Talent Management Planning

Figure 1: Talent Management Plan

After the last post on “What’s Up with Training,” a reader asked for more elaboration on talent management and the corresponding planning process.  Before answering his question, lets discuss talent management from a conceptual standpoint.  Like many popular business concepts, talent management means different things to different people.  Not only do leaders within an organization differ in perception, fellow human resource professionals conceptualize talent differently.  Some equate talent management to the attracting, retaining, and developing the “golden” 20 percent that produce the greatest share of productivity in an average organization.  Other professionals consider talent management as the method of locating, recruiting, and growing leaders in their organization.  Although both are critical elements of organizational success, these definitions negate the role of approximately 80 percent of the human capital in most organizations.  More recently, there has been a shift toward including all employees under the “talent umbrella.”  Consequently, for the purposes of our discussion, lets use a more inclusive as well as comprehensive approach.

Put simply, talent management is a systematic process to attract, develop, and retain employees with high potential that provide value to your organization.  If we break down the process into its constituent parts, it includes:

  • identifying talent inside and outside of the organization;
  • tracking the capability and potential of team members;
  • developing team members to maximize their abilities and contributions;
  • allocating team members to the jobs that best align with their capabilities; and
  • retaining high capability and potential team members.

Using the Jim Collins analogy, managing talent is the process of “getting the right people on the bus and putting them in the right seats.”

When planning for talent management, our efforts must combine elements of almost every facet of human resources management: recruitment, selection, workforce planning, performance management, succession planning, professional development, leadership development, compensation, and employee engagement.  Not only is it a daunting task to manage each of these elements, the complexity and resource demand of these systems create an overwhelming temptation to address talent in a piecemeal fashion.  As a result, organizations will chase after different talent-related initiatives in each of these areas without having an overarching plan in place.  By failing to align efforts and coordinate actions, an organization will actually reduce talents potential while over spending on non-complementary systems and tools.  Buying talent management technology, utilizing competency-based systems of job design, and implementing pay for performance sound like well-conceived initiatives in isolation, but jointly there is an interactive effect that must be managed to ensure talent improvement.

One of the greatest temptations that I encounter is where an organization purchases a talent management system assuming it will address all of their talent needs before actually determining its talent plan.  Technology is a tool, not a solution.  As much as a vendor might want to convince us otherwise, the tool is only an enabler in the equation that produces the desired result.

Just like any set of complex organizational processes, a plan significantly enhances our chance of success as well as realizing all possible gains.  As you consider your plan, Figure 1 provides a basis for organizing your thoughts.

Real talent gains are only realized through alignment.  Moreover, given the need for strategy in order to optimize performance, any type of talent management planning has to incorporate a present and future view of the organization and focus on assess capability as well as potential.  It is one thing to know where we are, but most of us desire to improve on current reality.

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