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Talent Management - What is it Really?

Aug 17, 2007
There seems to be a constant flow of new buzz words popping up and a recent one is "talent management" - logically following on from "the war for talent".

Depending on where you look, you will find various definitions of it. We won't try another definition here but let's assume it is about finding talented people, having them perform well and keeping them in the organization.

This implies an integrated approach to human resources management which starts from planning and runs though recruitment, development, performance management and rewards. Nothing new here.

Maybe, if there is a new approach, it is that businesses are now targeting specific people and focussing their efforts on them rather than a "sheep dip" approach where everyone gets the same treatment. If this is the case, it makes the processes supporting this strategy even more important.

An effective process that can identify the needs of employees and align them to the needs of the organization will become even more important when it is used to concentrate on a few high worth individuals. We need to be sure we have singled out the right people.

Where do we start?

Planning is usually a logical place. Starting with the strategic plans of the organization is necessary to determine what sort of people are required to achieve what needs to be done. That is, what knowledge, experience, skills and competencies are required?

Some of these areas can be developed within the organization; however, the competencies required need special attention.

We define a competency as "an enabling combination of skills, knowledge, aptitude, motivation and inherent ability". The core competencies of an organization can be described as their "values in action" and determine the culture and type of people who make it successful. This will assist in defining the talent in a business.

Once we know exactly what type of people we need, building these criteria into a recruitment process is going to ensure new employees have a good chance of "fitting in" and performing well. This will help build a "talent pool" for future growth.

Having a process that systematically evaluates our employees against our blueprint will identify what the development needs are.

This is where we can truly identify our future talent and concentrate on the most appropriate development action.

It may be training courses but is more likely to be having them work on challenging projects with challenging people. They may be assigned a coach or mentor or they may be encouraged to develop particular skills in their own time with company support. This is the place to be creative with the options available.

Performance management
This process brings a number of factors together. The "what" people do - ie are they delivering the right results? The "how" they do it - are they displaying the core competencies? What are their aspirations? What are their development needs? How can we recognise, reward and motivate them further?

A process is required for this and managers must be skilled in using it. Not just every six months but continually. This is central, not additional to, managing talented people.

This includes financial and non-financial rewards and processes are required for both. Many of the non-financial rewards for talented people will involve challenges, a sense of achievement, development and recognition. The financial rewards must align with their position, the market and their performance. A consistent, fair and transparent system is required for this.

With basic processes in place for all these areas you can then start to add further finesse to managing talent.

Without the basics in place it will be much more difficult. It's a bit like trying to be a good driver with a car where all the basic components aren't working properly.

Great skills and a great engine are not going to give you good results if it doesn't also have good steering, brakes and suspension. Managing talent will not be effective unless all the basics are in place and operate in an integrated way.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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