Understanding Talent Management
Various phrases and terms often take a turn as a buzzword, particularly within the business world: synergy, branding, client-centric, enterprise, holistic, knowledge process outsourcing, integrated marketing solution, offshoring, sustainability, value added, reverse fulfillment, mindshare, and more have all taken their turn in stride. Talent management, like many of these terms, is a legitimate concept that simply has come into its own at this time but can be difficult to grasp.
Essentially, talent management is the understanding and anticipation of sufficient human capital and the development and planning to fulfill those human capital needs. Research and business management books, over the past 20 years, have identified this technique and helped develop concepts and tools that can help business owners and managers, as well as Human Resource professionals, better develop their strategies for recruiting and managing talent.

What is talent management?

After a 1997 study, the term talent management was first coined by McKinsey and Company and has gone on to become a well popularized term within business management and Human Resource professionals. Obviously, the relationship between the development of Human Resources and the effectiveness of an overall organization has been well established for much longer. Some professionals have gone on to proclaim that virtually every aspect of Human Resources management is the same as talent management; while this may be the case in some businesses and organizations, generally speaking, talent management extends beyond the typical Human Resource management.

Succession planning, high potential management, development, assessment, and generally tasks that operate on a higher level of long term strategies fall under talent management. While many companies focus on talent acquisition alone (one of the most popular aspects of talent management), the more holistic and forward thinking professionals engaging in talent management choose to likewise explore and plan for the ongoing development and direction of acquired talent as well as planning for succession of new talent. Performance management is likewise a common aspect of Human Resources management but is only one of the many imperative functions of talent management.

What are the ethical issues involved in talent management?

Just as business management is riddled with ethical considerations, talent management poses its own risks and questions when it comes to practicing ethics and integrity. Both seemingly superfluous topics as well as much more muddied ethical waters exist within talent management and, as both an employee and a business owner or manager, there are many things to consider.

At the root of talent management is the understanding that your business is likely to include both talent employees as well as typical employees. Not every employee is likely to be critical to the long term strategies of a company and thus will be treated differently from those who are critical. While many first line employees understand and recognize that they will be treated differently from their supervisors and upper management, which will not be true of all employees. It may be very challenging for some employees on management levels to see managers, department heads, or other peers receive significantly more attention. Because talent management is focused on developing a small minority of employees who will be critical to the long term success of the company, it stands to reason that those employees who are not in this minority may feel left out, unimportant, or may even predict that they will soon be laid off (whether that is the case).

What can the company do to mitigate this issue? The most important thing a company can do to make each individual employee feel important and create an overall atmosphere of ethical behavior is to be transparent. While some upper level managers may think that it would be cruel to notify employees that they are not considered talent, most managers and supervisors need an overview of what the company's long term goals are and why some people are more critical to achieving of those goals. Aside from ethics, this will also help ensure that talent is being developed on an ongoing basis.

Essentially, all that is required is to let each manager know that their gifts and abilities are crucial at their current level and thus do not require additional development and attention that may have to be given to talent employees. These staff members do not need to feel as though they are less than their peers who are receiving more time and attention; rather, they simply need to be aware that new people are coming on board (or changes are being made to other employees' positions) to start directing the company according to its strategy. Employees who are not talent should still be included in understanding the new goals for the company while also being reassured that their own gifts and abilities will continue to be utilized and necessary for successful operations.

A related issue is that of the ethics involved in selecting those people considered to be talent. Because these decisions are often made early in an individual's career or even their tenure with the company, there are some ethical considerations regarding those employees who may be overlooked unfairly. Oftentimes, many young men and women in the business world may not seem as aggressive, confident, and so forth due to a number of factors that may not actually relate to whether the individual has potential to contribute as significant talent. Sometimes it is difficult for a company to reevaluate its current employees to determine if any of them have become a person of talent when they are constantly looking outside for talent.

Obviously, common business ethics apply to talent management as well. In fact, ensuring ethical business practices and an expectation of employee ethics may be even more necessary for a business or organization that has excellent talent. The individuals who are selected as talent typically end up being placed at very high levels within the company. Anyone in those types of positions has the potential to engage in unethical business practices; those who have been deemed talent may be slightly more of a risk due to both the level of trust a company puts in their talent as well as potential arrogance or entitlement stemming from being treated with more attention and respect than other employees. Obviously, many talented employees are going to engage in ethical business practice, but for those whom do not, then having a company that is efficiently run with a strong level of transparency can help lessen the likelihood of unethical or illegal behaviors.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Talent Management for Business course?
When given the opportunity, one way that talent may be able to better your organizational ethics is by having the freedom and flexibility to be honest with each other and with higher level CEOs and business owners. When a company has chosen individuals with talent, it is important when those individuals fulfill their capabilities by having the freedom to question and challenge existing policies and procedures within the company. Obviously, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this but by allowing a talented individual the job security to point out potential pitfalls and errors in judgment, a company can become better and fulfill its own missions regarding the use and development of talent.

Basics and Process

The key difference between talent management and general Human Resource (HR) management is acting with an eye on the big picture and on the long term plans of the business. Day-to-day activities fall well within HR territory while long term strategies regarding employment and development that are made considering the organization's overall future, rather than one specific job's future, tend to fall more within talent management. Consider starting a new company and developing your business plan. Your objectives should be time sensitive and concrete to map out how exactly you anticipate meeting those objectives. If you complete all of the steps of founding your company and become self-sufficient within (for example) three years, you can continue doing either what you have done for the past three years, or you can set new objectives and more overarching goals. Many companies will, often without meaning to, continue doing what seems to have worked to stay sufficient and successful while longer term goals identified in the initial business plan fall by the wayside.

