Tomorrow’s Talent Management Today

Over the past generation, talent management practices, especially in the United States, have by and large been dysfunctional, leading corporations to lurch from surpluses of talent to shortfalls to surpluses and back again (Cappelli, 2008).  This, the introductory statement to the HBR article Talent Management for the Twenty-First Century describes the plight felt by today’s corporations, in an era where both the supply and demand of talent rest in environments as unstable as the economy itself.  At the precipice of this issue are the considerations for career paths.  With the greater majority of variables being as descriptive of personal characteristics as organizational ones, solutions for the merger of such concepts as career success and talent management become less frequently available.  One solution as proposed by Cappelli (2008) includes, “The issues and challenges in managing an internal talent pipeline—how employees advance through development jobs and experiences—are remarkably similar to how products move through a supply chain: reducing bottlenecks that block advancement, speeding up processing time, improving forecasts to avoid mismatches” (p. 2).  Hall (1976) introduced the concept of the ‘protean career’, characterized by individuals taking the lead in career management, driven by the change of personal rather than organizational needs;  he even argued that the ‘career’ no longer exists within organizations (Kim, 2005).

The meeting place of these ideas may rest in the concept of organizational interventions.  As Kim (2005) in Organizational Interventions Influencing Employee Career Development Preferred by Different Career Success Orientations describes a “study [which] explores Korean employees’ perspectives on organizational interventions that influence their career development, according to personal definitions of career success (p. 48).  A sample of 1,000 respondents of a wireless communication company responded to a survey which identified career success orientations and preferred organizational interventions.  Kim (2005) describes the findings as, “From a practical perspective, at the organizational level, the findings of this study imply that organizations may want to design their career mobility systems or performance incentive systems in accordance with employees’ career orientations” (p. 59).

Where the existing literature becomes scant, is when the task becomes elucidating what is meant by creating organizational-individual alignment for like-minded career planning to optimize career success in talent management. Research which has shed some light on this topic, however, includes Martin & Schmidt (2010) in How to Keep Your Top Talent, wherein they list the 10 critical components of a talent development program (p. 6).  These components include (a) explicitly test candidates in three dimensions (ability, engagement, and aspiration); (b) emphasize future competencies; (c) manage the quantity and quality of high potentials; (d) forget rote functional or business-unit rotations; (e) identify the riskiest, most challenging positions; (f) create individual development plans; (g) reevaluate top talent annually; (h) offer significantly differentiated compensation; (i) hold regular, open dialogues; (j) replace broadcast communications about the company’s strategy with individualized messages for emerging leaders (Martin & Schmidt, 2010).

“We conducted a survey of human resources executives from 40 companies around the world in 2005, and virtually all of them indicated that they had an insufficient pipeline of high-potential employees to fill strategic management roles” lament Ready & Conger (2007) of Make Your Company a Talent Factory.  In an industrial environment where organizations are forced to forgo contracts, which contribute to either substantial gains in revenue and/or market share, few organizations have in-place what the authors call “talent factories”.  In these scenarios, they marry functionality, rigorous talent processes that support strategic and cultural objectives, and vitality, emotional commitment by management that is reflected in daily actions (Ready & Conger, 2007).  While the study speaks to the development and retention of key personnel in adopting this approach, the further benefit is an alignment with some of the preferences of the current organizational population including achievement, realism, and conscientiousness emphasized in evidence-based decision making.  Adding a layer of predictability to this inter-organizational movement arms companies with the ability to be cognizant of where resources should be allocated for this process of utmost importance, and as the generational shift which has sparked the ‘War for Talent’ continues with a level of fervor not before seen among corporate ranks.

– Justin

Cappelli, P. (2008). Talent management for the twenty-first century. Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 74-81.

Kim, N. (2005). Organizational interventions influencing employee career development preferred by different career success orientations. International Journal of Training & Development, 9(1), 47-61.

Ready, D. A., & Conger, J. A. (2007, September 15). How to fill the talent gap. Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition. p. R4.

Martin, J., & Schmidt, C. (2010). How to keep your top talent. Harvard Business Review, 88(5), 54-61.


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