Talent Management – Old Fashioned?
The first time that ‘talent’, and particularly leadership talent, was identified it was as a specific, business critical, a factor to organizational competitive advantage. Despite the clarity of when the term was first thought off, everything else about the term is contested amongst both academics and ‘gurus’, and subject to a large volume of commentary.
In a survey of HRM professionals undertaken by McDonnell, 51% operated a talent management strategy, but only 20% had a formalised definition of what talent management was, and what it should achieve for a business. This reinforces the argument as to how such a loosely defined term can be a useful and practical framework in the global workplace. The CMI notes that there are many different takes on the idea of talent management amongst organizations;“Talent management is the additional management processes and opportunities that are made available to people in the organisation who are considered to be ‘talent’.”
In doing so they point to the wider issue that the core problem of talent management is defining what talent is, and specifically, how it can be identified and managed. In a report Tansley details a comprehensive analysis of the word talent and she comments on how it can be used in the human resources context, talent is context specific; apparently it can relate to very specific business skills or abilities, but all too often it is used as a catch-all term for leadership potential. (very important as everything nowadays is defined as leadership – almost an actor trade!)
The ‘management processes’ in the CMI definition has been given various labels, but can be thought of as a framework for identifying, tracking and developing talent from initially attracting candidates, to when they eventually leave the organisation. This process is accretive; that is, each step is essential for the next one, and the completion of all of them in sequence provides the necessary ‘energy’ for retaining talented employees.
It is easy think that talent management is the complex term, and retention is perfectly obvious. Retention has a very specific meaning; it is arguable that retention is the ultimate goal of all talent management strategies, keeping and nurturing the best people.
I believe that talent management should be thought of as an accretive framework that manages a high achiever from attracting them through to when they eventually leave the organisation; therefore, retention is not one factor amongst many that talent management seeks to control.
Talent development and retention is the new frontier of business competitive advantage, and retention of key staff is the defining factor for commercial success; as a result of this, attention has been given to the most effective strategies to do this.
Underlying these themes is the suggestion that the importance of talent management to retention works better in a globalised workplace. Instead, work has focused on specific areas where talent management is perceived to be of particular importance, notably succession planning. This stands in contrast to my experience as most organisations have sought to try and break down talent management into specific practices than can be deployed by the People Management team.
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