Executive Education

Why Talent Management is More Than Just The Responsibility of HR

The first American HR department is believed to have been established by the National Cash Register Company in 1901. Called “personnel,” the department, focused on compliance, record-keeping, wage management, and other relatively simple, transactional tasks.

Jump forward more than 100 years and the entire workplace has changed. No longer can we expect a department that was created to track employee salaries and ensure workplace safety to be responsible for ensuring a company meets all its future talent needs, especially in such a competitive talent environment.

A 2015 Deloitte survey found only 20% of respondents believed HR could adequately plan for the company’s future talent needs. The truth is, it shouldn’t have to. Talent management should involve senior executives, managers and even employees themselves.

Here’s how HR can support others to take the lead in talent management…

Talent management can’t be left to the HR department alone

This isn’t a knock against HR departments, which have an important role in driving talent management. It’s just that they aren’t the only ones with a role to play.

There are a few reasons talent management has to involve others:

It’s important for executives to delegate 

Talent management is part of strategic workforce planning that aligns employees and their skills with company goals. Identifying, developing and retaining talent is crucial to any company’s success. It’s too important for senior executives to ignore.

This doesn’t mean executives need to sift through resumes for entry-level positions or sit in on every interview. But they do need to drive the business strategy that will ensure your company attracts and retains top talent.

Individual managers are responsible for the majority of talent management  

Who provides on-the-job coaching and feedback, assesses performance, and writes job descriptions? Individual managers. Who assigns work, promotes employees, and helps employees with career planning? Also individual managers.

Managers — not HR employees — are responsible for much of the day-to-day of talent acquisition and development. No wonder Gallup found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.

Making HR accountable for talent management makes it too easy for managers to duck their own responsibility. In many companies, how managers handle talent has no impact on their own performance assessment or compensation. They assume that HR will take care of people issues, and if things don’t work out, they blame HR — even though they are in a much better position to evaluate and develop their own employees.

How to engage the entire company in talent management

As an HR practitioner, you can’t be solely responsible for talent management. But you can take the lead on getting the rest of your organization engaged in this crucial function. 

Put HR in a supportive role 

When Halliburton revamped its HR department, it created two main types of HR employees to better engage the entire company. Operations partners work with line managers and employees to support talent management at the lower levels of the organization, while business partners work with senior company leaders to ensure the company’s overall talent needs are met.

With this approach, senior leaders are responsible for creating the talent management strategy, and managers are responsible for the nuts and bolts of implementing that strategy. HR acts as consultants to each group, advising on strategy and implementation, building organizational capability in critical talent management functions, and providing tools to support the strategy and its implementation.

This approach also provides real-time feedback on the talent management strategy. Operations partners can see what is working and what isn’t at the operational level and, through the business partners, provide that information back to senior leaders.   

Enable managers to take the reins 

You’ve heard the saying “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.” If your managers are trained and supported to be strong talent managers — if they can spot, acquire and develop good talent — the battle for talent will become much easier at your company.

Yet few managers are good at managing people. Gallup estimates that one in 10 people are natural managers with the talent to help a team perform well. Another two in 10 show some ability to manage and can become great managers if their company invests in coaching and development plans for them.

Statistically, that leaves seven in 10 managers at your company that are mismanaging teams. At best, they are leaving talented employees to develop on their own; at worst, they are hiring poor talent and letting good talent stagnate.

These three steps will help managers take the lead in talent management (and in becoming better managers):

  • Outline managers’ talent management role. State that they are responsible for identifying and nurturing talent.
  • Outline the role of HR in coaching rather than fixing. When a manager asks for help from an HR operations partner, ask them what they think they should do. Provide ideas and suggestions. Then follow up with them to ask what went well and what they would do differently next time. This will help them develop the talent management skills they need.
  • Let them fix their own messes. If a manager fails to deal with an employee performance problem, then suddenly wants to fire that employee, there should be consequences for the manager. Failure to address the performance of an employee is a failure to do their job. Don’t allow the manager to let the employee go; encourage them to work with the employee to turn things around.

When managers learn HR isn’t going to do talent management for them, they will be more likely to take ownership. 

Give employees development options 

It’s not only your company that has an interest in talent management; employees do too. They want opportunities to grow and learn and develop their skills.

As part of their larger talent management strategy, PEMCO Mutual Insurance offers employees three development paths: self-development, talent pools and succession.

  • Self-development is the path for those who want to stay in their current career. Their development emphasizes deep expertise in their line of work, and this path provides them the opportunity to learn new skills and continue their education in their chosen field.
  • Talent pools allow employees to explore what is required for managerial or executive roles, as well as careers in the company in areas beyond their own. Employees can go into the performance management system and review the competencies and behavioral traits required for each talent pool and evaluate themselves against those traits. This lets employees explore broad opportunities within the organization.
  • Succession is the only path that is not self-directed. Managers evaluate talent and ask employees if they are interested in moving into particular managerial or executive roles.

These different development paths put employees in the driver’s seat. And ultimately, that is what should happen at your company — let others at the company drive while HR sits in the passenger seat, helping with navigation. With this approach, your company will better meet its talent needs. 

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Chris Lennon
Chris is VP of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies and bringing exciting new products, features and partnerships to market. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, CEOWOLRD magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT, and HR Bartender.