Talent Management: Visible Expressions of Uncertainty & Risk

How do we anticipate the sources of uncertainty and risk (U&R) when we do talent management (TM) work? this post explores  this topic and provides a conceptual framework for developing a talent strategy specific check sheet.

We can begin by considering how we visualize TM in the first place. How we define something determines our more immediate sources of U&R

We define TM as:

Continuously meeting our timely access and use of talent needs in highly effective business driven ways.

Regarding U&R, I use the classical notion of an event that we recognize, with a sense of the likelihood and the impact of mitigation on the likelihood and/or severity of the event.
I would argue that in the main, we are dealing with uncertainty, as we often do not have a very useful concept or understanding of likelihood. Then again, there are a whole host of events that can happen that we do not foresee. These latter situation are often called “black Swan” events as described by Nassim Taleb.
So how do we use our notion of TM to identify sources of U&R?
We would look for events that impact:
  • continuous – events that interrupt
  • meeting timely access – events that impact whether talent we need is on time (versus too early, and/or too late) we could even include ought right shortages
  • use – we become unable to make use of the available talent we have access to (strikes/work to rules, sickness, performance robbing aspects (poor supervision, poor tools, etc.)
  • effective use – again performance impacting events, regulations and rules
  • business driven – changes in business model events that impact our talent needs and/or relative position of strength

We can also look to what contributes to uncertainty. These would be events where predictability (even foreseeability) are upset. these will typically be externalities. For example, do you know what the impacts on your business could be if China decided to build a two kilometre high super building/city? If you are in construction, or are planning on expanding your operations with a new facility, you better. Hint: access to glass (glaziers and glass manufacturing talent).

In the main, U events are Impacting our supplies of talent, our use of talent, our demand for talent outcomes. Clearly we can build specific lists of possible events that can impact in any one of these three areas.

We can use the above to develop a conceptual list of topics (and a checklist) that outline possible risk like events. For TM, risk like events are foreseeable, the dynamics of how they occur and influence and the likelihood are discernible. TM risk like events tend to be “eroding” like events. That is, over time, our access and use of talent deteriorates. Most larger firms handle these forms of U&R by doing workforce planning types of TM.

We can identify three general categories of TM risk:

First: Attrition

This includes retirement, sick leave, turnover, churnover, retirement on the job, etc.

Second: Competency erosion

There are two typical event sources here. The first source is the effects of our capital investments – they drive what talent we need. If we maintain investments over time, we run the risk of becoming obsolete. Obsolescence can take the form that our outside sources of talent (e.g., technical trained students) are no longer trained in our capital invested systems

A second source, is the business model itself, we can have a business that limits the ability of our critical talent to learn new competencies through experiential means.

Third: Jump shifts in our business model/operations

Effective TM is a why, what, how, where, and when effort. Obviously, if we change our operations in a significant way, we place demands on TM in the areas of where and when. If we change our business model, we affect our TM requirements in the why, what, how as well as the where and when areas.

How do we deal with Black Swan events? Apart from praying I suggest we  can do the following:

  • Be clear on the critical TM assumptions that makes our approaches effective.
  • Be clear on the critical causal aspects for each of these assumptions.
  • Encourage people and take periodic reviews to assess whether there are any events and/or trends that are looking like they could impact our assumptions or what makes them “tick”
  • Understand the “lead times” that will be necessary to install an effective mitigation strategy.
  • Have more than one active strategy for critical TM components in your operations.
  • ?

What are your thoughts?


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 Creativity, Decison Making, Performance Management, Risk & Uncertainty, Strategy, Talent Manangement, Values. Bookmark the permalink.

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