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What is talent management?
I actually used to be in HR before returning back to consulting and talent management. Based on my experiences, I would say that talent management is a process that HR supports. It is something all managers need to do on daily basis as part of leading their teams. Traditionally speaking, talent management used to simply mean attracting, developing and maintaining talent inhouse. Now, and thankfully so, there is a noticeable change. More and more companies understand talent management from a strategic perspective in relation to business: where and what is the talent that’s wanted and should be strengthened to remain relevant also in the future?
At its worst, talent management is just another HR-process, people in an excel sheet. Here talent management touches only the top positions while the rest is just mass. At its best, though, talent management is about thinking what type of talent the business requires and where and how to ensure growth through strategic capability development. Included in this is the individual employee’s perspective: everyone knows their role in relation to the business and strategic goals. I tend to say it is a matter of putting strategic abilities in practice on an individual level. Continuous learning is a key in this.
What aspects about talent management are overlooked or get maybe too much attention?
To be honest, nothing is really overlooked as such anymore. Eyes could however be even more fixed on the future. Old-fashioned talent review processes with focus solely on performance and excel sheets still exist. While following performance as such is of course important, it lacks deeper insights which leads to very little development and talent growth. In that sense, simple performance reviews tend to get too much attention while thoroughly setting minds on the future capabilities is still receiving it too little.
What is the biggest learning-related challenge in talent management? How should this be approached?
Recognizing the ability to learn. Identifying future possibilities on business models and strategies is rather clear but spotting learning abilities is both difficult and increasingly important. There are tests that usually indicate this as clearly as possible but they are often not enough. On the other hand, learning abilities show on daily basis when individuals make decisions and try out new tasks. This however requires a culture that supports and enables continuous learning by doing.
In order to spot learning abilities, we need to be able understand our own role and talent in the big picture: both within a community and in relation to the outside. This requires stimuli. Strategically speaking, stimuli means e.g. diversity, versatile tasks and acknowledging what the organizational learning spots are. If we turn the scenario upside down, a community that does not encourage trying out new things and thinking outside one’s own role lacks stimuli and hinders continuous learning. In such a setting, learning abilities are almost impossible to spot as no learning takes place. The whole organization should be seen as a learning ecosystem acknowledged and built by everyone.
What do you think are the most important skills to be managed in organizations right now? How about in the future?
Learning ability of course. Nowadays you hear a lot about mathematical and analytical skills but I would take that a step further and highlight complex problem solving abilities. This goes together with curiosity, creativity and flexible thinking.
More or less the same skills will be important in the future as well. This is what makes them important right now. Additionally, we should not overlook the “human factor”. This includes abilities to coordinate with others and be service oriented. Less and less work is done alone or even 100% locally - global teams are a reality and will only become more popular. This increases needs for emotional intelligence and discretion.