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Talent Management Process


It would seem that in recent years Talent Management Process has become a phrase that is readily bandied around within many organisations. The phrase itself didn’t really appear on the HR scene until the late 1990’s when McKinsey consultants expressed comments about it in their report The War on Talent.

Since that time, Talent Management has held various meanings.  It was originally connected to recruitment, performance management, or performance development, but this was usually as separate components rather than a common approach underpinning all three activities.

Lately, the phrase has grown into much more. Talent Management is rapidly making its way to the top of not just the HR agenda, but also the organisational agenda. Its meaning is much broader covering a range of HR activity; it is now viewed as a diverse tool that creates the opportunity to increase and strengthen organisational capability through individual development, performance enhancement and succession planning.


Defining Talent

‘Talent management is concerned with having the right people in the right roles in the right environment with the right manager to enable maximum performance’.

But what is meant by talent?  Possessing talent could be defined as having the skill to do something well. We all have talents, but the key to Talent Management focuses around two key areas: –

Aptitude – an innate ability to use a skill in a particular situation to maximum effectiveness. 

Opportunity – talent needs an opportunity to be displayed.

Employees may have the aptitude but they may not be given the opportunity to display it in the workplace. So, talent is an attribute that needs direction if it is to be used constructively and effectively.

Many organisations realise that having a well-groomed pool of talented employees can bring more benefits than just reducing recruitment cost; it can help them differentiate in the marketplace, create competitive advantage, and become an employer of choice.

However, these benefits can only be truly realised if there is a clearly defined approach to Talent Management, which is communicated and supported throughout the organisation. Here at cda we believe that it is not really just about tagging the name Talent Management to existing practices and processes; it is a much more comprehensive approach that considers the current organisational situation and the vision for the future. Diagram 1 illustrates our integrated approach to Talent Management, highlighting the activity that needs to take place across the organisation to really bring this process to life.


Defining Talent Management Focus

A successful Talent Management Process provides the opportunity for people to display their talents in the working environment and for those talents to be developed. However, a Talent Management Process does not necessarily encompass all employees; it may focus specifically on certain pools of people that have a certain type of talent. But how does an organisation decide the focus of the Talent Management Process?

To do this it is necessary to establish the organisation’s current and future talent requirements. These requirements can only be understood in the context of the organisation’s strategic ambitions and future business requirements. The essential starting point in developing a Talent Management process is, therefore, to review the organisation’s vision and strategic objectives and then ensure that the focus of the Talent Management Process is aligned with these.

There are choices around the particular talent focus and three examples are detailed below:

  1. Developing High Potential

Will the focus concentrate only on high potential, which could be a relatively small group of people? If this is the case, there needs to be a clear definition of what high potential actually looks like. For example, is high potential considered to be people who:

  • can take on a leadership role within the next 3 years regardless of where they sit at the moment?
  • are capable of moving to roles higher than their existing role within the next year and then continuing to progress at that rate?
  • regularly over achieve/over deliver against targets?
  • constantly strive to make improvements to existing day-to-day working practices?
  • have the skill set (not necessarily technical knowledge) to be able to deliver results anywhere in the organisation?

When consideration has been given to understanding how ‘high potential’ is defined, there needs to be a way of assessing and measuring their existing and potential capabilities. This is done by establishing high potential criteria or indicators against which these individuals can be measured. These would usually take the form of a set of organisation-specific leadership competencies along with generic predictors of potential. The generic predictors could be emotional intelligence, learning competence etc.

  1. Developing Organisational Capability

Alternatively, the Talent Management approach may take a broader view recognising everyone as having the potential to display talent and, therefore, focus on developing talent at every layer of the organisation. This broad approach removes the possibility of alienating the mass population, which can be a side effect of focusing Talent Management activity on a small pool of people. It can also help stabilise employee turnover and encourage promotion from within, because at each layer of the organisation the development of talent is taking place, providing the organisation with various pools from which to select internal resource for vacant or new positions.

