Talent Management

Talent Management is a task traditionally given to HR that looks at:

  • Talent Acquisition: finding the best possible suited candidates to hire for the company;
  • Talent Development: providing learning and development opportunities for hires that allow personal and professional growth on the employee’s side and a more competitive knowledge and operational talent pool on the company’s side;
  • Talent Retention: setting up incentives (e.g. rewards, advancements, transitions, trainings) so that acquired and developed talents and their competences will want to remain within the company.

While Talent Acquisition, Talent Development and Talent Retention have all very different targets, they can’t be seen independently of each other. Talent Management is then seen as an overall strategy with three subtasks, and addressing it as such ensures coherence between the three subtasks, which is in turn fundamental to maintain balance and focus on the strategic talent goals of the organization.

Talent Management in Practice

1 – Define Values, Goals and a Vision

Developing an appropriate strategy requires clear steps and a solid basis built onto clear Values, Goals and Vision.

A decision what these three components should be comes from balancing of three other factors:

  1. what the market requires from your company;
  2. what the business objectives of the company require; and
  3. what the people working in the organization are willing to agree to.

Fundamentally, setting values, goals and vision for your framework also means setting the basis for your company culture. Culture is of course one of the pillars on which a company’s stability and resilience rely on, as it is pervasive and resilient to change. Once your culture is set and solidified, it becomes difficult to steer in different directions – in other words, you can’t be too careful in making a decision at this stage as whatever the result, it is what you’ll most likely have to live with – both in terms of talent management and culture!

2 – Design your Strategy

Once your values, goals and vision are defined, you can then start breaking down your strategy into its three subtasks, i.e. acquisition, development, retention. If you start addressing them separately without defining your basis by going through step 1, in fact, you’d risk a lack of coherence between the three, leading to an internal strain, potential conflicts and lack of clarity.

That said, each component has its own differences and heavily depends on your organization and goals, in other words: the strategy for talent acquisition development will be different from the ones for talent development and talent retention, and they should all be addressed individually in the overall framework.

3 – Set up indicators and an assessment system

As you develop each component of your strategy, you want to keep an eye open for measuring how engaged your people are in the organization and how satisfied they are of your strategy with respect to their values and goals.

People are the main focus of talent management, and they are the only ones capable of giving you directions on where to take the next steps in your strategy. Because of this, you want to have clear ways of understanding their signals, which you will need to set up and be transparent about. Once you open this communication channel, you will be able to continuously steer your strategy to match the internal feedback you receive with what the market requires of you, allowing you to maintain the balance between the three strategy components.

Talent Management and performance vs potential

Traditionally, management systems internal to an organization look mainly at the short-term productivity of an employee: the more efficient or profitable, the more interesting for the organization to keep, and vice versa. With Talent Acquisition becoming increasingly competitive within Talent Management, also thanks to the use of technology, a medium-to-long-term perspective on the person is becoming relevant as well. Simply put: potential looks at what someone’s performance could be in a specific amount to time with proper management, training and development, and incorporates it in the decision-making process.

Because of the increasing availability of smarter talent acquisition systems using advanced algorithms or AI, finding good talent specific to the company is becoming an increasing challenging task. For this reason, Talent Management is seeing a shift in weight towards Talent Development and Talent Retention: once you have found good talent, you want to do all you can to refine the person’s skills and encourage him or her to stay, as that would relieve the pressure on the Talent Acquisition side.

Talent Management and skills

Talent Management has traditionally focused more on hard skills, i.e. skills necessary to purely be better or more efficient in delivering assigned tasks, for example providing advanced knowledge of a specific programming language within an IT project.

In recent years, however, the importance of soft skills effect on a company’s performance has also been recognized and accepted. As such, and not without difficulty, organizations have started providing training on communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, conflict management, for example. While these have no direct and measurable impact on the organization’s performance, they have heavy impacts on the general organizational culture, well-being, happiness and team engagement.

This soft skills focus also has contributed to shifting the weight towards Talent Development and Talent Retention – to the point that some companies have established internal academies that explicitly include hard and soft skills in equal weight.