What Is Talent Management?

What Is Talent Management?

What Is Talent Management?

Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review ... The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.

-- Out of the Crisis, Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Moving Beyond Human Resources

Every time I hear human resources, I think: "Soylent Green is People". I don't think human capital is all that appealing either. It sounds like we are assets to be acquired and spent.

Hiring and managing people is hard. The lines between what is socially polite, legal, and in the organization's best interest are constantly moving. Pictured here is the lighting-shaped walk-way from Joe Versus the Volcano. The company that Joe worked for was the absolute worst, but sadly, could probably still pass muster with human resources.

That's because there is a difference between doing what is right and doing what is legal. For a good long while now, we've allowed human resources to provide us with the latter, while leaving the former to heroic middle managers.

Online community-building expert, Anil Dash, wrote an article a while ago: If Your Website's Full of ***Holes: It's Your Fault. The same may be said of your organization. The people you attract and retain in your organization will have to live in the environment you create.


As with most things that require planning and time to implement, it is best to start with the end in mind. Goal-setting is about establishing the ideal, and in the case of talent management, it's not just for your organization, but for your staff.

This may seem presumptuous -- how can you establish the goals for your staff? Well, this is really determining what you would like to encourage and support in your organization, and you can include staff in this discussion.


When it comes to people, what things do you think they should value? Family comes to mind. Civic contribution? A wider view of the world? Think of the kind of people with whom you enjoy working, and ask yourself: Why? What do these people value, why do I like working with them, and how does that benefit the organization?

Life Style

Life style is driven by values because what we value determines how we spend our time and money. Life style sees our personal priorities played out in the choices we make with ourselves, family, and friends. What kind of life style do you enjoy? What life style would you like to encourage in your organization? Is it travel? Or exercise or outdoor sports? Should everyone be able to afford a nice apartment? Or a new car every five years?


Often touted, often misunderstood: Company culture. The dictionary says culture is the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group. This is the basis for a good definition of an organization's culture.

Most company cultures grow like the fuzz on the left over lasagna that's been in the refrigerator since last week: Organically and without intention.

As with life style, your culture will be influenced by your values. But it will also be determined by your "arts" and "achievements" -- the value your produce as an organization.

What are your customs? This is where world travel brings an interesting perspective. To avoid being the Ugly American, one quickly learns how to say "please" and "thank you" in the local language. There are traditions around holidays, meal times, and so on.

There are greetings and goodbyes in an organization as well. Think about employee on-boarding, for example. Or exit interviews.

Do you view the work you do as meaningful and important? How do you want to celebrate accomplishments?


With conduct, we are not concerned with the natural variations that occur with hormones, blood sugar, or the winner of last night's game. We all have good days and bad days.

Rather, we are interested in patterns of behavior that are not conducive to maintaining a healthy organization. In terms of planning for talent management, we could easily start with conduct as our ideal.

Behavior is motivated by attitude and attitude comes from one's view of the world. Good conduct reinforces everything for which you've worked. Bad conduct will cause deteriorate your organization's culture and subvert its values.

A strong culture will have a regulating affect on conduct, but when bad behavior is un-addressed, people will have a tendency to give up or let things go.

Conduct is also the subject of HR, legal woes, and government regulations. Beyond getting it right in terms of compliance, you should ask: What are the expectations for behavior?


Your goals serve as a blueprint as you build a strategy for talent management. There are also a number of practical concerns.

Required Capabilities

A Capability is something you develop over time. Skills and experience are the capabilities of your staff. A Resource is something you can acquire or purchase. It is someone else's capability.

Identify the capabilities you require to serve the organization. Some of these may need to be developed, while others may need to be outsourced. The point of this exercise is to understand what you need regardless of where it comes from.

Organizational Structure

Organization structures is part of governance. It represents your unique decision-making framework. A lot may be said about different structures, and structure theory in general. For the purpose of talent management, you need to know how you will organize and supervise people from the organization's perspective.

Skills Framework

A skills framework is comprised of generally accepted activities for a given industry or job. Select a framework gives you valuable source material for a professional ladder, job descriptions, and more.

There are a number of skills frameworks for I.T., for example:

  • European e-Competence Framework, e-CF
  • Skills for the Information Age, SFIA
  • SkillsUSA Framework

Hiring Plan

A hiring plan is not just for hipster start up companies. Many pubic organizations develop master facilities plans -- documentation that details how, when, and for what reason buildings will be commissioned. Yet, when it comes to people, few organizations have a plan for hiring.

Your strategy should include the talent you expect to hire and the time frames involved. It may be based on your required capabilities.

It's okay to get it wrong. The point is to think through your current growth and determine who will be needed to sustain the organization's commitments and build toward the organization's goals.


Operationalizing talent management means defining a series of phases and processes that are common in the employer-employee relationship. We already looked at the Strategy phase, which is outside of operations, but does re-occur on a regular basis.

The other phases are:

  • Recruitment
  • Placement
  • Assessment
  • Development
  • Reward
  • Exit


The Recruitment phase is where we look for qualified candidates. Our goals for Values, Culture, Life Style, and Conduct may serve as filters -- as long as they may be applied within the confines of employment statutes.

Recruitment represents both internal and external job postings.


The Placement phase occurs just after hire. It may also re-occur with promotion. Employee on-boarding is included here.


An assessment is not a performance evaluation or review. Rather, it is based on a collection of criteria that may be used to objectively measure the capability and contribution of a given individual.


Driven from the output of the Assessment phase, Development is about training and professional development.


The Reward phase delivers recognition to staff in the form of cash or other compensation.


The Exit phase deals with employee off-boarding, exit interviews and so on. There is also an opportunity here to collect input for continual improvement.


The most important thing you can do: Design your organization with intention. Understand what you want, and make concious decisions based on your goals.

Hollywood agents aside, talent management is about recruiting and retaining the kind of people with whom you want to work. But it's more than that: It's about designing the very substance your organization.

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