Talent Management: Critical Often Omitted/Masked System Attribute


Conventional TM descriptions describe the process as one of talent attraction,  retention and effective use. This has two fundamental problems.

  1. It is employee centric means that the strategy and the objective are wrapped up together. Consequence? It draws attention away from other TM strategies. Any strategic process that does this is problematic from the get go.
  2. It masks the fact that TM as a system process must embody the concept of flow. The most rudimentary concept of a system is one of inputs, throughputs, and outputs. These three steps describe system flow, they accurately describe what systems do and it how they must behave if they are to be dynamic.

So a description that describes TM as one of inputs (attraction) and partial throughputs (retention) should leave the discerning observer with the question:

“So how does this work over time? Won’t the organization be striving to continue to add to its mass?”

This is a bit unfair, We know organizations don’t have infinite capacity to continue to add to their mass. After all they have physical, business, and financial constraints.

What isn’t unfair though is that this TM concept flies in the face of what other endeavours do to deal with their ongoing TM needs.

Take for instance sports. Sport teams are usually very active at improving their rosters and they assertive TM efforts to achieve success. For example, attraction is usually more than just being a “desirable brand”, it includes beating the bushes for desirable talent (scouting). Their approach to PM is often quite different than what we often see in most organizations. They understand the need for individual and team goals and they know how to tie them to recognition and rewards. BUT, they are clear about “making room” for new (hopefully superior) talent. They get the point of outflows in their talent cadre.

I recently had a potential client meeting where I suggested that if they were going to begin to do serious workforce planning they would need to develop a strategy/policy around attrition. Such a policy would identify the attrition loss rate that they were prepared to accept (the upper limit) and the loss rate they would need to see (the mower limit). The reaction was remarkable (but depressingly unsurprising). The meeting attendees who were in HR exhibited surprise and became argumentative. The operational managers who were present in the meeting were quietly reflective and asked why I would suggest that need.

When I explained why, the seeming resistance continued in the form of the suggestion that the organization had a “value” around meeting current and future talent needs (specifically competencies) through development. I knew enough about their business strategy to suggest several areas where internal development would in all likelihood fail AND they also had strict financial constraints that limited their ability to increase substantially to their head-counts.

This was an organization who defined their TM process as one of attracting, retaining and making good use of their employees. They were very proud of their low attrition rates.

It was clear that what I had put on the table was disturbing to some of them. I believe there were two fundamental causes at work that contributed to their discomfort.

  1. They did not understand the missing link i their TM definition. They were were almost oblivious to the logical necessity of completing the in – through – out flow of their system. The operational people were more comfortable in at least hearing this observation.
  2. They had a value abut “no layoffs” and the HR people were custodians of that value within the organization – they had a sincere abiding observance of that value. I suspect they heard my suggestion as an assault on that value (of course it wasn’t – there are several ways of paying respectful homage to the value while accepting the notion of necessary attrition.

My counsel to the reader. Always understand how the proposed system works in real time and over time. Always be clear about how the systems renews itself, generates its products and how it its fundamental system flows work.

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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.
This entry was posted in Decison Making, Risk & Uncertainty, Talent Manangement. Bookmark the permalink.

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