The Art and Science of Talent Management

By Mucha, Rochelle Turoff | Organization Development Journal, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

The Art and Science of Talent Management


Mucha, Rochelle Turoff, Organization Development Journal


Abstract

Talent has become the driving force for business success. The meaning of talent has evolved in response to cycles in the economy. Charles Fishman defined talent management in War for Talent as a factor in the best of economic times. The current downturn, however, requires businesses both to acquire a new understanding of and leverage talent differently if they are to thrive during both the best and worst of times.

People are our most important assets!

Organizations mouth these few words frequently. But what do they really mean? For some, they define a claim about understanding and responding to their employees' needs in the workplace. For others, they communicate appreciation of employees' talent for essential work, such as setting, meeting and, indeed, exceeding goals. Unfortunately, for most organizations these words are more rhetoric than commitment.

Talent has been a buzzword for over a decade. According to Fishman in The War for Talent, the competition for talent dominated the nineties as organizations of all sizes and industries vied for those whom they identified as the best and brightest. Top MBA graduates could write their own financial ticket. Seasoned professionals were traded from company to company. That was then; this is now.

Since the economic downturn of 2000, a broader definition of talent management has emerged. The competition for talent has become more strategic than ever before. Dickens best describes the current situation in his introduction to The Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...." Indeed, companies in today's talent market face a curious paradox. In both uncertain economic times as well as at the height of a boom, effective talent management is essential to achieving organizational excellence. If a company cannot keep its talent, it will be buffeted by the storms of recession. Or in good economic times, it will fail to maximize its competitive edge.

Unemployment claims have dominated the past few years causing employees to stay on board. As the economy inevitably recovers, several experts have predicted that annual voluntary turnover could rise to 20% or more for white-collar workers. Sibson Consulting reports that one out of six are poised to bolt their current job. Walker Information's survey of 2400 employees found that 34% were at high risk to exit. Accenture claims that half of all US middle managers are actively looking for new jobs or will be soon. Long hours, lower pay and benefits coupled with employee's perception of ungrateful and greedy senior leadership will surely propel disgruntled employees to jump ship as opportunities become available. One client of mine has lost one third of its senior management team in the first quarter of 2004 alone. We are now embarking on a series of interviews and focus groups to identify and remedy the root causes of disengagement in an effort to save the sinking ship.

The war for talent is far from over. It is just beginning a new chapter. The employers who win will be those who are giving their employees a good reason to stay. People drive results. Talent management drives the building of people capability and that in turn drives the execution of business results. These three processes are both linear and interactive as diagrammed below:

What Is the Essential Work of Talent Management?

A organization's answers to the following questions will help map out how to manage the essential work of talent management:

Assessment Answers

Where is the organization going and why?

What work needs to get done?

What are the current and future roles for workers?

What competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) does the organization need to get the work done?

What competencies does the organization currently have?

What are the current and future gaps in the competency continuum?

To begin to appreciate the future orientation of talent management, it is helpful to differentiate between performance and potential.

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