Friday, 27 April 2012

Challenges and Opportunities for Talent Managers / 6: Measurement


   Of course in most of the reports I’ve been reviewing, there are also the requisite comments on needing to measure talent better.  Eg the PwC report:

“CEOs are also seeking a better understanding of the scale and
effectiveness of their investments in talent. Productivity and labour cost remain important measurements; these are the tools investors, lenders and businesses use to benchmark progress (or lack of it). They are largely standardised in many industries, and thus easy to implement. Yet for many CEOs, those tools aren’t enough. They are very good at telling a CEO how the business is performing today relative to its peers, but not at indicating whether the organisation is investing enough in employees to generate future growth.

Such measurements cannot isolate skills gaps and struggle to identify the pivotal jobs that drive exponential value; they do not measure employee engagement or team performance, both of which are so critical for investments to foster innovation to bear fruit. These measurements are much harder to make, which is one reason why they’ve been neglected and why today, so many CEOs are frustrated with the issue of talent.”


The argument is made clearer in Workday’s recent report, Taking Measure of Talent, published by Harvard Business Review:

“Yet in many companies there has been a lack of understanding and visibility into how human capital is managed — a shortage of analytical insights about where investments are made, what form the investments take, their impact, and how best to shift resources and practices. In a survey by Mercer, for example, CFOs reported that their organizations spent 36 percent of revenue on human expenses, but only 16 percent said they had anything more than a moderate understanding of the return on human capital investment. In a similar study of 3,000 senior managers, executives gave their firms low marks when describing the employee-related data they need for decisions. The gap between the data they needed and actual quality of the data they received, leaders said, was more than 50 percentage points.

Clearly, these business leaders, including HR executives, are concerned that they are not making decisions with the same rigor with which they make decisions about marketing, supply chains or product strategies. And without clear metrics and a deep view into data on the workforce, the organizations have not had business intelligence reporting on their key assets — and have not had access to insights to create strategies to drive better business performance.

There are clear associations between a company’s financial performance and strong talent management practices when they are targeted to real business needs. A global study by McKinsey & Company found that companies that scored highest in global talent management practices earned significantly higher profit per employee — almost 30 percent — than those companies that scored lowest on the human capital measures.”


This reads like a problem but the real issue here is simply that CEOs and their Heads of Talent haven’t figured out that it’s not just that these measures are hard to make, it’s that a lot of the more value adding and creating attributes a CEO would like to know, eg on skill gaps and pivotal jobs, simply can’t be measured in ways that would be ‘adequate’ in other business functions, that understanding is never going to be more than ‘moderate’ and that they’re just not going to be able to make decisions with the ‘same rigour’ as for marketing, supply chains and product strategies.

However, the issue about all of this isn’t only that CEOs are going to be disappointed, it’s that the attempt to add rigour is likely to drive businesses towards lower value approaches to talent management – exactly what heads of talent shouldn’t want to do.

How’s that?  Well, in general terms, the easier something in HR is to measure, the more likely it is to be pretty low value.  And the reverse it true as well – the higher the value, the more difficult to measure it’s likely to be.  So the more we focus on measures, the more likely it is that we’ll be drawn to low value approaches because these are the things we can measure…

Take the case of an organisation with a data warehouse.  There are two main challenges here.  The first is in ensuring that all relevant data elements (higher and lower value) are captured in the warehouse.  Otherwise and correlations which are found may just be predictive, not truly causal, with the real cause existing outside of the warehouse system.  But more importantly, as most of the data elements are likely to be lower value, any strategies that emerge from the analysis are likely to be lower value too.  So it is important that these lower value strategies are supplemented with higher value ones.

But these higher value strategies are going to require Heads of Talent to look at areas where data may be less adequate and decision making less rigorous.  Take for example, this quote from the Heidrick & Struggles report:

“We’re a very lean organisation so it’s easy to follow the people in my pool and get a good sense of whether they are happy or not.”


And that requires more comfort with this different type of data and analysis – another significant challenge for heads of talent!



