Talent Management: Something Productive This Way Comes

Talent management is nothing new. It has been around for a long time and worn many guises. It is, however, holistically a concept whose time has come. And if you are an HR professional looking to justify your existence, bringing talent management to the forefront of human resources is a step in the right direction. Talent management means a host of different things to different people. I personally see it as an all-encompassing model of what HR should have been doing in the first place. For openers, let’s define my version of the ideal role of HR within a given organization: “The purpose of HR is to act as a business unit whose primary responsibility is to partner with and proactively support senior management’s business objectives as they relate to human capital.” With this as an operational definition, let’s look at the primary areas that need to be addressed and use them as a rule of thumb. Please understand, the following categories can be subdivided endlessly, with no argument from me. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s look at six areas that really matter, with a few sample details to consider in each one. The better you are doing in these areas, the more measurable value you are adding to the organization. The converse of this is true as well ó so ignore this advice at your own peril. Workforce Planning Workforce planning is a big part of supporting organizational growth. It requires you to work closely with senior management. Together, you have to plan not only the number of employees to be hired but also the types of skill sets and core competencies that these employees must possess. You also have to plan the hiring schedule and help to architect what the organization will look like down the road. All of this, of course, is easier said than done. But I recommend you to think about the following:

  • Plan your strategy as far into the future as possible. No one expects perfection, but the more well thought out the projections, the better you know what will be expected of your organization. Be sure to have a “Plan B” in place that you can fall back on, in the event changes in anything from shifting markets to economic gyrations come into play.
  • Keep in mind that there are pre-packaged solutions for talent management. Purchase them and use them as tools only. Beware of “one size fits all” templates. Nothing takes the place of ongoing communication and common sense.

Recruiting Recruiting is the bugaboo (I always wanted to use that word) of most organizations. It is like quicksand. It can eat up every second that you are alive and still ask for more. Besides, identifying and attracting the best employees is never an easy task, because good people are always hard to find. Recruiting is also usually very expensive, which makes it an ideal place to make or save money for your organization. Recruiting alone is good for another 20 articles, so just consider the following points in this talent management discussion:

  • Hiring the best candidate is Job One. Nothing else matters. Diversity does not matter (don’t yell at me on this; I am a fanatic believer in the value of diversity). Politics do not matter. The boss’ sister-in-law who has been out of work since 1965 does not matter. There are no sacred cows here. The candidate hired must be the best candidate for the job. End of story.
  • Develop a good, fair, comprehensive and cost-effective recruiting methodology and be sure that everyone is on board. No one was ever sorry that they had a good recruiting machine. Make it your business to build the machine and gather data along the way for the metrics you will need to demonstrate its value and that the resources were well spent.

Human Capital Development Human capital development covers many different areas. Frequently it will involve working with senior management to do such things as:

  • Identifying the best “athletes” your organization employs. These are the people whom you do not want going to the competition. They are usually about 20% of the workforce. (Be aware that these groups are fluid and morph constantly. An employee might be in one group one year and in another group the next year. The only constant is change.)
  • Identifying the second tier. These are the individuals who are not quite there yet, but with the right career development and strategic management programs will soon be a part of the above mentioned group. Think of them as the farm team, as they are also superb athletes.
  • Carefully managing the remaining group to motivate, inspire, and squeeze every ounce of productivity out of each player.
  • Creating and developing new and challenging professional development programs and avenues for employee advancement to aid in creating a stronger workforce and improving retention.

Diversity Diversity is a very important component of talent management. It helps to provide the broadest possible intellectual and cultural capital through management’s attempts to hire the most diverse set of qualified employees. There are many ways to achieve organizational objectives. One way is to cull candidates from different backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints to create a rich tapestry from which to draw intelligent plans of action. When one thinks of diversity it is usually about race, religion, or other divergences. But be advised that diversity of thought and opinion is every bit as important as diversity of anything else. You can have the most racially, religiously, and gender diverse workforce on earth. But if each employee is a middle-aged Republican who lives in a suburban town and drives an SUV, I question the true diversity that exists within your organization and the value derived from what I see as the illusion of diversity. Please consider the following in the diversity part of the talent management cycle:

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  • You cannot achieve diversity unless you understand the value it brings to the organization. Diversity is not a numbers game or saying that you are an Equal Opportunity Employer. Diversity only comes when there is a real commitment to go the extra mile to make it happen as opposed to going through the motions of making it happen. I know HR people that talk about diversity but really do not seem to understand, on a guttural level, the true value it brings to the organization. Because of this poor insight, their organization is at a real disadvantage.

Employee Relations Employee relations is serious business. It is hard to get the job done if no one is getting along. Employees should value diversity of thought, respect individual differences, and try to work together in an effective manner. Sadly, reality is not always in alignment with this model. Understand this: employee relations is not the belief that everyone should be happy all of the time. You are a businessperson, not a therapist. Employee relations is all about dealing with interpersonal issues and doing what you can to fix them for the sake of organizational productivity. The idea is to remove the rough spots that slow down the machine and create inefficiency. I urge you to consider the following:

  • How you handle employee relations demonstrates your ability and business judgment. Time is money. Some employees are high maintenance. How much time should you put into these employees and workplace situations? It is a judgment call. Once again, be advised it is a business decision, and you are a businessperson who is running a business unit. No one is irreplaceable, and sadly, some employees might be happier at another organization. (Boy, do I wish I had space to write more about this issue alone!)
  • Work with people to help solve their problems, but do not solve their problems for them. They will never learn anything if you do. Your best bet is to coach high maintenance employees in first avoiding problems, solving them only when they get stuck. You are not a guidance counselor, and this is not fifth grade (sure seems like it sometimes, doesn’t it?).

Employee Retention In every organization there is a necessity to work closely with certain individuals in order to retain them (on the other end of the scale, there are employees who desperately need to be fired). Retention is the art and science of keeping those employees who are most valuable in supporting the organization’s business objectives engaged, growing, developing professionally and happily employed. This is not as easy as it sounds, but the following is worth thinking about:

  • Employee retention costs money, but the cost of losing the people within your organization you wish to keep is far more expensive. Lack of retention will lead to entropy. Nothing good can come of that plan.
  • Poor retention has a corrosive effect on every aspect of your organization. It affects employee morale, customer/client relations, productivity, and cost per hire. It impacts the very culture of your company.

As you can see talent management, is a huge undertaking and requires a commitment from senior management in order to become and remain effective. But the future of the organizations we work for will require nothing less than a full commitment to talent management in order to meet the rigors of competing globally. We owe it to this country to try to get back on track and do all we can to dominate in all possible marketplaces. Such commitment will help us to do so.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net

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