Human Resources South Africa|Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Two main strategic choices emerge when managing talent. The first one refers to a drive towards recruitment, training and development, which Cunningham (2007 in Van Dijk, 2008) refers to as aligning people with roles. In this aspect lies the basics of talent management.

The second choice, in which talent management receives its richness, is to align roles with people. This aspect is achieved through creating an enabling work climate in which talent could be used effectively. With this aspect lies the drive towards retaining talent (Van Dijk, 2008). Van Dijk (2008) asserts that optimal results in development (with an emphasis on leadership development) and succession planning in the process of talent management could be achieved through a clear balance between the former and the later could be achieved through mentorship.

In creating a human capital strategy, it is critical for the people involved to understand the business strategy. Then after they could be able to define the competencies required to achieve the business strategy (Cheese, 2008).

Traditional organisational thinking usually looks at strengths and weakness separately, whereas the modern thinking requires that strengths of an employee will be enhanced through training and development programmes, through work assignments and projects, and on the other hand, an organisation would look at innovative ways of managing employee weaknesses. From this paragraph Groysberg (2009: 39) conclusively proposes that talent could be defined as recurring pattern of thought, feeling, behaviour or skill that can be productively applied in a given context’, then you can develop and embed new patterns from a thinking, behavioural and skills perspective.”
Different authors propose different dimensions that should be included in the talent management strategy. These are briefly mentioned below;
Blass and April (2008) propose five dimensions that should be included in the Talent management policies.
• Development Path: where the development plan should be customised according to the needs of a specific individual.
• Development Focus: World class success depends on mainly identifying employees’ strengths and weaknesses and forming teamwork in the form of coalitions “with people whose strengths are their weaknesses.
• Support: This could be in the form of teamwork, and the mentor to facilitate the personal ambition .Social meetings and networking could also be helpful for an individual who wants to grow.
• Influence on career. This dimensions points to who is responsible for the development of an employee. Blass and April (2008) compares this aspect to a learning contract, where because the individual employees posses talent or exceptional skills, the employee to some extent may depend on the organisation to further develop those skills.
• Connected conversations: this aspect deals with the number of people an employee may have to consult in terms of his or her career and development prospects. To the extreme, an employee may have to consult with the line managers for any prospects within the organisation.

A simple process of managing the talent provided by Gratton and Ulrich (2009: pg 8) is through :
• buy – acquire new talent be recruiting individuals from outside the firm or from other departments or divisions within the firm,
• build – train or develop talent through education, formal job training, job rotation, job assignments and action learning,
• bound – move the right people up the organisation,
• borrow – partner with consultants, vendors, customers or suppliers outside the firm to garner new ideas (outsourcing, incidentally falls within this category),
• bounce – remove low or underperforming individuals,
• bind – retain the most talented employees.
Cappelli’s( 2009) model resembles that of Gratton and Ulrich (2009) except that Cappelli’s places an emphasis on effectively managing talent in the age of uncertainty; Cappelli (2008) points out that there are two kinds of risks in talent management; that is “the cost of mismatch of the employees and skills” and the “costs of losing your talent development investments through the failure to retain employees”
Four principles outlined by Cappeli (2009) in managing talent in the age of uncertainty:

Principle 1:” Make and Buy” to manage demand side risk.

Cappeli (2009) points out the risk of entirely developing talent from within versus the risk of relying on hiring new talent from outside. The author concludes by asserting that talent could be effectively managed by finding the right mix, in otherwise “make and buy” by forecasting the right mix (number of employees with key competencies), and then carefully developing a pipeline for talent from within by, avoiding “overshooting the actual demand for talent”, and then compensate for any shortfalls in talent by recruiting talented and developed personnel from outside.

Principle 2: Reduce the uncertainty in talent demand.

Because of changes in demands and technology required for a successful organisation, jobs emerge. the challenge for the organisation to is carefully develop and predict which jobs are likely to surface in the future and which people are to fill those jobs. Cappelli offers a sound solution to organisations, of developing a large of pool of individuals and continuously equipping them with a broad range of competencies across jobs. Once a vacancy is created a suitable candidate from the talent pool will occupy a position. That specific individual will have to be guided under a mentorship program in the initial periods of occupying a position.

Principle 3: Earn a Return on Investments in developing employees.