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Thursday, 26 April 2012

#HRD12 – helping people become what they are (challenges and opportunities for talent managers / 5)


   In my last post, I wrote that I’d explain more about why it is that I don’t think “commercial savvy and speaking ‘business’ rather than ‘HR’ language” is the way forward for talent management.

And actually, it looks as if a powerful argument for retaining a focus on talent, and speaking a more people centred language, is going on at the CIPD’s HRD conference today (I’m in South Africa so am missing the event this year):

“At Michelin, knowing people, and helping them to reveal and develop all their potential, to “become what they are” at their own pace, is personnel’s primary function.

Vocabulary is important: 'personnel', not 'HR', because people are not a 'resource' to be stockpiled and tallied, waiting to be bought and sold. Each person is a unique and irreplaceable asset, with emotions, capable of making decisions and progressing when given the chance). Personnel’s remit is not only to staff current needs with the best people wherever they happen to be, but also to raise talent for future, often unknown challenges.”

-   Alan Duke, former international career manager, Michelin


And then on career development (also see my two recent posts on this - 1, 2):

“People are recruited by personnel, for a career, not a job, and personality comes before competence. An individual’s potential to develop is the cornerstone of all career management. Therefore, careers take precedence over short-term operational needs, and managers do not 'own' their people. They are responsible for managing performance, developing skills and creating conditions for success, including releasing people for the greater good, when required.

Managers cannot manage career development, because their relation with their employees is limited in time and space and they do not have access to opportunities outside their own sphere of influence. The vast majority of managers willingly accept these limitations, because they know their own career progression follows the same rules.

Career managers are independent from line management. They are responsible for rating employee potential, a process which starts at recruitment and is updated annually, for drawing up succession plans and individual career paths, and for brokering every move and making the formal offer to the employee. They have access to all opportunities in the group and actively push employees to broaden out by changing departments, businesses organisations and geographical locations. They select participants for fast-track development programmes.

Naturally, the final responsibility for career development rests with each individual employee: good performance, updating skills, being open and honest with the company etc. But every employee has a clearly identified career manager and is known personally. So there is no need to join the rat race, look around or generally spend too much time worrying about your future. You can get on with being passionate about your work and producing the goods. Your career manager will take care of the rest. Against a backdrop of unrivalled corporate loyalty, he or she will help you, calmly and impartially, to become what you are.”


It’s this, talent-centric sort of focus that I think provides the biggest opportunities for talent managers - though I do think the term ‘personnel’ often smacks of too much of an employee focus.  We need to put employees / talent / people first, not just because that’s the right thing to do for them, but because it’s also by doing this that businesses can gain the greatest returns as well.


You’ll also find interesting (I think) conversations on a people vs business perspective on this blog, and in the comments to this article at HR Magazine.  And I also love this article on 10 reasons the human capital zeitgeist is emerging.


Contact me to learn more about Careergro – the employee focused career management system (also exhibiting at the HRD conference).

And stay tuned for more on talent opportunities and challenges, and to win tickets for the Economist’s Talent Management Conference.



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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Head of Talent Role: Challenges and Opportunities for Talent Managers / 4


  As well as dealing with the truth about talent, the need to create value and opportunities for career development, the fourth big challenge for talent managers / heads of talent will probably be their own role.

The key research here is Heidrick & Struggles’ report on strategic talent management: the emergence of a new discipline which I saw presented at the HR Directors Business Summit in January.

H&S suggest that:

  • 66% of companies are not satisfied with talent management implementation
  • 60% admit talent management is not part of corporate strategy
  • 57% fear that lack of talent will hinder growth in the near future
  • Only 33% know their companies need for talent in the next 2-4 years
  • Only 25% conduct gap analysis concerning age, qualifications and requirements.


In the light of these concerns, H&S find that CEOs are increasingly appointing heads of talent to help make talent management more proactive and creating awareness of the importance of talent to corporate success:

“Some senior executives readily understand that talent is a central enabler of strategy and that great talent management can be a source of sustainable advantage. A good number though, still regard talent development as a hygiene factor. Talent management in these companies can become an exercise in gap-filling and tactical


For this reason, heads of talent tend to be viewed as distinct from the rest of HR, even when they report to the company’s top HR executive.

