Five Christmas Gifts for Talent Management

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The festive season is upon us, and the first semester of this blog is drawing to an end.Quite a journey if you ask me!As Christmas draws near, I thought we would finish off the year with a little wish list for talent management, based on research and companies’ realities. See it as five really nice gifts to put under the tree for your organization’s talent management.

  1. A well-reasoned definition of talent. Very often, ”talent” and ”talents” become terms that are just thrown around without much consideration. When you say that your organization needs talent, what exactly are you referring to? A clear common theme for organizations with a mature and successful talent management is that they have spent considerable time answering this question. This is especially important considering that ”talent” is such an enigmatic term. Does talent primarily imply innate abilities, or a certain mindset and attitude? Is ”talent” always versatile, or can you be a talent in just one specific function or role? Are everyone talents, or should the term apply to a small organizational elite? Research can only get you so far in answering these questions – to some extent, it always comes down to the organization’s values, culture, and strategy.
  2. An honest consideration of whether and why you need a talent program. It is safe to say that the trend of talent programs has become somewhat of a bandwagon in the last five-or-so years. And for some companies, they certainly fulfill important purposes, such as increasing attraction of candidates and speeding up employees’ development. However, there are indications from research that talent programs may also have adverse consequences if not thought through beforehand. Not least, questions and frustration may arise when it is not clear to other employees why some have been selected for this precious initiative. In other words; talent programs need to be handled with care. HR teams and management teams should ask themselves prudently: Do we really need this program? For what exact purposes? How do we avoid negative reactions? If these questions cannot be answered properly, it is usually better to put the idea on hold.
  3. More focus on how talent decisions are communicated. There are few hard truths within research on HRM and Organizational Behavior, but one of them could be summed up as follows: It is not the thing in itself, it is how that thing is communicated. We know this from literature on performance ratings, developmental talks, promotion decisions, and more. How managers and HR professionals formulate these things has an enormous impact on how employees react, and what the longer-term effects are. Talent decisions are no exception in this regard. Be sure to spend enough time discussing how managers should notify selected talents of their appointment, and how these decisions should be communicated to other employees. Consider, for instance, the difference between describing the program as a reward for being outstanding, versus a forward-looking encouragement to keep on challenging yourself.
  4. A switch from identifying to developing. It is clear that many organizations today have very elaborate processes for identifying talents: Calibrations, assessment centers, rating matrices, etc. Quite often, however, you end up with a very well-founded talent pool – but fewer ideas on how to develop them. Opportunities for vertical promotions are often scarce, and formal trainings are expensive. Still, development must be seen as a real core process of talent management – otherwise, what is the point of identifying them? One avenue is to start looking at the possibilities for horizontal movements, e.g. rotations. Most importantly, however, is usually to ramp up on on-the-job training.
  5. A clear management of expectations. If it is one side effect of talent management that must be attended to, it is the raised expectations of those appointed as talents. Tell someone ”we consider you one of our talents” – and that second, you have re-negotiated the psychological contract with that employee. He or she will start expecting more development and career opportunities, and often within a rather limited time. If nothing then happens, chances are you will lose this person instead. Managing expectations from day one is thus key. Some organizations address this by working intensely with gap analysis: Clearly identifying and communicating where the talent’s development areas lie, and what will need to happen before the person can take the next step.

There we are – five nice Christmas gifts for basically all organizations’ talent management. With this list, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I am very much looking forward to seeing you again in 2017, continuing our journey into the fascinating landscape of the psychology of work.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbtrama/

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