Companies should also look out for cheaper but developmental ways of developing their talent. For example affording, potential talent to embark on projects on a voluntary basis, while affording them the opportunity to engage and network with company leaders. This is obviously a cheaper way, because the availability of such developmental projects would attract young people, and these people may be willing to engage in them on a voluntary basis. A case in point with students who are working on a voluntary basis for in-service, or even graduates on an internship programme.

Principle 4: Balance Employee Interests by using an Internal Market.

Because the employee in most cases takes charge of his own development, companies are finding ways to strike a balance in developing employees according to own needs and the needs of the company.
Cappelli (2008) adds that a talent management strategy compliments to the organisational goals and objectives rather than setting limits to the composition and compliance of talent (for example a talent management strategy which states that; within a specific division or on an occupational hierarchy, employees should have attained a post-graduate degree in the next five years). A talent management strategy is rather a risky venture, with strategies that aim towards managing risks in the uncertain business world. Succession planning is the first step to development. “it involves looking for the next mountain to climb not to step down from the mountain and look for a replacement”.

In most cases, HR professionals are seen to be performing the role of an employee champion- in other words the softer issues of the business, while other departments are seen to be dealing with the harder issues of HR. In terms of human capital issues, line managers are seen to be dealing with such issues. Examples of issues are; development needs of employees, skills updates, and assessing employee performance. With reference to performance and reward strategies, behaviours rewarded should be consistent with the company’s culture and values (Cohn, Khrana,& Reeves, 2005)

In addition to the different aspects that should be followed when developing a talent management strategy, the process of identifying the A players should be paid attention to. Talent development is a means of increasing the human capital. Before embarking on a training and development program, a skills audit should be conducted, to discover the talent competencies needed to drive the organisation in relation to the strategy (Kahn and Louw, 2010).

In addition, the critical element in identifying the A players is through a rigorous assessment of their ambition/ drive/ desire to make things happen. A map is usually used to assess an employee’s leadership readiness with reference to smarter thinking, innovative and creative skills that will further the organisational strategy and culture. Among many ways of identifying individuals with the defined competencies critical for the organisational strategy, is to look in to those specific job families that are strategic and are aligned to the business strategy. The next step is to find ways of sourcing the talent (Cheese, 2008). Grobler and Diedericks (2009) add that it is not the high potential employees who drive talent management in the organisation, but the structures, systems and process.
It is helpful to involve the board of directors, in identifying high potential employees with leadership skills. This is because the directors would usually have a better view towards the company strategy, and so they are in a better position to objectively pick on the shinning stars. In addition a CEO with good leadership skills would plan on his succession in an objective way by putting the company objectives first (Cohn, Khrana,& Reeves, 2005).Opportunity should be given to the rising stars to be exposed to the different operations of the company. Managers and line managers should be open to this idea, and they must be willing to coach them on the relevant aspects. Once ounce these high potential employees are exposed to different aspects of the business, the formulation of the business strategy may be their second nature (Cohn, Khrana,& Reeves, 2005). Therefore it is important to get the commitment of the executive management and line management in the process of talent management.

In addition, the process of hiring from both inside and outside involves the process of creating an employer brand. Coetzee (2008) proposes that talent management strategies that seek to attract and retain should develop a compelling employer brand. The author defines an employer brand as a value proposition that emotionally connects the employer with the employee, and in turn motivates the employee exhibit his excellence in his workings to achieve the overall business objective.
For example a value proposition for Nokia Finland of its “cutting edge mobile phone design and usability” would attract employees who are flexible, innovative and who would proudly want to be part of the global and dynamic mobile network (Coetzee, 2008). Talent mining is also a term that includes all aspects of the employee value proposition. The author’s argument is that company structures are renewable, and whatever structure that no longer adds meaning to both the employee and the business strategy should be removed (Kemp, 2010). The leadership development programme should be able to reinforce the perceptions that the company desires for the people to know. For example, candidates to Starbacks may be attracted to work there because they desire to be seen as “partners” rather than just employees. In addition as to the values of the company which are attached to Starbuck’s leadership programme-“leading from the heart”, could appeal to new candidates who are willing to become partners of the customer-friendly environment of starbucks (Cohn, Khrana,& Reeves, 2005).

In the communication processes of talent management, employee engagement should be central. Employees need to be fully aware of the importance of the process, the criteria used to choose certain individuals for developmental programmes. usually competencies used to nominate candidates would be based on track record, experience, potential, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, networks and motivation (McCartney and Garrow, 2006; Stairs, Galpin, Page, & Linley: 2007) .In addition communication should be tailored towards individual and group needs (Galpin, Page, & Linley, 2007).

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