However, the role is full of paradox and ambiguity, requiring heads of talent to be diplomats rather than commanders.  The report suggests that there does at least seem to be acceptance of this situation, rather than a belief, like John Boudreau’s, that everything needs to be done in the same way (in my view, a consequence of talent being recognised as a driver for competitive success has to be that talent management is performed differently from firm to firm - competitive success in any school of strategic management always rests on differentiation, never in doing things the same):

“We discovered great variety in the ways in which Heads of Talent operate and relate to line managers. Some are focused primarily on infrastructure for talent and leadership development – processes, systems, and metrics. Others spend more time on specific development initiatives: business school programmes, projects that involve high potential managers, and the like. Still others spend time ‘walking the floor’, trying to keep high potentials engaged and providing front-line intelligence to senior line leaders.”


In addition to these activities, there is at least some evidence that some heads of talent are also / instead focusing on outcomes (talentness) in the organisation.

“If we don’t connect business and talent strategy, we will be nothing more than a typical HR unit, focusing on activities and not on impact and outcomes.”


For me, this is the real key which shifts the HR role into something else (though I’d also suggest that talent can’t be optimised on it’s own, so I prefer Ed Lawler’s suggestions about organisational effectiveness to this).  Heads of talent need to focus on talent as an outcome.  The activities which lead to this can be delegated to line managers, HR and elsewhere.  That leads to another point – H&S suggest heads of talent need to take on responsibility without authority:

“CEOs expect their Head of Talent to create consistency between line divisions, but rarely give them direct authority over hiring, promotion, deployment or retention. They were expected to increase consistency (as well as efficiency and effectiveness across business units) to identify and deliver a more integrated corporate talent strategy. But most of the power in the companies we looked at rests with the line leaders. Our Heads of Talent confirmed this when we asked them what made a successful head of talent. Moreover, they told us the winning talent manager operates through influence and suggestion rather than by exercising power. Interpersonal skills were critical, we learned as was the ability to build trust. Heads of Talent explained their need for resilience, tenacity, energy and the ability to deal with setbacks. The Head of Talent must therefore take a lead without formal authority.”


I’d go further than this – I’d suggest / have suggested that heads of talent take accountability for their organisation’s talentness / overall effectiveness too. 

I’ll finish with a last paradox heads of talents need to deal with – the requirement to focus on both the business, and on talent:

“We also found ambiguity around the positioning of talent management, with many suggesting that sitting within the HR function impacted credibility and acceptance by the business. Interviewees told us that engagement was higher where they demonstrated commercial savvy and spoke ‘business’ rather than ‘HR’ language. ‘The challenges we face are all internal. There’s a real ambivalence around talent here, the business is just not interested.’ ”


I have to say (have said) that increasing focus on business is precisely the wrong way to optimise value from talent.  And I’ll post more about this (again) tomorrow.

I’ll also be posting shortly on the Economist’s Talent Management Summit and how you can win two tickets to come along with me on 14th June!




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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Career Development: Challenges and Opportunities for Talent Managers / 3


    The other recent report on talent management I thought was interesting is SHL’s Assessment Trends report.  I’m particularly taken by SHL’s third key finding – that companies are giving up on career development:

“Despite the focus on engagement in 2012 and the finding that more than half of companies indicated focusing more on internal talent than hiring externally, just over a third of HR professionals cited career development as a top priority. Likewise, fewer HR professionals are using it as a retention strategy and fewer are offering a formal way for employees to find new careers internally.”


The report goes on:

“Providing internal career opportunities can help organizations keep top talent from seeking those opportunities elsewhere. Contrasting our findings from 2011, fewer organizations, nearly 60%, indicated using career development as a means of affecting retention. Likewise, formal career development programs were only used by a little more than one-fourth of respondents.

Are companies giving up on career development? If organizations believe that engagement is a top priority for their companies, formal career development programs are crucial to demonstrating to their workforce that career opportunities exist within their organizations. With only 30% of respondents indicating that career paths exist in their organizations for all jobs, it is not surprising that engagement is low. Best-in-class organizations are offering such programs to their employees, and for good reason, as some experts find that three areas that make the biggest impact on business are development planning, talent mobility and career development expertise.”


