There is so much noise in the marketplace around talent management – what it entails, how to implement, how to track, what to do with the information and what approach is most effective.

So what do we really need?

There are 3 key areas of focus required to ensure successful talent management:

  • Organization Knowledge
  • Management Strength and Courage
  • Effective Processes

Realizing all three together will help you find the sweet spot of Talent Management.

First, let’s consider organizational knowledge. We all know that well thought out business strategy, with clearly defined goals and objectives, provides the roadmap for your organization to excel in the future. A good plan will outline financial, operational and human capital requirements. Details on the skills required to deliver the results at every step of the way needs to be made clear. This will help ensure the right attention on your key talent. Knowledge of what skills exist currently within the organization is also critical. You need to be able to match your current talent to the future needs to identify the skill gaps. Once you know where you are going and what skills you need to get there, some decisions need to be made. This is where Management Strength and Courage comes into play.

Management strength and courage is critical. Assessment and evaluation of the skills, attributes and capabilities each individual brings to the game is a basic yet critical management responsibility. The ability to differentiate between effort and results, loyalty and friendship, to provide concrete, evidenced based feedback and prioritized development is essential. This includes the courage to have the tough conversations to ensure people ‘hear and embrace’ the right messages and have clear direction and the strength to know what’s needed and how to nurture growth.

Only 16% of respondents of a McKinsey talent management survey felt their organizations had the ability to distinguish between low and high performance. How impactful can talent management be if we can’t or won’t differentiate? A great process can only get you so far.

The 3rd consideration, the processes to support and drive effective talent management is also important. Processes such as succession management, talent assessment, priority and accelerated development, formal performance reviews, compensation, targeted recruitment – must all align, connect and support each other. The talent assessment process and all the connecting pieces form a picture with numerous data points. Putting the puzzle together, determining the appropriate development and timing all tied to supporting business strategy, is at the heart of why talent management is a critical organization process.

In 2006, research by the Corporate Executive Board indicated that 90% of organizations surveyed viewed succession management as a top priority. Only 6% said they had the systems in place to do the job.

If we know what is required to be effective at talent management, why is it so hard? Effective talent management requires the time and attention of senior leaders. It needs to take on the same importance, rigour and review as financial and operational planning. According to the 2012 McKinsey Quarterly, 30% of US companies failed to exploit international business opportunity because they didn’t have enough leaders with the right capabilities. This is the value of talent management. So the next time you have a talent discussion, consider what opportunities you might leave on the table if you don’t embrace all three areas of focus required for effective talent management.

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