Magazine article Talent Development

Stuck in Neutral

Magazine article Talent Development

Stuck in Neutral

Article excerpt

Something isn't quite right. There is no question that the field of talent management has enjoyed a significant decade. An abundance of research, articles, books, and thought leaders have applauded the benefits to organizations that focus on the core talent management functions of hiring, engaging, developing, and retaining their talent.

The rise of intangibles in market valuation certainly has elevated the importance of talent management to the boardroom, the investment community, and beyond. But that is not enough, especially in times of rapid change, the constant drive to innovate, and increasing global pressures. Even as this context changes, there is a strong tendency to use old tools, mindsets, and methods to solve new problems.

The essence of this misalignment is that although organizations have had to adapt and be creative externally (or risk extinction), their internal practices are anchored in the past. There is a fundamental disconnect between external and internal rates of change: One is constantly changing and seeking to forge new products, markets, and partnerships, while the other is staid and focused on the type of organization that no longer exists. It is time to challenge convention and create new road maps for the future success of talent management in the decades ahead.

I have been fortunate to get to know hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my role of teaching the Human Capital Institute's talent management courses and leading its many conferences. I have tested many of the ideas presented in this article and learned from others' experiences in both big and small organizations. To some extent, these ideas, or road maps, have been crowdsourced:

* Become more of a decision science.

* Foster learning in the white spaces of the organization.

* Retool old processes such as performance management.

* Build flexibility and choice into the workplace.

* Align strategy, structure, and talent for successful execution.

* Create meaningful, sustainable cultures.

Those six road maps examine the avenues available for reframing, rethinking, and adapting to a different context than we have experienced before.

Become more of a decision science

John Boudreau first introduced the concept of decision science to explain how professions such as marketing, finance, and HR achieve greater credibility from leadership. The key step is not focusing on internal activity or intuition, but instead emphasizing data and evidence that contribute to business results.

Some examples of these insights follow.

* Microsoft knows which university provides the highest "quality of hire" for application developers.

* Google has identified the qualities of managers that are most important for managing its technical workforce (Project Oxygen).

* Intuit understands that engineers who stay with managers too long (for more than three years) have more limited career opportunities.

* Cognizant found that bloggers were 10 percent more productive than colleagues who did not blog.

Insights about the current workforce are valuable because they minimize risk and lead to better decisions and payback. It also is important to be curious and even hypothetical in searching for new relationships and trends among the data. For example, these are the types of questions that would be part of a "decision science" disciplined inquiry:

* What is the optimum build-versus-buy ratio for filling leadership positions?

* Do people who do well in leadership programs become better leaders?

* What is the optimum employee-to-contingent labor ratio for key positions?

* How can the learning curve be reduced for new hires in critical roles?

* How does engagement and retention among top performers differ from all employees?

There is no reason, going forward, that talent management decisions cannot be just as rigorous as those made in operations and finance. …

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