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Time for some honesty about talent management

Talent management appears to have become one of those overused terms like ‘engagement’. It has made its way into the boardroom to such an extent that HR teams are now instructed to put in place a ‘talent management strategy’ without anyone really understanding what this entails.

The problem is that in many organisations the executive team may then sit back, thinking that introducing this new strategy will alleviate all their people-based challenges and that they can get back to the ‘real’ business of chasing the numbers. This complacency can develop into a business risk and I believe that all organisations should consider the following common pitfalls that can make talent management a ‘concept’ rather than a reliable people management strategy.

1. Most organisations don’t know what ‘Talent’ actually looks like

So, ask yourself – what does the term ‘talent’ mean in your organisation? Could you define and measure who has it in your workforce and recruit for it? Have you got defined job roles and behaviours that clearly outline what low, average and high performance in that role looks like? Is every manager in your organisation capable of identifying who has talent in line with your criteria using objective data, as opposed to gut feel and intuition? If you were to define your organisation’s talent pool would it be clear cut with everyone in agreement?

2. Talent is often situational

Consider the principle that the famous Montessori schools are based on; that we all have talents, it is just about identifying them and enabling us to use and develop them. As Curt Coffman outlines in his book ‘Follow This Path’, successful organisations put people in the roles that fit with their natural strengths and abilities.

‘Talent’ should look different based on the job role in question – your best computer programmer is highly unlikely to also be your best sales person. Doesn’t that mean that we should focus less on finding individuals to label as talent and put more emphasis on identifying and nurturing the strengths or talent in an individual and utilising them effectively?

Related material: How to develop a Talent Management Strategy

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