This last comment refers to Bersin’s analysis which I’ve posted on recently too.  However, I strongly echo the sentiment from a personal perspective as well.   And it’s no wonder that, if organisations are giving up on career development, that in their 2012 Management Agenda, Roffey find that 30% of employees (35% in the public sector) feel their careers are on hold.


We know that career paths have changed, becoming much more complex (if they’re still in existence at all).  For example, in their mass career customisation work, Deloitte (Benko and Weisberg) suggest that in the talent age, the industrial age ‘one size fits all’ career ladder is morphing into a series of flexible, personalised, zig zag career paths, or career lattices (and I think that is the positive spin).



Instead of trying to force nonlinear careers into one career ladder, they urge organisations to embrace and capitalise on these different expectations.

Bersin take the analysis further, suggesting a range of options that can support career development and mobility, and proposing that the key is matching organisational needs within individual needs and desires.



I agree with this too, though I lean more towards the importance of the individual in this equation than Bersin do (they find that simply telling an employee to manage their own career has a –5% impact on firm performance – “when you tell an employee to manage his / her own career, you are telling them that you do not really care - some will manage well, but most will manage themselves out of your company” - whereas an open, social market for careers has around a +15% impact.)

I agree there are some wonderful examples of firms which use career development to help match the supply and demand of their talent (eg IBM’s workforce management initiative, which I’ve blogged about previously).  And I also agree that use of a broader social networking system to share vacancies and allow people to promote themselves will increasingly become the norm (I’m less sure about the future for separate social networking tools that just support career development – see Taleo’s recent report on social talent).

But I still think equipping the individual to manage their own career within the organisational lattice is the most important thing an organisation can do.  And it’s why I like A&DC’s approach they call career engagement:

“Career development is focused on what the organisation can do for the individual, such as training and promotion opportunities. Therefore the responsibility is predominantly on the organisation and not on the individual. This is a relatively transactional approach as the focus is on satisfying the employee, rather than on what will help them flourish. This means that the potential benefits for both the organisation and the individual may not be as sustainable.

Career engagement is more collaborative and aligned with both the individual’s and organisation’s goals. It is about what an individual can do for the organisation, whilst also developing themselves and their career opportunities. Importantly, it can be achieved without the need to offer employees more financial rewards or necessarily providing promotion opportunities. The impact of career engagement is that these employees will be happier and more fulfilled, which will lead them to be more productive and proactive.”




Career engagement requires that employees:

  • Take ownership for their careers
  • Know themselves and their strengths
  • Know their own organisational impact and purpose
  • Knows their future career vision and how they are progressing
  • Has a positive mindset and the resilience to maximise their potential.


But employees will need help to engage in career development in this way.  For example, in Roffey’s Future of Careers report, survey respondents asked for:

  • Career seminars
  • Career workbooks
  • Career workshops
  • Externally facilitated career development/portfolio building events.


The problem with these is that workbooks are unlikely to be used for long and workshops, plus coaching etc, are prohibitively expensive in most organisations - hence the need for technology solutions.  And the best technology solution that I know of, and I’m now working to support, is Careergro.

The system focuses on three areas:

  • Assessment (3 basic tools on core values, skills and world of work plus advanced tools)
  • Development planning
  • Socialising career goals (goals, I think, can benefit from a separate social networking system, as having this split reinforces the focus on the individual vs just the company).




Let me know if you’d like to know more about this system.

I’ll also be continuing to post on talent managers’ challenges and opportunities, and will shortly be offering up two tickets to attend the Economist’s Talent Summit in London on 14th June, which I will also be speaking at and blogging about on the day.



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Friday, 20 April 2012

Challenges and Opportunities for Talent Managers / 2: Creating Value


   Right, well I’d half-started a series of posts on talent management (see ‘the truth about talent’) which I’d better complete… and rather than turning this into something that I’ll never get done, I’m just going to summarise a couple of the latest inputs on talent management which have caught my interest.