However, it does not have to be that way. A business that gets caught up in the day-to-day management of its employees, services, and clients has limited potential for growth. Moreover, depending on the services or goods it supplies, it may become obsolete simply by continuing to do what has made it successful thus far, since it had to stay competitive. Talent management requires business owners and managers to develop ongoing and long term goals and strategies to achieve them. Those strategies often rely upon particularly capable and skilled human capital, those individuals who have been selected not only to be exemplary employees at the time of hire but also help guide and equip the company to grow in the direction determined by top level management.
Assessing, acquiring, developing, and managing the skills and knowledge utilized by that human capital, along with planning for its succession, are the things that make talent management. The individual as a person demonstrating typical HR issues such as tardiness or friction between two people is not an issue of talent management. Extracting and using the abilities of that individual to achieve the long term goals and objectives of the company is talent management.Consequently, it is critical that talent management is part of the overall business strategy. Moreover, employees must be used and managed effectively on a daily basis in conjunction with that strategy. Many companies and HR professionals have focused primarily on acquiring talent but then ignore or become otherwise focused and lose sight of the long term strategies, to which that talent is supposed to contribute.

That is to say, that much like a company can become stagnant while focusing on becoming solvent, it can and does frequently occur that a desirable individual (from a talent management standpoint) may be chosen and acquired but then is, effectively, left by the wayside. Without proper development with an eye towards those long term goals and strategies, the best human capital in the world will still become stuck, effectively devaluing the purposes behind their original desirability. Worse still, they may become frustrated or unfulfilled and will then leave the company; turnover of staff is always expensive and often destructive to a company and the loss of a highly prized individual will be that much more unfortunate for the company as a whole.

As previously discussed, talent management is a set of processes that are designed and carried out by HR as well as other managers and supervisors to develop particular strengths and abilities that have been determined to be appropriate for a company's long term goals and objectives. Such employees must be located, acquired, developed, motivated, and retained; their positions must also be groomed for succession in their absence.

Common talent management models incorporate several processes designed to provide these companies with the best talent available for their specific purposes. Many of the common aspects explored within talent management models include the following.

  • Planning. Obviously, the most critical step in the talent management process, planning incorporates the strategies determined by the company and the type of talent it needs to realize the company's long term goals. The availability of both internal and external talent should be considered with an eye on the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and characteristics needed within each potential position. Companies, to be honest, must also be willing to consider the extent to which they are ready, willing, and able to achieve that talent. Talent usually comes with a price tag so it is imperative that a company determines what it can afford to pay in both salary and benefits.

  • Talent Acquisition (Recruiting). Recruiting talent is a very tricky and delicate area. While many focus on going after talent that has already been identified, it is also important not to abandon thediamond in the rough talent as well as internal employees. Many large companies work with recruiters who can very directly locate established talent; this can be a very beneficial arrangement with its own best practices. However, it is important not to overlook undiscovered talent amongst new graduates, early professionals, and existing employees. In addition to locating talent, thorough interviews and testing may be required to ensure that the talent you have found is an ideal match for your company both in terms of activity as well as in organizational culture. Many people may offer the right skills but if they are not conducive to the environment where they are expected to work, they may have some difficulties, which can negate all the efforts to acquire them.

  • Moreover, it should help new talent recognize and appreciate their room for innovation, communication, and other freedoms. One important aspect of onboarding is developing an inclusive business culture with diverse personnel. While diversity can be broken down by race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, and others, there are numerous different aspects of diversity. Moreover, while a diverse workforce offers businesses a tremendous amount of benefits, a culture of inclusion will help each employee feel that they belong and are valued for exactly who they are.
  • Developing talent is most important with younger or less experienced employees and is most effective when coupled with engaging the employee's interests in their role in the company as well as their long term career.
  • Performance Management. Obviously, performance management is a critical component of almost any employee at almost any business. Through reviews and ongoing management, talent employees should be given feedback as to their past performance as well as future expectations. Such expectations may often include areas to work on more thoroughly but can likewise direct the employee to a new avenue or area the business wants them to explore as part of their strategies. For that reason, performance management for talent employees must involve all necessary personnel; more holistic evaluations such as 360-degree evaluations often are ideal to identify every aspect of how the employee is handling their existing responsibilities, as well as to what direction they should take moving forward.

  • Retaining Talent. Once you have worked on acquiring and developing your talent, you will want to make sure that you retain that talent. Obviously, hiring and developing employees is time consuming and expensive. Therefore, you want to be sure to get a return on your investment. The most common reason employees leave their place of work is conflict or dissatisfaction with their supervisor. Salaries, benefits, and similar concerns are certainly a factor that should not be overlooked, but the importance of a match between the talent and the company's managers and organizational culture cannot be overstated. During the process of acquiring, onboarding, and developing your talent, you should have either had plenty of opportunities to ascertain whether the employee is a good fit for the company and the supervisor and, if not, have terminated the relationship or worked to bridge the gap.One of the many benefits of inclusion and an atmosphere of diversity is that the talent you have hired is likely to feel safe, welcomed, and engaged, which will help you retain them longer.

  • Succession Planning. Eventually each employee at your office or company, from the CEO down to the mail clerk, will cease to work there. When that occurs, you will want to have a plan for who will be able to take over the job or at least the responsibilities that come with it. Succession planning is all about recognizing that replacing talent is not an easy or a simple task. Because you will rarely know precisely when this may occur far ahead of time, it is ideal to have more than one first and in mind for each position. Oftentimes, this can occur by using already existing staff. Ideally, potential successors will be groomed for some time, which will help up and coming talent to be developed and a company to continue operating at a maximum efficiency and effectiveness when a member of the talent must be replaced.