  1. Developing technical capability

Organisations may have a specific technical capability which is critical to success and which they are unable to function without. For example, if engineering is part of the core business then developing the technical capabilities of engineers is vital. This does not mean that other capabilities are not considered to be important; it just adds another dimension to the focus of the Talent Management Process that may be separate to the broader or high potential approach.

Whatever the focus of the Talent Management Process, organisations need to be clear about the specific competencies and capabilities that they define as Talent and how these will be evaluated, measured and developed.


Audit Existing Talent

Once the focus of the Talent Management Process has been determined, the next logical step is to gain an understanding of the level of talent that already exists within the organisation. A talent audit should be undertaken to provide this clarity and also help identify any potential talent gaps.

Before carrying out a talent audit, it is necessary to establish the criteria against which individuals will be measured. For organisations that use a competency approach to all people policies, this should be relatively straightforward. However, as well as being able to assess how well people match the existing requirements of roles, if the focus of the Talent Management Process is on developing high potential, there will be a need to identify and measure untapped future potential. This is achieved by establishing clearly defined high potential indicators. Such indicators should be future focused and incorporate a clear understanding of the future requirements (i.e. behaviours, knowledge and skills) of the role.

For example, if new graduates are being assessed for their potential to be senior managers of the future, it is much more effective to consider what the demands will possibly be in 5-10 years time and the behaviours and skills which will be required then, rather than simply looking at what currently differentiates a very good senior manager from an average performing one. Keeping the future ambitions of the organisation in mind also prevents ‘cloning’; i.e. establishing high potential indicators and selecting individuals on the basis of past performance and current fit rather than future requirements and potential.

The type of information that is required from the talent audit will influence the activity that takes place. An audit of managerial talent may take the form of assessment centres consisting of exercises designed to evaluate the level of current competence against high potential indicators (e.g. psychometric tests, focused in-depth interviews and contextualised case studies/business simulations).  If the audit is right across the organisation it is likely to be a combination of activities that may include reviewing the most recent performance reviews for all roles. The talent audit is not a one off event; it is a valuable tool that can be used to ensure talent information is up to date and accurate.


Who owns the Talent Management Process?

The Talent Management process needs to be embedded across the organisation. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to ownership of the Talent Management Process. One option would be for HR to own the process and take this responsibility. However, if the process is owned purely by HR there is a risk of limited buy-in from other parts of the organisation, as it could be viewed as something that HR does in isolation. A sensible and potentially more effective approach is for HR to provide the organisation with a Talent Management Process, ensuring consistency and fairness, but with the process supported from the top of the organisation and implemented by managers at the appropriate layers of the organisation. A critical success factor for any Talent Management Process is buy-in from the board down.


The Talent Wheel

Once the talent requirement and the current level of talent within the organisation has been defined and understood there are then a number of activities that can take place to both ‘Attract and acquire’ and ‘Protect and nurture’ the organisation’s talent.  These are contained within the Talent Wheel in the Diagram.



Attract & Acquire

Under the heading of ‘Attract & acquire’ the people related activities that should be integrated into the Talent Management process are:

  • Employee Attraction
  • Recruitment & Selection


Employee Attraction

When attracting talent to the organisation it is helpful to have a strong and easily identifiable brand image. A strong brand image that reflects the core values of the organisation and communicates messages, suggesting there is a premium attached to working for the organisation will help attract potential talent. The messages which are communicated about the organisation and the role must be clear and accurate, in order to promote a suitable match between a potential applicant, the organisation and the role. When developing an employer brand, think about the type of talent which you want to attract and what it is that is most likely to attract them. People are attracted to organisations and roles for different reasons.


Recruitment & Selection

When considering any form of recruitment and selection it is important to have a defined process that is visible across the organisation, so that at each stage of the recruitment and selection process the type of activity and the responsibility is clear. However, this process will need to be flexible enough to ensure that talent is not overlooked during a particular recruitment process simply because an individual does not meet the specific requirements of that role. Using competency based recruitment and having visibility of competency requirements for all roles can help in this, as well as encouraging recruiting managers to develop an open and flexile mindset so that they are constantly on the lookout for talent for the benefit of the whole organisation.


