Succession Planning And Talent Management
Why is succession planning of particular importance within the wider talent management environment?
Most of the guru’s argue that talent management is, or should be, primarily about retaining the best quality talent for succession into key business critical positions.
The argument is that due to high performers being internationally mobile and more likely to change jobs, a strategy needs to be developed in order to hold on to this wonderful talent. I acknowledge that talent management is an important factor to retaining key talent, but it has not yet advanced to the point where it can provide a convincing quantification of how important it is.
Instead, work has focused on specific areas where talent management is perceived to be of particular importance, notably succession planning. However is this not in contrast to the main HR thinking which has sought to try and break down talent management into specific talent practices that can be deployed by an organisation?
Many People Professionals are approaching this, but from a different direction. While they acknowledge that the term talent management is a little too broad, they believe that the most pressing concern should be the talent framework, in order for them to develop practical solutions for people to deploy in the workplace; they tend to view the research done as interesting in its own right, but with too much needless information.
This research is based on frameworks for codifying the distinct factors of retention – perhaps, compensation, development opportunities, and promotion prospects – and explains how it can then be used to manage talent within an organisation. The fact is that universities and institutes are now offering a postgraduate qualification in talent management, which shows the application of talent management into practical tools.
Are these tools that people learn and use actually operationally?
The Chartered Management Institute designed a set of tools for using talent management in the workplace. This framework has no less than 18 different ways through which talent management impacts upon the operational performance of an organisation. They are cognizant of the fact that their definition is in my view vague; the institute notes that what is the identification and segmentation of those that might be considered ‘talent’ amongst the wider employee force.
The desire to find solutions for talent management has been deployed in a non-commercial setting, yet the key limitation to this is the inconsistent definition of the term talent management, and its component parts.
The problem is that all of the research and literature is towards a normative and normalising perspective. That is, it seeks to establish a generalisable set of rules about talent management and retention that can then be deployed across any organisation, in any place, with predictable results. But is this true and can the same thinking be used in all regions and cultures of the world.
The difficulty with this approach is that, clearly, the efficacy of talent management processes and the resulting succession planning rates can vary wildly. As it stands at the moment, it is unable to provide a convincing account of why a talent management process in organisation X will yield different results to one in organisation Z. There has only been partial and inconsistent study of how a range of factors such as age, gender, race, income or location impact upon talent management. In essence, the research remains entirely basic, from the everyday experience of talent management within organisations.
The current research has no shared definitions of talent or talent management and has thus not gone further than being able to suggest a series of factors, such as pay or development opportunities, or nebulous ideas such as engagement, as having an impact upon succession planning.
Overall the people professional will be unable to explain differences in talent management strategies, and how it impacts on retention; instead the effort has gone into attempting to develop an interesting body of work. When the complexities of today’s business and particularly that of HR accountability are considered, it is difficult to see where succession planning models within talent management offer the sophistication that might be needed for forward thinking!
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