5 Talent Management Trends and the HR Skills They Require

By Sharlyn Lauby August 13, 2020
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5 Talent Management Trends and the HR Skills They Require

Ensure you have the skills to tread water in this new pool of talent transitions. More on managing these changes.

This time of year is traditionally filled with conversations about next year's strategic plans, individual goals and budgets. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this already challenging process even harder because we don't have a clear sense of what's going to happen next. 

However, as HR professionals and business leaders, we know that having a well-thought-out talent management strategy provides an organizational competitive advantage. As we look to the months ahead, here are five talent management trends to consider, along with what is required to effectively manage them.

Trend #1: Organizations want to see a more diverse slate of candidates for every position.

Michael Keleman, a Canadian recruiter who hosts a podcast called The Recruiting Animal Show and runs a Facebook discussion group for recruiters, reports that he has seen a number of recruiters commenting on an intense push by management to increase the number of diverse candidates.

It's not an unreasonable goal, Keleman said. Recruiters simply need to figure out how to do diversity sourcing. "They have to know where to look for people, and they have to build networks of people who can give them suitable referrals."

He also noted that recruiting should be part of a bigger picture that includes talent development. "Companies might have to take on unskilled people and train them—and possibly start cultivating and developing students in high school," he said.

Ultimately, HR specialists will have to effectively track and report on the improvements they achieve and then share that data with senior management.

Trend #2: Companies need to shift toward skilling, upskilling and reskilling.

Amazon, Walmart and PwC have announced plans to reskill large segments of their workforces in the years ahead. The challenge for other companies that follow will be to go beyond designing one-off training programs and focus on long-term reskilling efforts.

The key to achieving success will be flexibility, according to Jenni Stone, SHRM-CP, a partner and human resources director at HR Shield, a podcaster at HR Rescue, and a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) volunteer leader in Greenville, S.C.

"Reskilling is about treating the workforce as flexible rather than only seeing each employee in a set role," Stone said. "If you have talented employees working for you but their area of expertise is becoming less relevant, you don't want to simply wait for them to become obsolete and then have to hire someone new. Instead, it is much better to reskill them so you can put their talent to use elsewhere."

Stone suggested the best place to start any type of reskilling effort is by conducting assessments. "Step one is getting a clear view of your organization's talent ecosystem, such as the technologies, agile processes and systems [or ways of working] that enable greater connectivity. Step two involves identifying which jobs include the skills and competencies that overlap with new jobs. And step three is developing reskilling pathways and critical experiences that will get your people out of 'stagnant' roles," she said.

Trend #3: Employee benefits offerings must reflect the new world of work.

If organizations want employees to do their best work, then employees need to have access to well-being resources. In a SHRM Online article, Stephen Miller, CEBS, noted that an increasing number of employers were providing enhanced emotional and mental health benefits even before the pandemic. With COVID-19, that trend is accelerating, he wrote.

COVID-19 has challenged people in ways they've not experienced before. Individuals haven't been able to leave their homes, making it difficult to socialize with family and friends, for example. With limited opportunities for stress relief, emotional support and self-care, employees may be looking for other options.

But mental health is only one aspect of the well-being picture. Employers will also want to address remote working arrangements, professional development, employee resource groups and more. HR might find that this is a great opportunity to revamp and reintroduce cafeteria-style benefits programs where employees can choose a benefits package to suit their individual needs.

Trend #4: Managers must learn how to effectively manage a remote workforce.

One of the things we've learned over the past few months is that there are many advantages to the remote working environment. According to Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, author of The Talent Fix and a human resources consultant, the biggest struggle we've seen is how bad organizations are at encouraging and measuring high performance.

"Historically, most of performance management was seeing an employee's butt in a seat: 'Oh, Tim is here, he must be working!' Then, all of a sudden, Tim is at home and managers can't see Tim working," Sackett said. "Finally, the light came on and now organizations see how important it is to have great measurable goals toward making the business better."

For managers to have the most impact in managing performance, they need to provide clear communication. "Do your employees truly understand what success looks like, how they will be measured against it and what your role is in helping them achieve that success? For a lot of us, that means developing entirely new processes and measures, and a whole lot of leadership training and development," Sackett said.

Trend #5: HR professionals need to lead talent management efforts.

During the 2008 financial crisis, it was the CFO who guided the organization back to normalcy by providing the company's strategy. During this period, the ball is in HR's court, according to Ron Thomas, a former vice president of HR and now managing director at Strategy Focused HR in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"People strategy will and should be the driver to reimagine the workplace," Thomas said.

In response, HR professionals must work to develop greater business acumen to effectively lead the organization toward the new normal.

"We need to be in every meeting to guide the people process," he said. "HR has always yearned for that seat at the table. Well, now we are at the head of the table, and the question becomes 'can we deliver?' We have to become a student of our industry, a student of our business and a student of our workforce's DNA."

All of these trends require HR to understand and evaluate the analytics of success. And they all require some change management ability, whether that's changing our skills or helping the organization add employee and manager skills.

For organizations to leverage talent as a competitive business advantage, talent management must be aligned with business strategy. That means viewing these trends as more than just a passing fad. None are going away anytime soon. In fact, they are the new base line for talent management and will determine the organization's ability to be competitive for many years.

Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, is the author of the HR Bartender blog and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida-based training and human resource consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. The author of  The Recruiter's Handbook (SHRM, 2018) and Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success (SHRM, 2016) has made it a personal goal to find the best cheeseburger on the planet.

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