Talent Management and Learning and Development

Last week I keynoted at a conference arranged by Stephen Citron of Informatology. The audience was largely workplace learning and development professionals, and the chair was Andrew Mayo, recently voted one of the top 10 HR thinkers on Human Resources’ Magazine’s annual poll.

I was there to talk about the intersection of two worlds: Talent Management and Learning and Development, and I thought it was about time for another airing of my definition of how Talent Management is all about ensuring organisations deliver on their strategies. Talent Management is about:

making capability match commitments.

Okay, that should be Making (human) capability match commitments, but as around 80% of organisational value is now intangible and that value is almost all driven by its human capital component, I feel justified in dropping the ‘human’. And it reads better, too.

How far do Learning and Development (L&D) and Talent Mangement (TM) intersect?


Where you come from alters your perception of what TM is. Recruiters (and those selling recruitment software) see talent acquisition and remuneration as key. HR specialists (and those selling HR software) tend to focus on workforce planning and assessment.

And the trainers, well of course for them TM is all about development.

In truth everyone’s right – Talent Management involves all these aspects. It also involves some strategic planning and interaction with the rest of the business which nobody ever talks about, and this is where I believe that the Learning and Development function can take a lead.

Here’s what I mean.

Just focusing on the L&D parts of TM, I believe there are three parts to it:

  1. Understand what your workforce can and should do
  2. Deploy it better today
  3. Develop it to do more tomorrow

At present, L&D is – of course – focused on the third of these steps (although as Jay Cross and Charles Jennings have shown, L&D is by no means responsible for all organisational development). L&D is only involved in the second step when deployment is part of a development plan, which is how it should be, and yet in my experience (2) is where operations get involved in driving TM.

If you can help get the right people to the right job faster, you begin projects sooner, and finish them with fewer mistakes – in short, you deliver on your organisational goals. You ‘make capability match commitments’.

But you can only fulfil (2) if you’ve done (1). And this is the whole point. Who is doing (1) at the moment? Who is best placed to do it? Not the line managers. Operational line managers understand the benefit of stage (2) but have a job to do. Who is best placed to do (1)?

Well, who best understands the language of skills, and how capability matches to job roles? Who spans the organisation in a way that individual operational managers don’t? It ought to be L&D, and if it isn’t, then maybe L&D is in the wrong job.

The good part of this is that (1) is also essential to all the other parts of TM – recruitment, workforce planning etc.

The bad part of it is that it’s a challenge. A big challenge. I hope that L&D is up to it, because if they don’t do it, I can see a lot of re-inventing of the wheel happening as a whole bunch of people new to the game start to work out just what a a competency framework is, and how a job role works.

10 responses to “Talent Management and Learning and Development

  1. Automate and manage every aspect of worker learning and development: Check out this white paper on pay-for-performance — http://www.softscape.com/us/forms/form_whitepapers.htm

  2. When you talk of skills do you address the problems a lateral thinker faces when he or she is supposed to do vertical thinking. I am having a difficult time creating the design as I am basically a lateral thinker. How these skills are developed? By practice? Or are these inherent and genetic? I am forcing myself into vertical thinking will it work?

  3. Nice article, just curious this TM and it’s intersection with Knowledge Management

  4. lstanikmas, I am confused about this blatant promotion of Softscape, which you also did on Jim Holincheck’s blog on 2 July (http://blogerp.typepad.com/hcm_research/2007/06/compensation-ma.html). This is so crass and puts you and Softscape in such a bad light that I can only assume you are in fact a Softscape competitor trying to make them look cheap.

  5. Rina – thank you for the comment. I’m not addressing thinking styles here, but to answer your question, our intelligence and presumable our way of approaching problems is a combination of heredity and environment. You can always develop personally by effort and practice, but it may be worth asking yourself whether it’s worthwhile.

  6. Ron – good question, how does TM overlap with KM? I think you might have to wait for a future post on that one – it’s a big subject! For the moment let me just say that they clearly do overlap, but they are not the same thing.

  7. Thanks Donald, I think you are right. It is worth it in this case when the courses are for the underprivilaged youth and after initial hitches I was able to understand the design and the break ups. Seems a bit of practice will make the process easy. I am sorry about posting the unrelated query, I was very confused and frustrated at at time.

  8. When is it time to consider HR Technology?

    Every once in a while, we get a prospect that asks us, “How do I know I’m ready to buy HR software?” The answer is as varied as the companies that ask. Generally there are a few simple things to think about when considering buying HR software.

    If your main goal is automation, take a week to record how much time of your day is spent on different tasks. For instance, watch your recruiters and try to figure out how many hours they spend sifting through their inbox and estimate how much faster it would be to have only candidate resumes to sift through instead of spam, internal communications, follow up emails AND candidate resumes. Or, watch your managers during an appraisal cycle fill out form after form with roughly the same information and try to estimate time savings if managers had one place to go and appraisals forms were pre-populated with the right competencies.

    Then try to put a real dollar value on the estimated time savings. How much value does basic automation provide to you and your company? If your main goal is to create unified processes to drive efficiency, the same sort of activity applies. Though slightly more difficult, try to estimate a real dollar value for aligning goals and providing clear direction to your employees.

    We find that efficiency numbers increase within an organization somewhere between 30 to 50 percent depending on the process that the software addresses. Take what you think you will save in hard dollars and compare it to your cost per hire across your organization. If what you will save in dollars is roughly equal to or less than 30 percent of your entire year’s recruiting budget based on cost per hire, then the time to look at HR software is now.

    Ok, so you’ve probably had an ATS for years, but now your company is getting bigger and your vendor isn’t necessarily built to meet your long-term needs. Alternately, your vendor is being acquired by another vendor (a trend we think will be happening much more frequently in the future) and you’re not sure the newly merged vendor will meet your needs either. Making a change is tough because you have many processes that are either built around your current vendor or built in spite of your vendor. However, knowing that you will need to make a change sooner rather than later gives you a chance to really think about what you want to change in your processes and address what you wish you had done the first time around. It can be stressful but it can also be liberating.

    At the core of the question is the angst that you may be buying more than you need or can use. If you are asking the question, the need is there. You’ve recognized on some level that you need HR technology that helps you get insight into your people or processes and realize success. That’s usually a good sign that you are ready for whatever the market has to offer whether it’s an OnDemand Delivery or a hosted setup.

  9. Great new product allows you to take control of your talent management and development plans, at a fraction of the cost of other suppliers.

  10. Thanks, its old information, but still gold, having lot of validity till now (2016). Nice article and made lot of things clear about Talent Management and Learning & Development. I find both are two sides of the coin and must go hand-in-hand for any Organization to grow.

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