So for example, there’s PwC’s recent CEO survey which always provides useful insight and that comments:

“Theoretically, finding a good candidate to fill a position should now be a very straightforward exercise. There have never been as many educated people in the world, nor has it ever been as simple for employers to tap this vast pool online. Highly skilled talent is also highly mobile; but just in case, networking advances also mean that many more tasks can be handled remotely or outsourced.

The reality is far different. A Chinese automaker attends job fairs in Germany, even though China produces large numbers of graduate engineers each year. High jobless rates persist in the US and Europe, disproportionately among the young, even as businesses fret that they cannot attract the digitally adept ‘Millennial’ generation to pursue careers in their industries. Too many well-educated citizens of the Middle East and elsewhere are not in the workforce at all. ‘Before, people looked for jobs. Now, companies look for talent,’ said Erdal Karamercan,

-   President and CEO of Eczacibasi Group A S.”


I am therefore a bit confused by one of the results in the survey which is that unavailability of key skills has dropped once again as a key threat to business growth prospects (loosing the gains from 2009 and falling back again to 2009 / 2010 levels, having been reported as the very top threat to business growth in 2008 and before). Particularly as:

  • One in four CEOs said they were unable to pursue a market opportunity or have had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative because of a lack of talent.
  • One in three is concerned that skills shortages impacted their company’s ability to innovate effectively.


However, there is at least some powerful evidence of firms focusing on smart talent management approaches to deal with the challenge, however significant this is seen. 23% of CEOs surveyed expect ‘major change’ to the way they manage their talent.

There’s also evidence of firms putting their people at the centre of their business strategy, rather than just as means to execute it (creating rather than just adding value):

“CEOs are determined to be more strategic in the way they manage their workforce today and plan for future needs. Up to now, an assumption has held that the market analysis element of a strategic plan is paramount, and how a business ‘resources up’ to meet the plan is something that’s worked out later. Now, leading businesses are looking beyond the next budget round to plan talent needs. A longer-term strategic view is needed, if they want to close the gap today and map how talent needs will change.”

eg: Marijn Dekkers, Chairman, Bayer AG:

”But what is interesting and what is changing is that among Western companies, the ability to hire, develop and retain talent in the developing economies has become a major point of competitive differentiation.”

It’s because talent is so central to competitive success, that I think business management needs to focus on talent (not talent management on business).


I’ll be continuing to post on challenges and opportunities for heads of talent next week.  And I’ll also be describing how you (internal practitioners only, sorry) can win a ticket to the Economist’s Talent Management conference this June, where I’ll be chairing one of the panel sessions, and am once again the sole official blogging partner too.



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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

#BersinIMPACT: Agile HR


   As well as career development, performance management, recruiting and learning, the two key themes of the conference were probably big data, and agility.

This is Josh Bersin on agility:

“In today’s fast-changing business environment, organizations tell us that their #1 goal is to improve their “business agility” – their ability to understand market changes, rapidly adapt, and operate as a globally integrated business. How can your HR, learning, and leadership programs help make this happen?

Well unfortunately, many existing HR and L&D programs are getting in the way. A recent Economist Intelligence Unit study (Fall of 2010) found that Human Resources is the ‘least agile’ function in most businesses, less change-ready then even finance and administration. The old fashioned processes for training, performance management, succession, and compensation are just not keeping up.

And to make matters worse, HR teams are not always aware of modern solutions. Chief Human Resource Officers tell us that their #1 challenge, after partnering with their CEO, is modernizing the skills and capabilities of the HR team itself.”


Supporting Josh Bersin’s presentation on agility was another from Matt Milbrodt at Walmart.  After having performed the Walmart cheer (including squiggley – well, as a Brit, I took photos of everyone else doing it instead [and I bet Asda staff don’t do one!]) – we learnt about Walmart’s agile approaches to keep up with some amazing growth projects – from a base of 2m employees today, Walmart needs another 4m people by 2013 to cover growth and replenishment!  So recruiting, development, retaining processes have to keep up with this pace.

I particularly liked the example of a group selection process from Walmart Canada in which 9 managers interview 18 associates in one 1.5 hour session.  The process includes role plays and scenarios, benefits, including career etc, and speed meetings and interviews.  Oh, and the Walmart cheer of course.  The process is completed by a collaborative hiring decision.




