Managing talent always has been a priority, but not necessarily
a strategic role for human resources departments. That is changing.
In many companies, talent management is often its own division
within HR - a division likely to encompass recruiting and hiring,
training and development, aligning and measuring employee performance
against corporate goals, determining compensation, planning successors
to critical positions, and gracefully moving employees from active
to retirement with little or no negative impact on the organization.
Strategically directing and integrating this talent ultimately
supports companies in achieving their business objectives.
The definition of talent management can differ widely from company
to company, since each organization's structure and implementation
is unique. Accordingly, there is no industry standard for talent
management or significant research to define its best practices.
In some companies talent means only high-performing and high-potential
employees. In others, the word talent includes all employees,
who, through careful selection, placement, ongoing development
and engagement, have the capability to drive the company's performance.
These disparate definitions determine the activities and configurations
companies establish and then implement when developing their people.
The structure of talent management has changed in the past decade.
Then, HR functions were managed as stand-alone departments. HR
employees worked independently, without much collaboration or
knowledge of what the functions and groups required. Worse, talent
management lacked integration with the company's direction for
the future. This meant employees rarely received direction and
support to help them understand how their roles impacted the organization's
goals and outcomes.
On the other hand, interdependent human resources efforts can
be highly effective. In this design, all talent management assets
fall under one senior HR leader who coordinates these roles and
promotes business strategy execution. For instance, the competencies
that are used to ensure the company has the right set of skills
for future success are the same ones that form the foundation
for selection, learning and development, performance management
and management succession.
In 2004, John Deere consolidated several of its HR functions
into a talent management organization. "We made a number
of fairly visible gains. We upgraded our succession planning process
and created more awareness and knowledge of our succession planning
pools. We now have 38 standing talent teams to review high-potential
employees and succession planning, where previously we only had
one or two groups," said Rick McAnally, director of human
resources, compensation, benefits and integration at John Deere.
To be most effective, all talent management functions work together
toward the singular goal of preparing a company's workforce to
meet future business objectives.
Technology provides the means to integrate all talent management
processes and communicate interactively with the workforce. The
benefits of an integrated talent management system include:
1. One integrated database.
All parts of the human resource life cycle, from acquire to retire,
are managed on one employee database, allowing for tremendous
economies in time and accuracy. Changes that occur in the workforce,
such as promotions, new hires and terminations, are available
to every HR function in the organization. The profile, goals and
development plan for any employee are updated at the same time
with consistent information. For instance, a mandated ethics training
module tracking report will no longer state that an employee has
not completed the course when the employee was terminated six
months ago. One database means more accuracy and hundreds of man-hours
saved by not having to upgrade stand-alone systems with redundant
2. Cross-functional data exchange.
An integrated system is organized to let all components of talent
management exchange information. For example, the recruitment
software exchanges information with the workforce planning software.
This helps create employee profiles that are linked to individual
development plans and performance goals. "The huge benefit
of this type of system is the ability to tap into it from anywhere.
When everyone is working on the same system, it's ensuring consistency
across the whole enterprise," said Randy Elders, director
of performance support and organization development at Spartan
These linkages allow the leader to query the system for cross-functional
relationships and produce reports with business significance,
a) Did recruitment meet the workforce planning goals this year?
What is the company's progress over the past three years? Is this
b) What is the status in acquiring employees with the competencies
needed in five years?
c) Do individual performance goals align with those of the CEO?
d) Given the company's competency requirements for competitive
success in five years, where are the gaps and what skills are
needed to hire? What skills does the company need to develop internally?
Are development plans reflecting appropriate actions?
"The speed as to which the data is available is another
benefit," said Elders. "Now, with better and more comprehensive
availability of data, we are able to make more data-based decisions
rather than only subjective decisions." Thus, talent management
technology makes it easier for executives to assess, develop and
Partners in Success
What elements create success in talent management? It's critical
for CEOs to have a fundamental belief that employee performance
is a key to the company's success and be willing to emphasize
the development and management of the company's human capital.
Further, the HR organization needs to have a vision for the power
of integrated talent management. HR leaders then work with the
CEO to understand the direction of the company and translate that
into a talent management strategy.
To carry out the strategy, HR executives identify the next management
layer down that shares the vision and has the ability to execute
"Look at talent management structure as focusing on the
needs of the corporation from the standpoint of the future. What
are the critical positions today and how are they expected to
evolve tomorrow? Do we have an overall view of potential employees
who can develop into those roles in the next several years?"
said Badri Narrayen, director of HR and organizational effectiveness
at Lafarge North America.
By committing to using technology that supports and facilitates
current and future talent management visions, companies are supporting
talent management function and structure. Additionally, by focusing
on the entire talent management process, organizations can reap
the benefits of an integrated and collaborative team.
[About the Author: Lois Webster is CEO and general manager
of LearnShare LLC, a full technology company that specializes
in the development and implementation of integrated software and
related professional services.]