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Is Talent Management Over-Rated?

This is the question that has reverberated through my inbox since I started talking about talent management, with readers sharing their various frustrations with ‘ungrateful and disloyal employees who stay long enough to benefit and then leave before you benefit from your investment in them’;

Readers asking generally what the point is of embarking on a talent management program as the employer because you run the risk of developing people and paying them a good salary that they will just use as a bargaining point when they are negotiating with other employers. So in other words, you just go to great expense to create a training facility that other employers benefit from. And then, on the other side of the argument were frustrated employees who said they’d been waiting years for the promised opportunities to materialize. So, is talent management over-rated? My opinion is that talent management, ok, let’s start from the perspective of the employee, talent management is not exclusively about moving up the organizational chart. Particularly when you reach the higher levels of the organization, you will find that opportunities to grow into higher positions are fewer and further apart. Availability of positions depend on the business plan. There can only be so many Finance Directors, there can only be so many heads of departments and business units. So, that kind of progression may take a bit longer than anticipated, and it’s not a betrayal when you experience a delay in progression. And, speaking to the employer who thinks employees who leave after development are disloyal, well, the point of developing a talent pool was to ensure you always have someone with the requisite competencies to take up positions as and when they arise, so the cost of acquiring, cultivating and retaining that talent is a factor that your business has to plan for and absorb, and part of that cost is the risk that some of the talent will leave. They are developed and ready to deliver, you don’t have the structural capacity to absorb and engage them right away, so they find the opportunity somewhere else. Further to this, let’s admit that as the employer you have also benefitted from the development effort of other companies when you recruited well-rounded talent into your teams at various points of your operation.

A good way to manage expectations of what talent management is for both parties is to reduce emphasis on promotion into positions. Look at a case in point. There

was a time when graduates were recruited into positions called Management Trainees, and the emphasis seemed to be on the prospect of placing these colleagues into management positions once their training was completed. If there were no management positions available, it seemed that the program was failing. But when you change the title to Graduate Trainee, it changes the perspective. Now the title simply suggests that the colleague is a graduate on a training program. This way, at the end of the training program, the trainee is substantively placed in the most suitable role, and instead of being focused on how the role is not management, the colleague will look at how all the training equipped him/her to deliver at optimal levels in the current role.

And a good way for the employer to manage the risk of losing talent is simply to ensure that the reward philosophy and pay structure is such that the employee can be paid in line with his or her delivery, regardless of his or her job title. Understand what is motivational and meaningful to your teams and meet them there when you package their rewards. Whether we are talking recognition, or money, perks and benefits, alternative work arrangement, or the quality of the working environment.

As emphasized in the last article about talent management, this is not just about how much is spent on training, nor is it just about money/salaries. This is about creating the kind of work environment that would enable you to attract the best people for your purposes (so it’s important to know what you are looking for and why); develop, engage, reward and retain them. It’s also about recognizing that having a talent pool is to your strategic advantage, so don’t regret the investment.

And for the employee, when you are in the organization, it’s not just about position. When you participate in the training programs, don’t see it as just a stepping stone to a higher position, because far more than that, it is an investment in your growth as a person and a professional and once you have the knowledge in your head (or heart or hands, as it were) nobody can take it away.

The H.R. Dashboard



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