Talent management as viable as ever part II

by 11 May 2009

In this second part of a three part article, Allan Schweyer looks at the evolution of talent management and its importance for HR

For those involved in managing talent for competitive advantage, new titles and cate gories are vital. We should begin seeing more C-level human capital and talent management professionals heading highly skilled, business- focused teams in the coming years – cate gories that began emerging in the late 1990s when the primacy of talent in organisations became widely understood for the first time. HR leaders should start this process by first gaining a solid understanding of their organisation’s business then aligning their talent management initiatives toward achieving those goals.

Beyond the name, hardcore change and new skill-sets are needed. Modern talent man agement executives must be able to speak in financial terms about the workforce. They must understand the organisation’s current complement of skills and competencies as well as external local, national and internation al workforce demographics. They must be able to advise the C-suite and the board on whether it makes sense to hire, develop or contract temporary talent, and this advice must be presented in financial terms. Talent management executives must be able to fore cast workforce needs aligned with corporate goals, capabilities and objectives.

The modern talent management executive is aware that HR is no longer a one-to-many exer cise; that there is no one-size-fits-all benefit program, for example. Recruitment, develop ment, performance management and retention will increasingly be ongoing, one-to-one activi ties that are highly differentiated for the greatest possible impact. Thus, traditional HR, most often characterised by generic programs, is quickly giving way to the more sophisticated methods of talent management. In order for this to succeed, however, talent management exec utives must enlist the support and active in volvement of managers and leaders from all parts of the business.

Another critical skill for today’s talent management executive is in understanding measurement, data and return on investment (ROI) analysis. Organisations have gone through the discipline of creating measurable processes – a science – around the manufac turing and quality control fields. Unfortunate ly, this rigor has not yet been applied to the field of human resources.

“The revolution in quality control and manu facturing techniques that has taken place in the last 15 years was data-driven and systems-driv en and statistical-process-control-driven. The US economy has benefited incredibly over the last 15 years … by seriously embracing the sci ence of manufacturing and quality control.” When Andy Grove, chairman and founder of Intel, said these words in a Harvard Business School Press interview in 2003, he was talking about general business strategy and execution.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford University, calls the data-driven approach “Evidence-Based Man agement.” He strongly advocates its applica tion in the field of human capital management. In his book, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense, Pfeffer says: “There is compelling evidence that when companies use HR best practices based on the best research, they trump the competition. These findings are replicable in industry after industry, from auto mobiles to textiles, to computer software to baseball. Yet many companies still use inferior people management practices.

“The problem isn’t just that HR managers know what to do but can’t get their companies to do it. Like other leaders, many HR executives hold flawed and incomplete beliefs. They fall prey to second-rate evidence, logic and advice, which produce suspect practices, and in the end, damage performance and people.”

By Allan Schweyer, executive director, The Human Capital Institute. This article contains excerpts from Talent Management Technologies, 2009, by Allan Schweyer, Edward Newman and Peter Devries, to be released in Spring 2009 by The Human Capital Institute Press.

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