What then is talent management?
This is all about increasing the organization's return on its human resource investment. Moreso, understanding what Talent Management means or trying to give a clear definition for it will always be a challenge. This becomes more significant when we consider thefact that any initiative, no matter how sound, could over time assume the status of a cliché.
In simple terms, Talent Management is the management of the talent within an organization. There cannot be another simpler definition otherwise we run the risk of abstraction. Talent encompasses employees' skills, knowledge, cognitive abilities, potentials, values and work habits amongst others. This list is exhaustive. It is difficult to contemplate that there is a possibility that any activity, in the context of the organization, relating to the employee is not in form or the other related to Talent Management. In reality, even in the most rudimentary form, every organization practices some form of Talent Management.
In as much as an organization is involved in recruiting, selecting, placement, promotion, rewarding as well as training and development activities, regardless of how informal, talent management is being practiced. When Talent Management is, however, being referred to, it is in the formal sense of having method and structure relating to organizational practices.
Unfortunately, many organizations in the developing countries and in some more developed parts of the world still do not have any formal structure and processes. In reality, in a formal, structures sense, those organizations do not actually practice Talent Management.
The essential features of a successful Talent Management program are as follows:
Does the Organization have a formal process of identifying and sourcing talent? In competitive international and local labor markets, there are a number of challenges in attracting and recruiting talent with high professional, technical and leadership potential.
2. Career Management
How are careers managed? Do employees joining the organization have some degree of clarity of what comes next at every stage of their career in the organization? In today's world, with all the fierce war for talent we see in all parts of the world, organizations that are unable to come up with a clear career proposition will loose out. For the new employee, the question is: what is in it for me? Organization must have the ability to answer this question in a transparent and consistent manner. This question can be answered by ensuring that the organizational structure has clarity, reporting lines and relationships are clear. The days of central planning are long gone. Organization must also ensure that employees feel empowered.
3. Succession Planning
In reality what is done in succession planning is matching current supply with potential future demand. It also drives the movement of talent in the organization. Who moves? Who stays? And in a multi and transnational organization, who gets transferred out of the country? There is always the need to exercise caution not to under build or overbuild. Overbuilding leads to redundancy and waste of talent. Finding the right balance is in itself an art of some sort. Only few organizations achieve this. The other issue to consider is quantity and quality. There could be quantity but no quality. Even when there is no talent pool, organizations can go out to hire on a continuous basis. The downside is that no culture is built in the process and inevitably the organization continues to sub optimize.
In Succession Planning, it is very critical to identify the human resources needed to meet the business plans of the organization and where to source for them, and develop strategies to retain and motivate them. It also involves understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current employees in order to avert making costly assumptions about their abilities. Many employers make the mistake of promoting staff beyond their level of competence, for example, someone who has been an excellent operational officer gets promoted to a managerial role that calls for strategic leadership, but because he / she has little experience or aptitude for developing strategy , he / she fails miserably.
4. Performance Management
As far as performance management goes, many organizations stop at the form filling stage. The real challenge in performance management is what you do with the data you have on employees. Some performance management systems look at current performance with no input for potential assessment. Other performance management systems have no linkage or are working at cross-purposes with learning and development.
Performance management and learning and development should have a symbiotic relationship. One should lead to or feed the other. It then becomes imperative that efforts in pursuit of learning and development interventions, should be aimed at addressing the actual needs of employees.
5. Mentoring and Coaching Programs
There can be no effective talent management if the organization does not have a structured mentoring and coaching program. Many Organizations may be carrying out mentoring and coaching on a continuous or adhoc basis but if there is no structure, it may be impossible to evaluate their effectiveness. Talent Management seeks to bring structure, discipline and an element of measurement to that process.
6. Creation of Talent Pool
When considering an effective Talent Management program, creating a talent pool becomes inevitable. Many Organizations have a Management Trainee program. But then, working in consonance with this will be a high potential pool or what other organizations call a fast track or development list. This way, very early in the careers of the employees, some quick differentiations is done and career paths are clearly mapped out to reflect this. This can be done in a not too structure way with good results. The important thing is to have a tracking mechanism. For example, how many of those on the fast track list remain after 3, 5 and 7 years? Are we able to keep our high performers? If we are struggling with this, what should we do?
7. Reward Management
There is no way talent management will succeed without a system that clearly differentiates between average, superior and outstanding performers. The inability to design reward schemes that differentiates clearly is one of the indicators of a weak organization.
The traditional approach to securing key talents is to offer an attractive compensation package. While this can be useful, if it is not part of an integrated, broader talent management strategy, it amounts to throwing away money at a problem. All you may be left with is increasing recruitment and payroll costs, which eat into resources available for training and other initiatives critical to managing talents.
Talent management is not simply about offering good pay but about structuring compensation packages to reward the talented few above their peers. Companies need to develop flexible compensation schemes that allow exceptional payment for exceptional performance and top talents should be put to work on special projects that attract bonus rewards.
The Role of Human Resources Practitioners in Talent Management
With the above highlights of Talent Management, it is appropriate to look at the process required to put in place and actually institutionalize it. Unless it becomes part of the Organization's culture, the wrong results will persist and, in contrast, the right results will elude the organization.
The most critical requirement for an effective Talent Management process in the organization is a Human Resource team that is professionally resourced. Experience bears out the fact that most organizations have now realized that they cannot cut corners when it comes to establishing a professional HR team. The results are obvious: High attrition – the organization becomes more or less a revolving door, poor image as an employer of choice in the labor market and ultimately mediocre performance by the organization.
The link between organizational performance and poor HR practices has been a continued focus on Human Capital Management. Employees are now seen as the real assets of the organization. Other assets cannot be properly deployed unless the right people are in place to manage them.
The existence of a HR department or function in any guise does not suggest that the issue of Talent Management is of prime importance to the organization. One has to look at the quality of the team that has been put in place to drive the initiatives.
HR professional must design, plan, implement and develop successful Talent Management programs. This is where structure and process come into play. What many organizations do is to abandon the process of talent management to the HR function. The HR team then erroneously believes that it is able to execute this without inputs from the senior management and line management, and it is for this reason that most talent management initiatives do not get off the ground.
Significantly, Senior and Line management must champion the process of talent management in organizations bearing in mind that in the fast paced world of today, changing demographics, globalization and high mobility of labor, with the rapidly emerging technologies and constant change, any organization without an aggressive Talent management process would soon face liquidation and become irrelevant in the business environment.