What is Talent Management?

Talent Management is hot. A Technorati search on the phrase yields 3 to 4 times as many hits as one on ‘Human  Capital Management’.  Like apple-pie and motherhood, nobody take issue with ‘talent’, and everyone thinks they have it (whereas nobody likes to think they’re a ‘human capital asset’).

But what on earth does it mean?

Here’s my answer.

Talent Management is making capability match commitments.

This is unlike most definitions of talent management, which give a list of activities that make it up. That’s usually because they aim to sell you recruitment, software or consultancy (disclosure: yes, I am a director of InfoBasis, which produces excellent technology that can help in Talent Management).

That’s like answering the question ‘What’s a car for?’ by describing the process of driving – what you do with the steering wheel, pedals, mirrors etc. It explains how you do it, but not why: to get from A to B.

My suggested definition focuses on the aim of talent management. It’s an organisational aim, rather than an individual one, geared towards one thing: ensuring that an organisation is able to do what it sets out to do today and in the future. And it assumes that capability is based on an organisation’s sole source of value and competitive advantage in a developed economy: its people.

How do you make capability match current and future commitments? With three core processes:

  1. Understand what your people can do
  2. Deploy them better today
  3. Ensure they can do more tomorrow

These processes are not supposed to suggest that people are objects owned by an organisation. Although I have no problems with the idea of people as assets in a loose accounting sense (see previous post), they are not chattles. The employer has a duty of care to employees that extends beyond ensuring they are fit for today’s labour. As a matter of enlightened self-interest, of course, it is a fact that the right environment for employees ensures greater productivity (for more on high-performance work practices, the CIPD paper by Sung and Ashton).

What lies beneath these three processes? That will come in a following post.

12 responses to “What is Talent Management?

  1. Donald:

    Nice post. I agree that TM is not about the details of the process (how you do it) but is about the philosophy. Taking full advantage of our people’s current talents and increasing their capabilities WRT what our organization needs to succeed.

    Also, true TM is a very significant organizational committment/philosophy – not just a process.

    Regarding people as assets – well I’ll go post my comment there!

    Tom O’Brien

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  7. Talent management is a parallel development activity that dovetails organisational and individual developmental aspirations encouraging passion releasing energy and ensuring enrichment for all concerned.

  8. Really crisp. Now I state what is my understanding of competency from these blogs.

    Competency is what a person is capable of doing. And by talent management we enhance it, right? One thing I am confused about is what is this network that you mentioned. How can we have a tailored framework to put in an organisation? Well, before you think we have so much time,let me tell you it’s the time when the going is slow and we are waiting learning projects! No e I remember. So like when I am in Deigner’s role I will have some core competencies to fill. That done the periferral things will be add on but the basic skill set should be there, I guess thats what you are talking about. I need to really brush up my grammer that will be filling the gaps in my competency area as a course designer. I sorta get it now, really very nice blogs , a bit official but the information is really too good. Merely suggesting, can we have a bit softer beginnings to hook readers so that more people benefit? Thanks and regards.

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  11. Young people have talent but it must mushroomed and nurtered by experienced individuals but organisation continue to reject them due to lack of expereince but they possess qualifications which are relevant to the job.

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