Future Of Talent Management: Are We Ready To Give Up Full Control?

Future Of Talent Management: Are We Ready To Give Up Full Control?


Recently I participated in a talent strategy masterclass in which the organizer raised an interesting question: To what extent is your talent strategy fit for its purpose? Out of 126 participants, 89% of them answered that it is not.

A Different Approach To Talent Management

According to a McKinsey study, the European working population is expected to drop by 4%. The shrinking workforce offers an additional challenge: higher level of diversity since the differences between the generations are much wider than ever before.

At the same time, Industry 4.0 is transforming jobs—they are not necessarily only lost or created; the majority of the jobs are going through this transformation. The overriding question is not if the jobs will be changed or not, but how will jobs look in the future and which skills will the workforce need to benefit from those changes?

To be responsive to the changes impacting jobs, the workforce may require a different set of skills. The same workforce that is very diverse has conflicting approaches to life and work or reasons to bring their best self to the organization.

To what extent is talent management in the current unpredictable environment enabling organizations and leaders to attract, develop and retain talents?

Wakeup Call

The traditional approach to talent strategy had great intention. It was created for a world that is predictable, for a workforce that is less diverse, for labor market movements in which there are sufficient candidates (and skills) for the jobs employers were offering. It was clear that organizations were holding all the power in these dynamics.

But our reality today is quite different. Future of Work already started years ago and the pandemic pushed us into ways of working that we never thought would be possible. If we choose to ignore those trends, we are missing a tremendous opportunity to prepare the organization for the future to come.

What are the sins of traditional talent strategies?

  • Lack of reliability. Traditional talent strategies focus on talking “about” people instead of “with” people.
  • Lack of flexibility and connectivity with the business reality. Often, talent strategy is focused on the current organizational setup and challenges and excluding the future requirements and needs.
  • Lack of long-term perspective over solving the immediate issues. Many organizations are overly focused on “urgently buying” talents instead of finding a long-term balance by developing people internally.
  • Centralized bureaucratic processes are an obstacle to collaboration. It increases tensions and silo mentality in the organization. In other words, it can create a “battlefield” for leaders in their organizational and individual power positioning.
  • Questionable impact on the employee experience and organizational justice. The “lucky ones” who are selected can boost energy and optimism. How motivated and engaged do the remaining 80% of the organization, who are not seen as talents, feel?
  • Lack of leadership skills in developing talents. Development of talents heavily depended on “luck draw” with their superior leaders or their capability in developing people.

Talent Strategy Fit For Its Purpose

A good starting point to assess how to move forward is answering a few critical questions: How does talent strategy enable the organization to achieve its strategic objectives? And how will the outcome be measured?

Adapting talent strategy is less about following steps of the recent trend or someone else’s solutions that should miraculously transform your organization. I do not believe in it.

There is an obstacle in the behaviors in many of us HR and talent professionals: our need to have or be in control. Our controlling mechanisms got us this far; we created amazing processes and sophisticated measurements. It gave us that feeling of success when we were talking numbers in the board room. How would we have managed the talent agenda unless we controlled it or measured it, right? It is definitely an important phase in the maturity of the organization, but I question whether that mindset will get us any further on the journey.

A talent strategy that is fit for the purpose needs to be:

  • Relevant or connected to the business to develop skills for the future. How far have you come with developing strategic people and skills?
  • Democratic to release the strict control mechanisms of the processes, talent boxes, talent review, performance management, etc. What would happen if you focused on quality, meaningful conversations instead?
  • Inclusive for the diverse workforce and open candidates from currently “hidden" talent pools. Could you be “stuck” searching for the traditional profiles as in the past, instead of understanding the current trends and requirements and harvesting the potential that diverse individuals are offering?
  • Inspirational to promote individuals to grow and reach their maximum, including leaders who are eager to transform into talent magnets. What would happen if everyone was given an opportunity to develop?
  • Connecting people into communities in which they exchange and build the learning culture. Are you capitalizing on the benefits of learning from each other’s experiences?

To be able to implement a talent strategy that is fit for the purpose of the diverse workforce and complex environment, we need to start with questioning ourselves: Are we ready to give up full control?

Article originally published at Forbes