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Monday, 16 April 2012

#BersinIMPACT: Mentoring for Career Development


   The other process area that seemed to get a fair amount of focus at Bersin Impact, other than performance management, learning / leadership development, and recruiting, was career development.  This is perhaps not surprising given that Bersin see “talent mobility as the new competitive advantage”.

For example, in the keynote from NBC News, Dana Tomechko suggested that one of HR’s main opportunities is to inspire and support employees in career development, eg helping them try something new and even stumble.  Employees often don’t have time to consider the next career move and HR can help them explore the ambiguity, understand their next steps and foster their career narratives.

To support this, NBC News HR:

  • Embraces positive irritants (people)
  • Suspends their attachment to structure and processes
  • Embraces change – even when this is undefined.


Their most interesting strategy is probably the team’s support for connecting people – often using electronic media.  Even when they meet an employee that try to share a name and make a virtual connection with another employee.

Employees are working harder and connecting less and often have no time to understand the larger team and across the HR profession we are loosing out ability to network too – but this should be at the front of the HR agenda.

NBC News seek to ask as many question as the company’s journalists, and to understand these individuals’ histories – where they have excelled, where they’ve stumbled – and to draw their stories out.

These connections and stories provide a great basis for talent mobility and career development.


However the main presentation on this topic was provided by Don Kraft, Director of Learning & Development at Genentech (Roche Pharmaceuticals).  Their career development focus has been built upon an exiting mentoring initiative, as the need for mentoring has fallen from the top three list of why people leave Genentech, being replaced by people looking for career development opportunities in the new era of flat growth in pharmaceuticals.

However, the fact that mentoring has already been in place helps.  And the success of the mentoring programme is due partly to it being confidential, levels of trust, matching being done from different organisation structures, and the mentoring action plan being focused on mentees’ learning goals.

Genentech’s CareerLab was introduced three years ago and consists of career conversations (45 minute sessions up to 3 times per year); learning labs, mentoring and career readiness assessments.

The mentoring services consist of formal mentoring programmes; eHarmony type mentoring matching and a mentoring toolkit which employees wanted to create their own self-directed informal mentoring partnerships.  The toolkit consists of tools and resources and supports a mentee driven process.  This has benefits to both the individual and to Genentech (in particular being much less time consuming than the formal programmes).

I think I was most interested in Don’s inputs on this toolkit - partly because I do think technology can provide the critical enabler that makes both mentoring and career development work, as physical mentors and coaches can often be too expensive, and paper based guides lack the easy to use functionality and retainability of an electronic toolkit.

And also because I’m currently working with a start-up vendor; Careergro; providing a new career development system which I believe will help other organisations capture the same benefits from career development as, and more easily than, Genentech.

Give me a call if you want to know more about this system, or how you can develop your own approach to career development:

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

#BersinIMPACT: Blowing up performance reviews


   I only managed to catch the final session yesterday but it was a good one.

We started with Bersin’s research suggesting that 70% of companies follow a coaching and development vs a competitive assessment approach to performance management.

It’s a potentially useful focus given that organisations with high quality development plans generate twice the revenue per employee as organisations with poor or ineffective development plans.

Plus moving away from focusing on the performance ‘score’ makes the process more relevant for people.  Bersin see this, together with simplifying the process and bringing more people into the process eg through the use of social tools, as the key opportunities for improving appraisals.


I largely agree that this is the / an opportunity for performance management, though I’m surprised by Bersin’s findings that 70% of organisations are already focused on this track.  I certainly don’t think many are as advanced as Kelly Services which provided the session case study.

Kelly had previously put too much focus into PMP – performance management ‘process’.  Ratings took over from authentic discussion.  But actually, this didn’t even mean that the ratings themselves were particularly sound – eg some managers never gave a ‘5’, whereas others only gave this out.  It also took a huge amount of time.

The organisation therefore removed compensation decisions from this process and instead developed an employee led process in which employees call for performance review meetings (employees are also responsible for maintaining their own employee profiles and Kelly mine these so they can look for people internally before they have to look externally).

