Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Talent Management is the end all be all for your organization!

HR has gone through so many transformation over the years that as soon as you get the handle on a new process, strategy or title, here comes another take on HR strategy and development. Think of the transactional role, the generalist role, the business partner model and now comes Talent Management.

I decided to do some research to find out where and when that term, talent management came into the HR space. From what I found, it was a term coined by David Watkins of Softscape, published in an article in 1998. This term is so prevalent in today's business environment. Companies are now faced with how to deal with talent due to the expected upheaval that is headed towards company's today.

I first became interested in Talent Management as I was building the talent management strategy at my former employer (Martha Stewart Living) a few years back. I thought of the all the effort that companies go through to attract new employees (the courtship). Once they said I DO and you say the vows (onboarding), everything changes in a lot of companies. No real contact, no meaning-full conversation about performance, no discussion about careers, no next steps in the career proposition, just doing the job that you were hired to do. Oh! and I forgot to mention the much loved performance evaluation once a year. I have always thought that this entire process should be coined "Career Development Review". That is what the entire process is or should be about. Employees want to build their careers, they want to be developed, they want to be engaged. They want to stay in the marriage and continue to build on the relationship. In so many cases, company's do not really connect or engage, therefore we should not be surprised about turnover or more importantly engagement.

I have always been intrigued when companies are lauded as "best places to work". I decided one year to graph the major findings to see if I could discern the top key points or thread that they all had in common. The major theme for me was they all had discovered a method to connect with employees from the initial stages, through orientation (onboarding) and throughout the employee life cycle. Each company had a different model. There was no one size fit all. In some cases these honored companies had built elaborate EVP models (Employee Value Proposition models), structured talent management processes, engagement models, career development and leadership development initiatives. They were all looking for ways to stay connected with their workforce. They were living their mission statements, core values and using every opportunity to connect. They understood their workforce, they understood their companies goals and strategies. They connected these points and BINGO, they hit jackpot. This was done through various methods in each company and based on every major metric, they were successful. Could a company just take one of these models and run with it and achieve the same results? I DON'T THINK SO!!.

HR's new role is kind of like the doctor trying to get the sick or ailing patient well. They try and diagnose the symptom, ask the right questions, look at the patient or family history. Then and only then would they begin the process of either prescribing or ordering more test to find the cause of the illness, therefore there is no one size fits all. If you don't know your workforce, you are possibly prescribing medication and you don't know what the symptoms are?

There is no one who is more interested in white papers on HR strategy than I am. I read each and every one that I get my hands on. Basically, I want to know what the key findings are, what new techniques are being used and more importantly to stay abreast of the research surrounding HR. They all provide a treasure trove of information that you can use to provide a framework for your initiatives. I just finished reading such a survey by Towers Perrin titled "Pulse Survey Report: Managing Talent in Tough Times". This research capsulizes the state of and challenges that talent management faces. What I found eye-opening was the scattered thought in companies about taking on the major challenge of building a strategy around talent management. Their findings suggested that progress has been incremental rather than transformational. The two points that stood out was that talent management is more of an inspiration than a reality and that current talent management practices are insufficiently forward-looking.

My comments are that talent management will be with HR a long, long time. With the economic upheaval and the after effects, every company needs to take a look at their workforce to retool for the expected growth and upheaval once everything settles.Talent management concepts, strategy, and solutions have the ability to transform not only HR but the entire workforce equation within your company. Imagine the CFO, CMO, CIO or any other executive not driving their respective processes. We need to think through the employee life cycle within our workforces from Onboarding, Training & Developing, Aligning, Connecting, Motivating, Career Development, Promoting through Retaining. The company's that embark on building this strategy will no longer have to worry about that illusive "seat at the table", they will be sitting front and center. Because of today's competitive business environment, you need not worry though, if you don't build talent management strategy within your company your competitors just might get there ahead of you.

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