By Mark Dembo
…was the theme at the Conference Board’s Talent Management Strategies Conference held this week in New York. It was a great privilege to spend two days with well over 100 talent management professionals sharing ideas, knowledge and best practices.
Having attended many events like this over the past several years one thing in particular struck me throughout the conference; for the first time in well over two years there was a remarkable upbeat and optimistic tone. Discussions both formal and informal were about a return to growth, about accelerating development of key talent, and even – yes it’s true – about the “war for talent” being stronger than ever!
The theme of the conference certainly stuck a nerve with the challenges so many organizations were talking about. It goes something like this:
Question: “How do we get our arms around this behemoth called ‘Integrated Talent Management’? With increased globalization, a flatter and more matrixed organization structure, more demands on people’s time, differing needs for different generations and geographies and business units – how do we communicate and implement a coherent talent strategy with a cohesive set of talent tools and processes that meet the needs of all our constituents and stakeholders that allow us to make meaningful decisions about people, while keeping people engaged, and ensuring that development is focused, meaningful, and measureable? Oh, and we also need to have all of this online in multiple languages with all these systems being able to talk to each other… And, we need to have this in place now!” (Whoa- first, take a minute to catch your breath after reading that…)
Or, perhaps another way to ask the question: “How do you eat an elephant?”
Answer: ONE BITE AT A TIME…
See, the reality is that these are some very complex challenges – and there is no single, simple solution. Of course, what makes the challenges of 21st Century Talent Management so complex is that we are not dealing with widgets or machines or “things” – we are dealing with people. People who have been through the ringer the past few years and are still uncertain about what the future might hold. So, taking all of these things into account, there were some very helpful takeaways from the Conference that emerged:
1. More than ever – the starting point for Talent Strategy MUST be the Business Drivers! This is more than about HR having its rightful seat at the table – this is about ensuring that you are focusing efforts on the areas that will have the most impact for the business. Talent Management in a vacuum just simply won’t fly today.
2. The most effective talent management strategies are integrated. More than just about having “end-to-end talent management software” effective integration is about communication and education; ensuring that all stakeholders understand how one aspect of talent management is tied to another. And the most important underpinning to integrate talent processes is a cohesive set of competencies and success profiles for all key roles that are used consistently for talent selection, promotion, development, performance management, and succession planning.
3. Need to balance global and local; in our increased global world, effective integrated talent management needs to balance global consistency with local flexibility.
4. The Talent Management function should be the catalyst and the steward – but the business leaders need to take ownership for effective talent development.
5. You can’t do it all it once! Start by articulating the business drivers and success profiles – then based on your organization’s culture, maturity, as well as opportunities and challenges -determine the best place to start. Look for the small victories that can add up over time. Look for continual improvement over time.
6. Don’t overlook the leaders most often overlooked; the mid-level. These folks have more pressures than ever – their role is more complicated, more global, and more directly involved in execution of strategy.
7. “Great can be the enemy of good” – don’t wait until everything is perfect; it never will be.
Finally, an incredibly insightful comment, offered by Ray Peloso, Executive Vice President, Consumer Finance - Debt Management at RBS Citizens; “A life alerting recession is a terrible thing to waste.” Emerging from the world of the past few years provided us with a new lens, a renewed sense of urgency, and some important lessons. Let’s not forget the lessons learned and carry those forward to continually improve our talent and our organizations.
Mark Dembo is a manager with Development Dimensions International (DDI).