Talent Management: Born and Evolving

Around ten years ago (circa 2004, as I started my career in a global player in logistics) people in HR started talking about bringing together many of the standalone practices within HR into a new function called “Talent Management” and my first job title was Talent Management Coordinator.

At that point in time the economy was growing and everyone started talking about “The War for Talent” (Was it not McKinsey the creator of the term? At the time the logistics global player was flooded by McKinsey consultants and it is likely that it still is) The challenges included aging baby boomers, a tight economy for critical skills, and the need to build leaders around the world. This set of issues refocused HR on building talent programs to recruit, develop, and better manage people.

These set of talent challenges pushed HR to think differently. Rather than define itself as the “service center for employee issues” and a “service center for managers,” HR started to redefine itself as the “talent management function” for business.

The original idea, was to “bring together” each of these standalone programs into an end-to-end process. Originally people called it “pre-hire to retire”, and it set of a big set of strategies and software vendors to try to not only optimize each step, but bring all the steps together.

The term was coined: “Integrated Talent Management” – and a set of software vendors started to build “Integrated Talent Management Suites” and were meant to give companies an integrated view of capabilities, leadership gaps, succession pools, and even talent needs for the future. Even today this is a tough thing to do, but we have built an industry around this whole idea.

Software vendors jumped in quickly, setting off a major chain of acquisitions. A few leading edge companies were doing this – starting with business strategy, moving to talent strategy and from there to HR and process design. But many started at the bottom, and focused their talent management programs on software implementation or solutions to integrate HR.

Even today this remains a challenge. With so many vendors in the market and the ERP providers offering talent management software, it’s common for companies to buy software first, and then later figure out how to use it. Today more than 40% of the companies buying HR software are focused on “making it easy to use” and integrating heterogeneous systems, not “solving particular talent problems.”

A few years later, I had joined a global consultancy and by then it became important for companies understand what talent management all about, and this framework was shown below pulled together all the practices and processes to consider in an integrated talent strategy.

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As the framework illustrates, we mapped out how these processes worked together and documented many of the process steps to link each together. Today such an integrated framework is common in most HR departments, and continues to be a point of ongoing discussion.

Learning and capability management, competency management, planning, and business alignment as “uber processes” which play everywhere in the organization, and you can also see that performance management, succession, career, and leadership development make up the core. This is still a very valid process diagram, although some organizations may put talent acquisition in the middle, which I lately experienced at a global internet company.

Having just concluded my work at a global non for profit with a very strong diversity footprint I approached my manager at the consultancy firm where national talent acquisition strategy was my main focus and asked her about diversity: Doesn’t that belong in here?” Her reaction was “no, I’ve never heard anyone think of diversity and inclusion as part of their talent strategy. Not now, and likely not for many years, it is not so business relevant.” Well of course she was wrong – today Diversity and Inclusion is very core to this whole set of processes (or should be).

Today almost every major corporation has a “VP of Talent” or “VP of Talent Management” and this person’s job is to manage some combination of the HR functions shown above. In some cases the company brings performance, succession, and leadership development together. In other cases the L&D team is integrated as well. And in many companies today the recruitment or talent acquisition team is also part of this function.

But what is the role software has played throughout?

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