Talent management myths and facts

by Viv Cole on September 9, 2014

Last Friday I went to an excellent session of the Trainers and Developers Network  led by Catherine Shepherd. In many organisations talent management is siloed away from L&D, but it’s usually helpful to understand more about what your colleagues in HR are doing (and how it interacts with your LMS). Here are my three main takeaways from the day.What is talent management?

Despite many years having passed since McKinsey popularized the “war for talent” in 1997, there is still little academic consensus on what talent management is, what it’s for and what good looks like in practice. Much of talent management seems to be the rebadging of good HR practices in more board-friendly language.

I would define talent management as “the processes which an organisation uses to identify key roles that support competitive advantage and to ensure that there is a pipeline of people able to fulfil these roles in the future”. The scope of talent management differs across organisations, so it’s well worth asking a few questions about the organisation’s approach to talent management to ensure that you are talking about the same things.

What’s the evidence?

There are many stats to indicate that doing talent management well is worthwhile, here are just a couple. Bersin and Associates have published a maturity model for strategic talent management. The highest level of maturity entails fully integrated processes and systems used to make business decisions and talent management being business driven. Despite the pareto effect that you might expect when comparing the most and least mature organisations, there are still some striking findings. Organisations with the most mature talent programmes:

  • generate 26% more revenue per employee than their peers
  • have 40% lower voluntary staff turnover amongst high performers than peers.

There can’t be many CEOs who would say no to those.

What next?

As long as people are important to organisations, talent management will still be important, even though business strategies are likely to be reformulated at an ever increasing pace. Many consultancies have produced studies on emerging trends and how organisations can best respond to them e.g. PWC’s megatrends.

One blind alley is to segment the employee population by generation. One meta-analysis of 20 studies (1995-2009) giving pair-wise comparisons across Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennial, with nearly 20,000 subjects (Costanza et al (2012). Generational differences in work related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 27 (4), 375-394) found: “Findings suggest that meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist on the work-related variables we examined and that the differences that appear to exist are likely attributable to factors other than generational membership.”

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