often seen as a set of initiatives that distract from revenue-generating activities, “senior managers’ lack of high-quality time spent on talent management” has been cited as the number one obstacle preventing talent management programs from delivering business value (McKinsey Quarterly, 2006). Lack of attention to this aspect of operational management unintentionally sends the message that people strategies are of lesser importance for the leadership.

Is 2010 the year to make these initiatives stick?

With the lean mentality of organizations today and the dire need to engage and retain the best, coupled with the necessity to attract fresh talent for future growth, talent management may be poised to play a center role across most industries this year. For some, talent management is simply a spin on performance management. Yet others, realize its connection to such important practices as succession planning, but fail to crystallize how investing dedicated attention to it today, can impact the organization tomorrow. Certain aspects of talent management can be viewed the same way we look at a business. For instance, take a business with multiple business units. Expecting certain return from each unit, attention is paid to which ones are: underperforming, remaining flat, delivering modest return, or consistently exceeding expectations. Adjustments are then made to course-correct or further invest where necessary. The same set of expectations is applied to internal talent. To ensure business growth is not compromised by focusing all efforts on a single revenue stream, diversification is secured with different product lines, complimentary services, etc. With talent, diversification is achieved by bringing in people with different skill sets, temperaments, and points of view, among others. This way, a mix of analytical, creative, and general management tracks among the employee population is available to be placed in appropriate roles. The HR leader must be vigilant to the right mix necessary based on business objectives and expected growth, and ready to counsel business leaders accordingly. A proactive approach sends the message that HR is in control of its area of purview and has the ownership to initiate change when necessary.

Where to begin

Certainly, performance management is a necessary step in the process. However, the essence of talent management is the talent review process. This is where performance information is gathered about those being reviewed and where both skills and potential are candidly discussed and assessed. Once the information is collected, different classifications are assigned to the reviewed individuals and a plan of action is devised to position the person for success and continued growth. This last step is crucial, because if no one is paying attention or following through, career derailment or loss of talent may occur. In addition to losing all the investment made in someone’s career up to that point, morale issues among the employee population could seep in when they see talented individuals departing from the organization.

More in-depth talent review processes will be discussed in future posts. The malaise plaguing talent management however, has more to do with leadership than with the talent process itself.

Why do talent initiatives fail to gain traction?

Unlike monetary capital management, human capital management often falls by the wayside, easily becoming a back-burner initiative. Although frequently mentioned as a burning platform among business priorities, focused attention may fall short. Certainly, this is not news to HR leaders. In fact, the inability of the business leadership to focus on talent initiatives also reflects on the HR department and its credibility, becoming a major source of headache for the function. HR leaders, in recognizing this ubiquitous lack of follow through on talent commitments, will find it imperative to reassess how they manage the relationship with their clients.

Leaders who do commit to the talent management process are known for their consistency, the value they place on people, and the vision they have for their teams and organizations. Not surprisingly, they quickly gain reputations for attracting exceptional talent and for the loyalty they inspire in others. They have high expectations for those around them, and people work hard to meet or exceed those expectations. Such leaders unfortunately, typically come in low numbers, and despite their presence within organizations, countless others fail to realize the need to follow suit.

There is no ill intent behind the neglect. It’s easy to fall into a mode where fires are being put out every day in an effort to “fix” emergent business problems. People strategies can be easily overshadowed by revenue strategies. Not realizing how the former directly impacts the latter is one of the most common mistakes leaders make in managing their business. At times, managers may feel they have a grasp on their teams and may not need “outside intervention” to handle how they develop and grow their people. HR, in its overarching organizational capacity, must dislodge this position.  Talent is owned by the larger organization, not by the separate business units. HR’s role in this respect is to break down the silos that are obstructing sound talent practices.

HR in the game, not on the bench

Certain organizations where the HR function reports to the CEO, routinely add the input of the HR partner to the performance review of the business leader. Obviously in such cases, HR is poised to make a strong statement, and yet, lack of attention to talent also plagues pockets of areas within these organizations. For all other types of organizations, the HR executive, leader, or professional tasked with executing on talent initiatives, must take on stronger relationship building with their clients as the best chance of influencing them in the right direction. Credibility in the knowledge of the talent management process, talent assessment, analytical skills, and understanding of the business, all help in making the case for HR. When everything else fails however, HR leaders must internalize their duty to recommend consequences for those who fail to execute on agreed-upon priorities and rewards for those who exceed at them. Not following through on this recommendation, makes HR part of the problem rather than the solution.

Finally, HR must also feel the pain when talent initiatives fail to take off. While the business leaders own the execution, HR must carry some of the weight for assisting them in getting to the finish line. If HR is responsible for part of the strategy and is the expert resource around the solution, it must have skin in the game and be held accountable accordingly – when talent strategies succeed as well as when they fail.

Talent management is achievable when quantitative and qualitative action is put behind the intentions to focus on talent initiatives. And when both HR and business leaders partner in a concerted effort to leverage people strategies as a competitive advantage.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Talent Management on Thursday, February 4th, 2010 | No Comments »

Similar to the way organizations consult with their HR departments, "HR for HR" is a term used in some organizations as the area where internal HR staff may turn to when they need advice, counsel, or mentoring. is a site dedicated to further the understanding of HR's unique consultative approach, strategic focus, and people-oriented business alignment.