Talent Management Dilemma: Retaining Access While Dealing with Significant Fluctuating Business Activity


One of the most dangerous mantra’s of conventional Talent Management (TM) is to view it as the process for attracting and retaining people. This just flies into the face of business reality: Businesses can face significant fluctuations in their business activity.

Businesses that have significant fluctuations in their business activity face unique TM issues. However, using the conventional TM description above is non reflective of these needs and in fact are at best irrelevant and at most dangerous. I realize that these remarks are a bit over the top. However, I see no need to be kind to a critical strategic description held by so many that is fundamentally flawed.

Readers of this BLOG know that my approach to TM is to think of it as:

“Continuously meeting highly effective access and use of necessary talent as and when we we need it.”

Effective access and use embody the notion that this is dynamic.  The term “effective” embodies the notions of means, ends and outcomes. Noting the inclusion of outcomes is important is that it suggests that we look at consequences beyond the transactional ones. By transaction I mean being effective at: “Getting the job done!”. Outcomes pick up on unintended consequences on the organization’s brand, reputation, future cost of doing business premiums, etc.

From a “system” perspective, having a business with significant business activity fluctuations means being effective at:

  1. Ramping up: Includes minimizing delays in securing access to needed talent. Ideally you would secure access “just in time”. Also means that “the first call” for talent is positively responded too. Also means that the needed talent is easily “transferable from where it is to where it is needed (N.B. there can be unique challenges whether the talent is already resident inside the organization or it is external).
  2. Rapid effective use: Having the talent being sufficiently productive as quick as possible. The longer it takes to bring the secured talent “up-to-speed” the longer the lead time in ramping up.
  3. Ramping down: This means we can keep the costs of talent as variable as possible
  4. Being able to do it again: Ideally more easily and cheaply. As a minimum, incurring no cost premium due to how it was done before.

The conventional TM approach does not draw attention to the last two critical points above. I am often surprised where those in an organization who are responsible for supporting effective TM do not seem to give much attention to point 2 as well.

Regarding point 1 above: if you believe that the solution is to solve your TM needs through employees then you will be dealing with the ramping up speed being tied to the speed your recruitment process. Recruitment can be remarkably time consuming (both duration and amount) when recruiting critical talent. I have observed where the process has taken close to two years.

That the process to “attract” talent can take months and sometimes years is a remarkable comment on the effectiveness of this approach.

Think about it! If the same organization had business process with a critical piece of equipment that required two years for delivery after order, what do you think would happen? They would likely do something along the lines of the following:

  1. They would know this before hand.
  2. They would do a suitable risk analysis around failure/wear out rates.
  3. They would look at their cost of inventory process.
  4. They would likely have a spare part in place.
  5. They would have a plan “B” in place.

How many organizations have applied a similar discipline to their critical talent areas? Many organizations have not even done a systematic look at the first step (recognizing you risk areas).

Going back to the first list above, the step that I ask clients to take the time work on is the second – about effective use. As I have suggested before, how you use your talent (i.e., business model) creates your exposure to TM uncertainty and risks (U&R). In the ultimate, if you did not need the talent in your business process, you would not face any direct talent U&R in that area. If you increase the productive use of the needed talent, you on a proportional basis reduce your talent U&R.

 

 

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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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