What you need to know about talent management


“Talent Management” has become one of the most important buzzwords in corporate human resources (HR) training today.

  Over the years, the HR function has undergone a lot of transformation, which has taken it to where it is today. In this article I will endeavour to unravel the transformation HR has gone through and the emergence of talent management.

From personnel to strategic HR to talent management: To understand why talent management has become so important, there is need to first look at the evolution of corporate HR:

Stage 1 — Personnel department: In the ’70s and ’80s the business function which was responsible for people was referred to as “the personnel department”. Back then, the role of this department was to hire people, pay them and make sure they had the necessary benefits.  The other systems which grew up to support this function were batch payroll systems.  In this role, the personnel department was a well-understood business function.

Stage 2 —  Strategic HR: In the ’80s and ’90s organisations realised that the HR function was, in fact, more important. This resulted in the emergence of the concepts of “strategic HR”.  During this period, organisations realised that the head of HR had a much larger role ie recruiting the right people, training them, helping the business design job roles and organisation structures (organisation design), developing “total compensation” packages which include benefits and serving as a central point of communication for employee health and happiness.  

The “head of personnel” became the “head of HR”, and had a much more important role in business strategy and execution than the personnel management era. The systems which were built up to support this new role include recruiting and applicant tracking, portals, total compensation systems and learning management systems.  In this role, the HR department became more than a business function; it assumed the role of a business partner, reaching out to support lines of business.

Stage 3 — Talent management: A new era in human resources management resulted in the emergence of talent management. While strategic HR continues to be a major focus, HR and L&D organisations are now focused on a new set of strategic issues which can be derived from the following questions:

How can we make our recruiting process more efficient and effective by using “competency-based” recruiting instead of sorting through resumes, one at a time? (Human resource management information systems)

How can we better develop managers and leaders to reinforce culture, instil values and create a sustainable “leadership pipeline?” (Management development programmes)

How do we quickly identify competency gaps so that we can deliver training, e-learning, or development programmes to fill these gaps? How can we use these gaps to hire just the right people?

How do we manage people in a consistent and measurable way so that everyone is aligned, held accountable and paid fairly? (Competence management systems)

How do we identify high performers and successors to key positions throughout the organisation to make sure we have a highly flexible, responsive organisation? (Succession planning)

How do we provide learning that is relevant, flexible, convenient and timely? (Learning management systems)

These new, more challenging problems require new processes and systems. They require tighter integration between the different HR silos — and direct integration into line of business management processes. Today organisations are starting to buy, build, and stitch together performance management systems, succession planning systems and competency management systems.  The HR function is becoming integrated with the business in a real-time fashion. 

l Paul Nyausaru is a Human Resources Practitioner. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk or pnyausaru@gmail.com. Views contained in this article are personal.