Welcome back to the third and final part of our list of trends and developments within talent management for 2017. If age and teams are topics that are entering organizations like waves, almost forcing talent managers to take them into account, this third trend could be viewed more as a large untapped possibility. The third trend, drums please, is networks.
It is almost a truism that social networks matter immensely in organizational life. Who knows who and who talks to who affects information sharing, the distribution of power, and people’s careers. Your centrality in organizational networks should arguably also matter for your talent status: A person who is able to establish and maintain relationships with key people is much more likely to succeed than one who tends to remain peripheral. Still, network analysis has not reached talent management to any larger extent. Big data and the internet of things might now finally become the enablers. Take the very interesting study by Woolley et al. (2010), where employees were equipped with tracking badges to see how they interacted. The study elegantly revealed which colleagues people went to for advice (and for gossip) and how information spread in the organization. This type of knowledge is invaluable for organizations, since it identifies key actors.
At the annual academic workshop on talent management, organized in Copenhagen this past september, network analysis (the outcome of which might look like the chart in the image above) repeatedly came up as a potentially extremely valuable tool for talent management. For instance, HR could use it to identify those employees that are crucial nodes when it comes to e.g. linking different departments or groups of experts together. It could also be used for developmental purposes: A high-potential person who lacks the right connections will likely need to be coached, or his or her career will stall.
So there we have them, three broad trends on the rise in talent management in 2017: Age, teams, and networks. As you can see, the common denominator is the need for HR and senior management to start challenging some of the taken-for-granted assumptions about talent. The often implicit assumption that talent management is all about attracting and retaining young, individual stars and accelerate their career trajectory is ripe for questioning, and chances are this will be the year for it.