Talent Forms in Talent Management


We typically think of talent in organizations as people and usually as employees. I previous posts I have suggested that this notion of talent is limiting and denies identifying and assessing alternative “talent accessing” options.

I am going to examine the various forms that talent can take in our personal and organizations’ lives. I will do this by putting out the following assumption:

We are not interested in talent as such, only in what talent provides us in terms of benefits. Hence, different talent forms provide us with differing benefits. We choose our talent form to best satisfy our priority desired benefits.

I will use a very common event in most of our lives to illustrate this: eating out.

You and I have decided to have lunch together to discuss TM in your organization. Where should we eat?

  • should it be a place where we can order, grab and go (fast food)?
  • should it be a place where we choose what we want from a buffet style restaurant?
  • should it be your organization’s staff cafeteria?
  • should it be from a place where we can each order our distinct international based cuisine (food courts)
  • should it be a place that provides a “family friendly” sit down experience?
  • should it be a funky bistro?
  • should it be a place that provides haute cuisine?
  • etc.

You get the picture. We can satisfy our desire for food and a meeting in many different ways. Our choice will be based upon any number of personal and business need preferences. In each case we are needing to access talent (food preparation and delivery) to meet our luncheon need. Interestingly only the third example mirrors typical  notion of TM – one of our employees, based solution.

I understand that in one form or other, each of the food service options involves an employee/owner somewhere in the process – it’s just that they are most often not our employees.

My, nagging mantra is: how you supply a need is a “sourcing” strategy. In most business decision situations, we consider alternatives to how best source our strategic and operational objectives. Why don’t we do this as consistently when it comes to TM related matters?

Are there times where I would personally lean to an employee centric TM sourcing solution? Yes, of course! In fact I would likely choose such a course in most talent sourcing need situations. However, I would get there through considering possibilities and test them against the key criteria and/or principles based upon required and desired “role(s) in a system” performance.

The notion I would hope clients keep in mind is that the answer is not always that obvious.

A number of years ago it was the standard business model for sports footwear companies to operate their own manufacturing facilities (i.e., satisfy the manufacturing talent needs through facility ownership – employees). When Nike began to make a name for itself it was learned that they chose not to own any of their needed manufacturing capability. They satisfied their TM manufacturing need through a non-employee centric approach.

It was important for their business model to have greater manufacturing flexibility in footwear design and production. They recognized that owning their own manufacturing would limit this flexibility, lock in scarce working capital, and impact their ability to scale up and down as demand for their various footwear styles shifted.

Even though from an accounting perspective payroll is a variable cost, it often acts as if it were a “sluggish” one. This is not about costs so much as meeting the core need for TM: appropriate access to needed talent. When the need for talent shifts fairly rapidly over time, it is critical that our TM strategies can match this variability.

The options for matching variability needs will be explored in a future BLOG.


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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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