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Mike Bollinger


Global VP, Strategic Initiatives

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How to avoid the seven deadly sins of talent management

Talent management is no easy feat, and there are many ways organisations can get it wrong.

Managing talent is a complex task. Organisations can often stumble or get it completely wrong, but it is essential to business success. So, as I am often asked, what are some of the major mistakes in talent management, and how can organisations steer clear of them? 

Let’s start by breaking talent management down into seven key areas that, if done right, will help move the entire organisation forward. However, if done wrong, they can become deadly sins which are hard to recover from. 

Here, I’ll explore seven deadly sins of talent management, and how organisations can avoid them

1. Ignoring the value of L&D

Learning and development (L&D) does not exist in a vacuum – it affects every aspect of your business. In a recent survey, over two thirds of respondents said that L&D has a positive impact on revenue. It can also influence career mobility, skills, performance, customer satisfaction, employee safety, and productivity. 

So, neglecting L&D can clearly have a major knock-on effect to a business’ success. To avoid this, leaders should focus on building a culture of learning by:

  • Increasing accessibility to learning resources
  • Building time for L&D into employees’ working days
  • Promoting peer-to-peer learning to add a sociable aspect to L&D

A new attitude to performance management is needed.

2. Offering irrelevant content

Online content is an easy and effective way to learn, but it must align with employee goals and business objectives. Irrelevant, misaligned, or hard-to-use content will only delay growth and fail to meet the workforce’s needs. 

The right content, in the right modality, focused on current skills needs and delivered at the right time, will create new pathways for development. For instance, if an employee needs to develop certain skills to improve in their current role, or to prepare for career progression. 

Our 2023 Talent Health Index supports this, with 65% of employees in the research saying that providing skills development content is the best way employers can improve their learning. 

3. Neglecting skills

Speaking of skills, we all innately know they are fundamental to talent management. Yet, the same research as above showed a global 30% skills confidence gap between employees and employers, which suggests that businesses are not meeting employee expectations for skills development.

This has persisted consistently for three years, and illustrates the pressing need for alignment. Employees look to us first for guidance, and our strategies need to reflect that knowledge.

Companies should communicate clearly with their employees, demonstrating a commitment to understanding which skills each individual is interested in developing while outlining the subsequent business impact.

Proactive action should also be taken by developing gigs and projects to build out skillsets, and aligning skills to internal mobility and growth opportunities.

The businesses that prioritise career growth are the ones that also maximise agility.

4. Viewing performance as a one-way street

Our research has also found that just 46% of organisations in the UK view performance management as collaborative. However, without organisational input, employees could feel lost and unsupported – potentially leading to workplace apathy. 

A new attitude to performance management is needed, and companies must: 

  • Review and assess employee goals, performance, and skills to understand how they should be managed and measured
    • Personalisation matters, so set tailored goals for each employee’s skillset and objectives
    • Conduct regular check-ins to give feedback, offer coaching, and provide learning recommendations
    • Hold development conversations to revisit goals and progress
  • Consider skills as the common currency of the conversation in talent reviews
  • Recognise that we expect a lot from our managers, make sure to invest in them as well

5. Overlooking internal mobility

Employees want to grow in line with a company that supports them and actively encourages career mobility. Organisations without that visibility could find that employees simply look for roles elsewhere, in other companies, rather than seeking growth at their current organisation.   

The businesses that prioritise career growth are the ones that also maximise agility. To achieve this, an investment into internal career mobility technology is needed, particularly self-service technology. By offering this, organisations demonstrate a commitment to their employees to seek out meaningful growth opportunities that align with business needs, creating a skills-based organisation.

6. Lacking investment in tech

Technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can offer significant benefits, yet adoption remains low. Our Talent Health Index suggests just 33% of companies in the UK are leveraging employee-centric tools. Lack of investment could be due to budget constraints or decision paralysis, but this hesitancy risks impeding business outcomes.

To mitigate this, companies must first get clear on the business need, and understand how they might benefit from technologies such as AI – however, they need specific use cases in mind.

Pinpointing and filling organisational skills gaps, helping employees pursue tailored career paths, suggesting skills aligned with interests, allowing for suggested content or even simple co-pilot techniques such as those found in digital adoption platforms are all examples. Be crystal clear on your business goals, or technology will not deliver.

With this knowledge, businesses can then conduct research and speak to peers to ultimately make a sound investment.

Addressing the seven deadly sins of talent management is not merely an academic exercise, it is a critical roadmap for organisational success.

7. Failing to leverage predictive analytics

We spend a lot of time asking, “what happened?”, and much less time asking, “why?”.  But if we only address our shortcomings when problems arise, we won’t be able to rapidly adjust and prevent future recurring issues. 

Prevention is always better than cure. Learning and talent activities generate extensive data, enabling companies to proactively identify potential skills gaps, development opportunities, or needed roles and address them before they become problems.

By extracting valuable insights through analytics, organisations can make informed, data-driven decisions to enhance their talent management strategies. Planning matters and good data is the foundation for that planning.

Building a roadmap to future success

So, your call to action to improve? 

  • Prioritise L&D by establishing a learning culture
  • Provide the right quality and quantity of learning content
  • Proactively gain visibility into the workforce’s skills
  • Continuously collaborate with employees on performance management
  • Focus on internal career mobility and encourage employee exploration
  • Leverage tech and AI to meet specific business needs
  • Extract analytics and generate insights to make data-driven decisions

Addressing the seven deadly sins of talent management is not merely an academic exercise, it is a critical roadmap for organisational success.

Interested in this topic? Read Ten skills every employer is looking for


Author Profile Picture
Mike Bollinger

Global VP, Strategic Initiatives

Read more from Mike Bollinger

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