Talent Management: A series of Aggregation/Disaggregation Decisions


Talent Management (TM) can be described various ways. In today’s post I will explore one way we can think about it and see how this might help us be more effective and efficient at doing this process. We will explore how TM is a series of decisions about aggregation/disaggregation of talent elements.

First let’s consider how we in this Blog define TM:

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

Some of the key aspects of this definition for our post today include:

  • continuous
  • timeliness
  • access
  • use
  • needs
  • effectiveness
  • purpose (business driven)

The list can be clustered into three groups: Why (purpose) and needs (priorities); Success (effectiveness in meeting our needs and delivering on the benefits- which includes the notion of efficiency); and How best (continuousness, timeliness, accessibility and use).

The first two groups are strategic ones. The third, How, is the tactical group and is the focus of our post today.

The notion of aggregation and disaggregation (A&D) are notions that are consistent with Adam Smith’s arguments about the economic values of having a division of labour. It is the set of choices around what we cluster versus what we hold in more discrete forms. I am going to look at the A&D decision process from three perspectives:

  1. What we will do ourselves or rely on others to do?
  2. What do we need in the way of expertise and specialization?
  3. What tools and knowledge do people need in their “real time” efforts?

The, what we will do ourselves issue is one of fundamental organization. For example:

  • Do we have our own manufacturing capacity to deliver on our product offerings?
  • Do we have our own “back office” functions or do we contract these services out?
  • Do we rely on full time employees or do we have a mix of that includes temporary and contracted people?

What do we need in the way of specializations and expertise is a talent profiles design issue. For example:

  • Do we rely on standardized components in our product offering efforts? This has implications on engineering specialties around standards, component assembly, etc.
  • When we come across once in a “blue moon” issue, do we have the capability in-house or do we go elsewhere?
  • In our front office areas, do we want all our customer facing people to deal with all of their issues and questions, or do we want to have an internal referral system with experts on more complex issues?

Questions around tools and knowledge have profound implications regarding infrastructure investments so as to enable our people to be successful.For example:

  • If we want our people to be good at all aspects of their work, this has implications on what training and tools they must have “on hand”
  • If we have complex document processing work – do we need our people to be well versed in document preparation and publication software?
  • As the “state-of-the-art progresses, on what basis do we decide to “upgrade” the tools and the skills of our people?

We easily see how there are profound implication on TM  when we make choices around any of the above issues.

So the first decision on A&D is what will we do for ourselves. Where we decide that we are best served by having others provide us with these needed services (food service, engineering, back office services, manufacturing, sales, maintenance, etc.) we are in many ways making the associated TM questions someone else’s problem. This is of course too simplistic (e.g., Apple’s controversy regarding the Chinese factories that they contract with make their products).

The second decision on A&D is a fundamental one around the structure of the workforce itself. A good example is an engineering firm: do they rely on a small group of senior engineers and a large, often transitory group of para-professionals; or do they have a more stable full service multi-level engineering cadre with less reliance  para-professionals. Both models can work, but one model or the other appears to be more suitable for particular business strategy circumstances.

The third decision on A&D is interesting as we can perceive the impact on the “state-of-the-art” regarding delivery of “real time” information and tools.

I will use a simplistic example of this – the photojournalist.

Not too long ago, photography was reliant on film. The implications on types of cameras, lens, film types, handling of film before and after exposure, etc. was complex. The implications on TM are easy to picture.

The advent of digital photography, eliminated the complexity regarding film handling and camera design could evolve to be even more convenient to use with acceptable (to the task) photograph outcomes. Consider how digital still cameras can do in the area of video recording. The need for several cameras could potentially be reduced. Again the implications on TM are there, many publications that make use of amateur shot materials because it is easy to obtain, easy to edit, easy to use, and the quality is often remarkably good.

As readers know, I place an emphasis on getting benefits out of talent use in my notion of TM. This is why the A&D perspective is intriguing to me – it focuses us on how we might get more benefits out of our critical talent through strategically insightful and complementary investments in information and tools. We often are in blinders on how the word could be different because we take “how we do things” as an immutable metaphysical fact. Yet, we have countless evidence in our history to realize that how we do things is a transitory relationship of people, information, tools, and social interactions organization. I would argue that good TM is at least as much about pushing and widening our blinders on how we do things as it is about securing and keeping access to great/good enough talent. I would also argue, that the greatest and most important areas for us to engage in “widening is in those areas where we experience (anticipate to experience) talent access and use difficulties – i.e., the areas of greatest TM uncertainty and risk.

Where might we begin such a widening process now?

I have a thought. What is the implication of “Apps”? Yes, the iOS and Android app stores. The ability to do in the field simple editing and pre-press preparation is made easier now. As a photographer, you can access an app that deals specifically with what needs to be adjusted. We don’t all need to be relatively proficient at a complex program like Photoshop. I believe the advent of “cloud” and and Apps will have profound implications in TM. It changes what we can do in terms of deployment and use of our critical talent holders. It changes what we need in the way of specializations. It changes what we believe we need in terms of talent in the first place. It changes what we need in the way of making talent productive by increasing flexibility and minimizing the literal/figurative boxcar load of “stuff”.

I am particularly interested in whether others in the TM field are beginning to turn their attention to the ramifications of the cloud and App way of operating on their insights, creativity, and decisions regarding the A&D of critical talent.

Your thoughts and comments.

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

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