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Chris Phillips

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The next generation of talent management


As we come out of the recession, companies are cautiously planning their next moves with one key goal in mind: re-igniting growth. In previous eras, business leaders have focused on driving growth through innovation, R&D, and customer centricity. Talent management was rarely high on the agenda. However, this time around, businesses are recognising that a deep insight and knowledge of their workforce is the key to unlocking the company’s talent to drive growth.

“This is all very well,” you might say, “but how do you actually achieve that in practice?”

This was the big question being answered at Taleo World, the annual conference held for Taleo customers. The event brings together Taleo customers, employees and partners from around the world to pool ideas and share best practices around talent management.

One thing that emerged from these discussions was that, in many ways, HR needs to look beyond the language of traditional talent management and start looking towards a new, business-focused approach, one that talks directly to the priorities and concerns of business leaders. In other words, HR departments need to be adding real value to their organisations at the highest level. This can be achieved by delivering what we call ‘Talent Intelligence’.

In today’s knowledge economy, a huge portion of an organisation’s value is based upon the skills and experiences of employees. Yet for many businesses, there is simply no visibility into how well the company’s biggest asset is being managed. It is no exaggeration to say that for many companies, the management will know more about their laptops and copiers than they do about their people. That’s a woefully inadequate state of affairs and one that simply isn’t sustainable in today’s business environment.

Organisations need to think completely differently about their workforce and this change should be driven by the HR department. It’s not just about using new tools – it’s about gaining a deep understanding of your people – knowing them as well or better than you know your other business assets.

This approach requires one vital ingredient to succeed: information. HR departments need thorough and up-to-date information on each and every individual within the business. This does not just mean a list of their skills and experiences but a thorough understanding of each person’s history, aspirations, mobility and even their interests outside of work.

Traditionally, many organisations have managed without this type of data, but having accurate and accessible information on the talent within an organisation is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ – it is essential to an organisation’s ability to cope with today’s turbulent business climate.

A lack of insight will prevent HR and business leaders from being able to make the right decisions about the workforce, often leading to unnecessary expenditure or failure to capitalise on growth opportunities. For example, without an accurate and up-to-date picture of the talent within the workforce, organisations will not be able to properly allocate their best talent to the most critical roles within the business.

Previously, aggregating and maintaining this data would have been a huge drain on resources, and often practically impossible. However, with the latest unified talent management systems this data is captured and consolidated at source. Every time that  an employee or manager uses the system (to hire a new employee, to set goals and conduct an appraisal, or to build a development plan for example) the data is kept within a talent profile for that employee.

With this kind of talent profile in place, a huge range of new insights suddenly become available: everything from the percentage of employees who are likely to leave the organisation to the specific characteristics that make up the most successful hires. Having this level of insight means that the HR team is able to provide detailed, fact-based advice to business leaders on how to optimise workforce performance and support specific business growth strategies. Furthermore, this talent intelligence means that HR can finally and unequivocally demonstrate the value that their investments in people and people strategies have on the bottom line of the business. 

More than ever, the overall success or failure of a business rests in the hands of HR. Bringing in the best available people and getting the most out of them once they are onboard is crucial. Talent intelligence enables the whole business to make the right decisions about their people, every day. Knowing your people really is the best way to drive business growth.

Chris Phillips is vice president of international marketing, Taleo

3 Responses

  1. How do you measure potential?

    Thanks for the comments!

    So how do we judge or measure potential? It is difficult to ignore skills which are lacking but how do you spot potential? I suppose we are getting all X Factor again – finding talent which can be developed and discovering hidden ability?

    Anyone have any good tips?


  2. Talent Management not competence alignment?

    This is an obvious sell for Taleo which is not without reason. Talent management has been left on the back burner for too long. The data that can be captured within any software is still open to individuals to use the system in an objective manner. You make the comment that HR need to "drive this forward" but there still remains the gap between what "talent" ( or do you mean skills?) exists in the business and how this can be described in job profiles to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time for future growth. This is where I see the disconect between HR and senior board level management. Alignement of talent with business strategy and growth. Looking at talent today and what they can do now is not necessarily the same as what they might be able to do tomorrow to take the business in another direction.  Is this not the difference between talent and skill and possibly the reason we so often miss opportunities? I would be interested to hear others views on this as I feel this differentiation is key but I have never heard the argument discussed.

  3. Insight on insight

    — Andrew Leigh

    The argument for insight-driven HR is now becoming mainstream in thinking strategically about HR. The challenge is how best HR professionals can in fact develop their insight in new, more effective ways. (See for example: 7 Ways to Develop Your Insight)

    It is also true that most companies still have a traditional HR structure in which thinking about talent for example, remains heavily siloed with a general failure to use insight to join up the dots to create a holistic approach.

    Finally I would argue that the whole issue of effective talent mangement for example, turns on the ability of both line managers and HR professionals to develop greater insight into what really excites and inspires people, gets their energy flowing and generates peak performance.


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