Pay is now based upon talent reviews and subsequent total reward reviews in which group leaders come together.  These leaders know each other and know each others’ employees.  And they talk about each others employees.


I though the most interesting question in the Q&A was one directed back at HR – suggesting that the HR function itself may be the main barrier to ‘blowing up’ performance management, and how organisations can best engage HR in making this sort of change. 

Terry Hauer who was delivering the Kelly Services presentation didn’t have an immediate answer for this.  I think I do, but it will have to wait for another time.  And I agree it’s likely to be a key issue for organisations that want to make performance management work.


More from Bersin Impact 2012 later on today / tomorrow….



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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

HR Carnival: Feeding vs Obsolescence


   Welcome to the new HR carnival, returning to Strategic HCM for the sixth time, and featuring a great mix of HR blogs from around the world including Malaysia, India and Abu Dhabi, as well as the UK and the US (where I currently am, having just driven up from a technology vendor’s meeting in Fort Myers to the Bersin Impact conference in St Petersburg).

We’ll start with eleven posts focusing on leadership and individual effectiveness, a number of which have a particular focus on the requirements to be an effective HR practitioner.

There’s also a repeated focus here on the need for people to keep themselves fed with new knowledge, hence the theme I have extracted for this carnival, and which I guess is what the HR carnival is all about – feeding vs obsolescence:


We’re then onto eight more posts on what HR actually needs to do to be effective, including recruiting, learning, talent management, and the use of employee surveys and metrics:


I hope you enjoy the posts, and thanks to all contributors.  More information about future carnivals can be found here.

I’ll be blogging from the Bersin conference later on today, and tomorrow as well, and continuing my series on challenges and opportunities for talent managers on Friday and into next week…


Picture credit: St Pete’s Best Guide

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Challenges & Opportunities for Talent Managers / 1: The Truth About Talent


   Sorry for not blogging for a while – sometimes I just loose the motivation (it always comes back again though!).  The challenge when I’ve had a lull though is choosing which of those things I’ve missed commenting on that I’m going to try to catch up on again!

I think I’m going to limit this to one event I attended last Wednesday, organised by Fairplace Cedar, and featuring Jeremy Kourdi, co-author of The Truth About Talent.

For Jeremy there are a number of problems with the traditional focus of talent management, ie of those who are outstanding based upon the way they develop relationships, change things and invent things.

The main issue is that because we tend to think that talent is not abundant and diverse (which Kourdi things it is), we enter into a doom loop in which we antagonise everyone else:


This is a particular problem because more than ever, talent operates systematically and through relationships.

I’m not totally convinced by the doom loop, but I do agree with the broader problems concerned by an overly exclusive / differentiated approach to talent management.

However, as I commented to Jeremy after the event, I don’t think the problem is limited to disengagement.  Organisations need people to work together, and if the ‘untalented’ feel differentiated from the ‘talent’, then they’re not going to see themselves as ‘people like us’, and they’re not going to work together so well.  So there’s a direct hit on productivity too.

It was interesting therefore that on the same day as the event, HR Magazine published a survey suggesting that felt inequality rises with salary difference:

“For example, only 2% of workers earning over £80,000 felt their boss or company had 'more money than sense', whereas that figure rose dramatically to 23% for those who earn under that amount.”


In his book, Jeremy writes about social capital (thanks for the mention on p102 by the way Jeremy!) and this is the truth about talent for me: talent management in the way that Jeremy describes it makes some sense from a purely human capital oriented perspective, but it makes little sense from a social capital oriented one.

From the social perspective, it’s the performance of the whole organisation which is important, and singling out particular individuals as different is going to be mainly unhelpful to achieving this objective.

Talent managers therefore need to consider the effectiveness of their whole organisations rather than just the talent piece if they’re going to maximise their impact (see for example Ed Lawler on the organisational effectiveness role).


I’ll be continuing to post on challenges and opportunities for heads of talent for the rest of this week.  And I’ll also be describing how you (internal practitioners only, sorry) can win a ticket to the Economist’s Talent Management conference this June, where I’ll be chairing one of the panel sessions, and am once again the sole official blogging partner too.



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