While organizations have been focused on technological and digital transformations, another shift is taking place that affects employees and leaders alike: the way in which talent is managed.
As companies increasingly understand the necessity of a high performing workplace, they are placing more value on getting, developing and keeping employees, prompting a talent management transformation for everyone.
The new talent management
The phrase "talent management" in itself is telling. First, it acknowledges employees as providing the intellectual and physical talent needed to keep a business running, and it emphasizes the need to pay attention to that talent.
A fairly new phrase, it represented a change in the 1990s as strategic companies started looking at their workforces differently, Tabitha Scott, principal of consulting company Cole Scott Group, told HR Dive. Companies started looking at how to create a high performance workforce and assessing changing needs and skill gaps, she said. As the information age took off, new skills were needed while others were less in demand.
One of the big shifts was in HR, which traditionally focused on compliance — ensuring the company followed rules on hiring, taxes and payroll. "Talent management gets future forward," she said. "People are thinking of what is coming down the pike and how do I prepare my workforce for that, including everything from acquisition, talent management and how do we retain them over time as things are changing so fast."
But talent management isn't just the responsibility of HR. Leaders and managers are expected to actively focus on the developing the employee, not just the process of managing a department. Managers need to listen to what employees say they need and want to be successful.
"As leaders, we have the ability to amplify what employees do, or become insulators," Scott said.
A change in the approach to job functions
In years past, employees applied for a job with stated requirements and responsibilities. If they liked some of the responsibilities but not others, that was just too bad — take it or leave it. Today's talent management looks at job responsibilities differently, Scott said. Because employers need to motivate employees and keep them engaged, creative and thriving, it becomes vital to match the employee with the right position, even if the very nature of that position has to become fluid.
"Some people naturally love change, they're motivated by it," Scott said. "They wouldn't thrive in an organization or role that focused on routine work. Others are motivated by optimizing things. They would be frustrated by coming up with new things."
That comes into play when you place people on a project. Typically, someone would start on a project and carry it through; however, Scott said, employers may want to have the people who love change be the ones who start the project, only to shift off when the project reaches maintenance mode. Recognizing employees' strength and putting them into a position to succeed — even if it means altering the job or team — is a new aspect of talent management.
What tactics resonate with employees?
Employees are energized by feeling part of something bigger than themselves, Scott said. "We also need to make every aspect of employee engagement relevant and actionable," she added in an email to HR Dive.
And personalization is a big part of that. Derek Herman, product marketing at Phenom People, a platform for talent relationship marketing, emphasized the need to approach talent management on an individual basis. "Personalize the employee experience so that each employee feels appreciated through some of these methods: recognition/awards for projects, monetary gifts for personal milestones (homeowner, married, newborn, etc.), learning & training courses to develop skill sets and Performance reviews and promotions," he said in an email to HR Dive.
Tips for shifting and evaluating your talent management program
If you're evaluating your current system for managing people and wondering if you need to make a shift, where do you start?
"Before assessing talent management practices, focus on the business objectives and the human capital required to achieve those goals," Herman said. Once those are established, plan to source top talent that will supplement your employee base, he said. Talent acquisition teams should only hire quality candidates who fit the criteria, company culture, and are engaged with the employer brand, he said.
As you look at how an individual's strength fits in with the growth and needs of the organization, consider coaching current employees to help them acquire new skills in addition to bringing in new people who already have those future-focused skills, Scott added.
"The trick is getting their strengths aligned with strategies," Scott said, suggesting that behavioral analysis tools can help ensure the employees are placed in positions where they will thrive.
Employees should feel empowered to take their talents and run with them, Herman added. If they are micromanaged or are met with adversity from their managers, they will quickly disengage and productivity will suffer.
Development plays a key role in a powerful, engaging employee experience, Herman said: "Keep staff engaged with work and new projects that challenge them and resources to grow and learn." Get their input and give them leeway to prove their talents.
Are your efforts working?
If you commit to making a shift, how do you know it's effective? Look at three critical factors: recruitment, management and retention, Herman said. Consider time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and the quality of the hire, he added. Other stats like low turnover and high internal mobility speak to successful development. "If the reverse is true, your talent management process needs a second look," he said.
Are you meeting your targets and are employees engaged? Scott asked. "If your efforts aren't working, go back and have a snapshot of what energizes employees and assess it. Until you know what you're dealing with, it's really hard to fix," she added. Whether it's sitting down and talking with employees or using an assessment tool, measure what makes them tick or gets them excited about what they're doing, she said.
A robust and effective talent management system has become essential for any company that wants to encourage the best performance from their employees. "Face it, they spend more time at work than they do with their families in many cases," Scott said. "If they don't love it, if they're not energized by it, then it hurts you as a company and it doesn't help them either."