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Changing trends in Talent Management

August 26, 2015
Businesspeople works together for a new creative idea

Businesspeople works together for a new creative idea

The world over, organizations are becoming more sensitive to the need to manage talent more effectively. This is being driven by several factors but most importantly by:

  1. Tighter budgets and controls post the Global Banking Crisis
  2. The war for talent never ended and talent scarcity is now a reality across the world
  3. Global talent supply management as a practice

So what are the trends that I am seeing emerge across the world:

Centralization of talent management: The 90s and early 200s saw organizations going global at a rapid pace and in order to maintain agility of decision-making many organizations went the federal route, giving wide-ranging power and authority to country or regional offices. As a result, many developed sub-practices of their own. This fostered innovation and creativity and resulted in best practices emerging from offices away from HQ and enabled organizations to scale up capability. However, on the flip side it didn’t bode well for consistency, efficiency and in many instances, it resulted in islands of fiefdoms that the HQ had little control over.

  1. Efficiency & Consistency: During the last 7-8 years, as growth has flatlined, there has been an increased focus on cost management; efficiency drives have discovered that across countries and regions they’ve had 100s (and I do mean 100s) of leadership programs being run independently of each other. In order to bring method to this madness, organizations have centralized leadership and talent management, undertaken a strong housekeeping exercise to keep the best practices and ensure they are consistently followed across the globe.
  2. The war for talent: As economic uncertainty becomes a reality, a leader’s ability to be agile, flexible and responsive in a dynamic environment becomes increasingly important. This adds an additional filter to what we expect from talent and makes the definition of “Talent” even tighter; thus resulting in an even smaller pool of available talent. This necessitates a need to manage this scarce resource with greater ownership and as with all things critical, HQ centralizes control.
  3. Professionals’ aspirations have changed: they are more mobile than ever before and have expectations of roles across the world. The only way to manage this is to have a centralized view of the organizational talent landscape.


Global saliency of talent: Time was, talent search or poaching was a local phenomenon. Today, a search for talent has global scope and search firms are increasingly being asked to widen their net and search for the best talent across the world. This puts increasing pressure on talent management and retention but also highlights that an organization needs to have the ability to source it’s internal talent across global offices. From a talent resourcing perspective this demands a global view of talent and a consistent framework for talent identification and development all of which have led to centralization of talent management. The Talent Acquisition function will increasingly be asked to play the role of Talent Resourcing, which means look within before casting the net outside the organization. Talent Management and Talent Acquisition will need to be more joined up than ever and we might even see the creation of a Talent Resourcing function that assimilates the two.


TM2Focused development versus carpet-bombing: Prior to my consulting role, I was OD & Learning head for 2 Indian conglomerates and I remember most leaders carrying KRA/KPIs around ensuring that all managers and above completed 5 person-days of training each year. It’s interesting how we don’t see that metric at all anymore. In just a few years it has completely disappeared off the KPI sheets. Tighter budgets, demands for clearer RoI and a realization that these spends didn’t have enough overall impact have led to this change. Development plans are now more specific to the individual and this has placed a demand on both HR and line managers to be clearer about growth potential, strengths and areas of development in order to craft bespoke development plans. Such bespoke development plans also provide clearer measurement of impact and results. They’re easier to track and manage but also require greater involvement from both Line Manager and the HRBP.


Finally, 70:20:10: Organizations have finally realized that core development of skills and abilities happens on the job. However, for many years and in many instances even today, the HR/Training functions have invested over 80% of their time and energy on the 10% i.e. designing training calendars and rolling out training programs. This has resulted in a low focus on the 70 and the 20, which is now being questioned and is undergoing a change that will be quickly apparent. Partly impelled by greater focus on cost and partly by a focus on efficiency and RoI. However, while the shift is apparent in language and intent there are some things that will need to fall into place if this needs to be managed well:

  1. Deeper understanding of critical roles: Out of all the roles that exist in a function and amidst all the hierarchy that’s built up (especially in emergine markets companies or manufacturing environments), there are some roles that are more developmental than others. It is vital for HR and Line to work together to identify these specific roles and highlight those as key postings for developing leaders. For example, a shift from managing a sales beat to managing area sales requires an individual to move from managing self to managing others and is a key journey-point in a career.
  2. TM3Deeper understanding of developmental impact of a role: Line and HR will need to have greater clarity on the developmental impact of a particular role. Knowing which skills are required as an entry point into the role is important. But even more vital is to be clear about the new skills/abilities that a role will add and that an incumbent must acquire before being moved out of the role. Understanding what contributes to the acquisition of that skill is equally vital since sometimes a role may be diluted of exactly that attribute ensuring that the individual spends time on the role but will not take away the key learning. For example if a controller in the accounting function has no exposure to treasury because his manager prefers to manage that part of the role, the controller’s development will be incomplete. Hence having a method to measure or assess that the individual actually acquired the key skills before they exit that role is key.
  3. Career paths: In order to accomplish any of the above and in order to provide challenging all-round development for future general managers, each organization needs to have a well-developed understanding of how their managers have grown. Designing career trees but more so, being clear about the career forest i.e. which branches intersect with other trees is critical and will equip HR and Line Managers with the ability to define development plans that ensure an individual plays to their strengths and builds on future development needs.

This is by no means a definitive list of all that is changing in the world of HR and Talent Management. What are some changes you are seeing? Do share your thoughts on the comments section and help build a more complete understanding of the new face of Talent Management.

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