10 Myths about Talent Management

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  1. Great talent will fit all organizations. Does Walmart or NextTag, a low-cost retailer, require the same talent as Apple or Zappos? Probably not. Unique business objectives call for a differentiated workforce. An employee who is passionate about service excellence may thrive at Zappos but falter at Walmart where its values and points of emphasis are different.
  2. Jobs are of equivalent value to the organization. For too long, a requisition was a requisition was a requisition. Of course, senior executive roles got more attention, but few organizations distinguished which jobs were most strategic to the business. But if a job is more important to organizational success, it probably deserves a particular emphasis. In the airline industry, the logistics function is the critical role that can make or break profitability; for Walmart it may be supplier management; for Zappos, it may be its service personnel or website designers; for HCL Technologies in India, it is the innovator.
  3. High engagement solves most issues. While Engagement is vital, it is not sufficient to achieve optimal talent performance. Research evidence shows that units with high Engagement but low Alignment or Capabilities may not be achieving their customer or financial objectives for a variety of reasons that will be discussed later.
  4. One-size-fits-all programs leverage resources wisely. Squeezed like many business functions, HR and other talent supporting functions outsource many transactional tasks, as well as leverage limited resources by creating programs that can be rolled out in single, large initiatives. The problem is that not everyone necessarily needs programs to strengthen Engagement, improve diversity, increase business acumen, or build top-performing teams, to name a few programs currently making the rounds. Consequently, there is often an enormous waste of resources, especially when you include the lost productivity time of various stakeholders. Some managers need individual coaching, while others need standardized training. Some people need more diversity training, but others require heightened business acumen to increase their productivity. Although some employees want a bonus that includes a stock grant, others see that as burdensome and want a cash bonus.
  5. Stakeholders are convinced by logic alone. There is nothing wrong with sound logic, but today’s stakeholders, like CFOs and CEOs, want to see facts and evidence. Show me the numbers! While a training program looks like it makes sense or increasing Engagement sounds intuitively important, unless you can show the numbers, many leaders will be skeptical.
  6. Having great talent management processes is enough. Many organizations are world-class in recruiting and onboarding, but then they sub-optimize management of the full-talent lifecycle. For example, overly ambitious time-to-fill targets may be inversely related to performance or retention. Quick time to fill often translates into quick time to fail. Success is also not guaranteed if the selected talent fails to meet customer expectations. In addition, optimal subprocesses do not ensure that a company will have one look and feel in the labor market if the branding, recruiting, selection, and onboarding processes lack careful coordination.
  7. Talent is readily available. Demographics suggest that the “right” talent will likely dwindle in supply. Many countries already have shortages of engineers and scientific specialists, and health care specialties are in short supply in many markets. Skilled trades are hard to come by in many regions of developed countries. Asia is struggling to find talented managers. As the talent pool shrinks, organizations will need to figure out how to use talent more effectively.
  8. Performance management drives optimal performance. Most people interviewed for this book think that traditional performance management models have failed miserably. Many of these programs are driven by the need to distribute pay from increasingly scarce compensation pools. Some organizations are successful in allocating pay in ways that reinforce goals and improve resource utilization. Few companies, however, achieve high Engagement of the workforce from their performance management processes.
  9. Managers have high talent optimization skills. A high percentage of managers today do not have strong talent optimization skills. Research conducted by the Metrus Institute found that over 80 percent of managers who lead people have significant gaps in their ability to optimize talent, the biggest opportunity for most organizations to improve performance.
  10. Employees need policies and rules to guide their behaviors. In a world of broad, diverse talent operating at many levels both within and outside the organization, leaders and functional experts no longer hold most of the knowledge cards. If allowed, people throughout the organization will do extremely creative and innovative things. Strict policies and rigid rules are no longer a winning formula for either optimally using or retaining talent. Great Practice human capital functions today are “letting go” in order to increase the impact they have on optimizing talent within their organizations.

These misconceptions illustrate the need to rethink many assumptions about the way in which we manage talent.

From William A. Schiemann, The ACE Advantage: How Smart Companies Unleash Talent for Optimal Performance (SHRM, 2012).

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