Protect & Nurture

Under this heading there are the following people related activities:

  • Development & Training
  • Performance Management
  • Succession Planning
  • Coaching & Mentoring
  • Emotional Attachment
  • Exit Management


Development and Training

A fundamental part of the ‘Protect & nurture’ element of the Talent Management Process is development and training. Talent rarely arrives fully developed. Talent reviews and recruitment and selection processes identify potential in individuals, which then needs to be maximised through focused development and training.


Performance Management

Regardless of the focus of the Talent Management activity, whether it is about developing specific pools of talent or a broader approach aimed at developing organisational capability, there needs to be a transparent performance management system which supports the provision and continuous development of talent. Basing the performance management process on the assessment and development of competencies greatly assists this aspect.


Succession Planning

Traditional succession planning has become less effective, not just because structures are now flatter, but also because the process of succession planning historically lacked transparency and was often undertaken behind closed doors. With the focus often being on past performance rather than future potential, few people were asking the questions about the talent required for the future.

The move to consider all employees as having the potential to show talent will have a significant impact on succession planning, creating a need for it to be much more fluid and responsive to the business planning process. It can no longer focus on a small pool of employees who, early in their careers, demonstrated that they had talent.  It needs to be able to incorporate individuals from every layer of the organisation who are able to demonstrate talent.

In future the succession planning process will be based upon the way that organisations use their information about talent to plan ahead.


Coaching and Mentoring

Key to developing and retaining talent is coaching and mentoring. The view that development of talent happens solely in training courses is outdated. Much of individual development happens as part of stretching peoples’ roles, with coaching and mentoring supported by appropriate and well designed training interventions. Employees who have talent want to be developed and expect organisations to be able to deliver. For this to happen line managers need to fully understand the principles of coaching and mentoring.


Emotional Attachment

What does this mean, and how can it contribute to the management of talent?

In essence, this is a variation of the old psychological contract but it goes further into understanding why people may want to stay with an organisation. Quantitative solutions, e.g. offering more money, are not the way to keep the most valued employees, as this is too easily matched and topped by competitors – that is not to say reward is not part of the package, but longer term commitment to an organisation is chiefly driven by some kind of emotional attachment.

A sense of emotional attachment can be achieved by:-

  • Recruiting and developing employees who share the same values, attitudes and beliefs that the organisation’s success is built upon
  • Developing those employees so that they have true commitment and a sense of belonging to the organisation
  • Ensuring talented individuals achieve a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment in their employment
  • Fostering relationships via mentoring/coaching and also encouraging networking across wider business departments

By doing this you are creating employees who have an emotional attachment to the organisation, and will be going some way towards protecting them from leaving, either via head hunters or of their own accord. They are also more likely to apply and develop their talents in the long term interests of the organisation.


Exit Management

Conducting the right kind of exit interview has a place in the management of talent. Finding out why a talented individual is leaving could help improve how talent is managed in the future. 

Those organisations that do not conduct exit interviews are missing out on a great opportunity, as it provides a good mechanism to take a hard look at how employees perceive your organisation. Often employees who are leaving are more likely to be open, honest and frank in their discussions! The learning gained from exit interviews can be a driver for organisational change and improvement from an employee’s perspective. If talented individuals leave on good terms, and there is opportunity to stay in touch, there may be possibilities in the future for them to rejoin the organisation having perhaps broadened and deepened their experience.



So, is it something completely new or a repackaging of what we know already? 

My summation would be that it has elements of both – a good and effective approach to talent management can build on existing processes, provided that these are already using a common language to define what it needs from its employees to meet performance requirements, both now and in the future. 

For many of our clients this is the essence of why they have developed a fully integrated competency approach to all of their people processes.

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