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Talent Management

Talent Management

The term “Talent Management” became popular after McKinsey’s 1997 research and the 2001 book on “The War for Talent.” The shift was designed to introduce a more scientific strategy for human resource planning, effectively changing the minds of leaders in organizations. A more holistic, complete and inclusive strategic workforce planning model tied to business strategy is at the core of talent management.

For some, however, the term simply replaced the recruitment and workforce management practices already established, making their organization simply sound more contemporary. Many software companies started labeling their Human Resource Information Systems as “Talent Management” software while recruiters started using the term to suggest a different approach to recruitment and hiring efforts.

Johns Hopkins University defines talent management as “a set of integrated organizational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees.” I think they nailed it!

Organizations at the fringe of excellence adopt and behave in a way that considers readying the workforce from pre-hire through the entire life-span of an employee – including retirement and post-retirement.

Here’s what the organizations that “get it” do differently:


The implementation of a true talent management approach involves the entire organization. Some organizations think about their “enterprise” and include customers, clients, vendors and community in the implementation. For those organizations that excel with talent management, the “system” is well understood by all stakeholders, internal and external to the organization, such that it is part of the cultural fiber at every level.

Many organizations enjoy the ‘deconstruction of silos’ in this approach. All divisions and departments retain structure, of course, but information flows more readily and territorial issues start to dissolve within effective talent management implementation.


Organizational and role-specific competencies are a key differentiator between organizations that excel with talent management and those that do not. Competencies are a defined set of behaviors that provide structure to guide and enable individuals and the organization.

Largely agreed-upon key competencies for organizational talent management include:

Recruitment / selection process, learning and development, performance management, career and succession planning, and human resource planning. Organizations regularly add to this list, although some find the fundamentals very adequate (or, at the very least, an intelligent starting point).

Individual or role-specific competencies need not be overly complicated, either. A well written job description would include most role-specific competencies. However, many job descriptions could benefit from review and edits as jobs change and evolve right before our eyes! An opportunity often missed is defining and including value and culture-based competencies for each role as well.


Constant Improvement professionals will all agree: You cannot improve what you cannot (or don’t) measure. Evaluating performance and potential is a critical metric-based component of talent management that many organizations don’t get right. What to measure (more specifically per role and overarching for the organization), how to measure, and who should do the measuring are all valid questions, often creating stumbling blocks to progress in evaluations.

Talent performance and potential measurement systems need not be cumbersome nor complicated, but doing them well – considering the desired outcomes and the culture of the organization – often benefit from a non-biased, strategic partner approach in the development and launch phase.

Employee Training and Development:

Some organizations use the term “Talent Marketplace” while others create “University” models within their organizations. The intention is to provide training and development that builds on potential and grows new skill sets while sustaining and reinforcing currently needed abilities.

The concern of educating employees so they will leave for a better job is irrelevant. Gone are the days of fear and apprehension when it comes to investing in an employee’s training and education. Organizations must invest in their people, at every level, if they want to 1) attract talent, 2) retain talent, and 3) have the talent they need.

The adage “You can buy or grow talent” is being challenged in today’s workforce. Talent can absolutely be attracted into the organization, but without continual investment in the talent an organization “buys,” our competitors will “buy” that talent away from us as easily as we bought it in the first place.

Today’s workforce demands being trained and developed, and that is a good thing for today’s organizations!

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