Talent management is one of the most current topics in HR. How can we give candidates the best experience? How can we attract the best people? What do we need to do to win the war on talent? In this article, we’ll dive into the question “what is talent management” and give five crucial tips to do it right.
What is talent management?
Talent management is the full scope of HR processes to attract, develop, motivate and retain high-performing employees.
There are three elements in this definition that stand out:
- The full scope of HR processes: Talent management is about a set of HR processes that are integrated with each other. This means that talent management activities are larger than the sum of the individual parts. This also means that a talent management strategy is required to capitalize on its full potential. More about this later.
- Attract, develop, motivate and retain: This is not a comprehensive list. Talent management touches on all key HR areas, from hiring to onboarding and from performance management to retention.
- High-performing employees: The purpose of talent management is to increase performance. Talent management is aimed at motivating, engaging, and retaining employees to make them perform better. This is why talent management is important. When it’s done right, companies can build a sustainable competitive advantage and outperform their competition through an integrated system of talent management practices which are hard to copy and/or imitate.
In other words, talent management is a process aimed at driving performance through integrated people management practices.
Talent management strategy
I mentioned before that, when done right, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. To achieve this, a talent management strategy is key.
In order to create a talent management strategy, you need to answer the following questions.
1. What are the aspirations of the organization and what are the goals that enable us to measure progress?
When we talk about specific and measurable goals, we are talking about talent management metrics. These metrics enable us to keep track of what we’re doing. A good example is unwanted turnover. If we can’t retain our star employees, we will most likely not achieve our aspiration.
2. What do we want to focus on?
There are multiple areas in talent management that you can focus on. You can become a desirable employer. Being a top employer or being nominated as a Great place to Work requires substantial investment. This can be effective especially when you want to attract people with all kinds of backgrounds. However, if you have a very specific employee profile, for example, engineers, your time is better spent on hiring from the top technical universities.
The HR talent management model is very helpful in this case as it enables you to map the specific activities that you want to focus on. This will also help in the next step. Below you’ll find a list of talent management activities that you can focus on.
3. How will we win from the competition?
Unfortunately, you’re not the only one who’s looking for top talent. Your competition is as well. How can you outperform your competition and become more attractive? This can be achieved through better branding, better retention, better selection, et cetera.
4. What capabilities do you need to build or continue to win?
Talent management requires specific skills that are not always common within HR. Think about marketing to become a more attractive employer. Another example is HR data analytics expertise to make sure you get the most out of your existing population. Depending on your focus points, you need to develop different capabilities.
5. How do you track progress and improve?
The final step is about tracking progress and ensuring the further improvement of talent management processes. A good way to do this is by using a talent management dashboard. Such a dashboard can provide an overview of the Key Performance Indicators and can display changes over time.
These questions are based on a 2010 article on building a strategy by Roger L. Martin.
What are talent management practices you can focus on?
So, I hear you ask, how does this work in practice? What are common talent management practices? Let me give you a brief overview.
Employer branding: Having a strong brand attracts even the best candidates.
Employer reputation: Reputation is related to employee branding. However, reputation is more affected by free media the company has less control over. An example of reputation gone wrong is the banking sector in recent years, especially after the 2008 crash.
Candidate experience: The experience of the candidate influences the employer brand.
Selection: Spotting and selecting the best is a critical part of talent management.
Referrals: Talent knows talent. Referral programs are effective as they help to pick up candidates that onboard quicker and perform better.
Onboarding: Getting people up to speed as quickly as possible helps to make them more productive and increases employee retention.
Inboarding: Yes, you read it right. When people are promoted internally, they also need support to achieve maximum productivity. This is called inboarding.
Engagement: Engaged employees are motivated, perform well, and are more likely to stay.
Retention: Retention strategies help to retain the best people. An example is succession planning.
Succession planning: You want to be able to fill crucial top positions whenever they become vacant. Having a talent pipeline which ensures succession planning is a key element in this.
Learning and development: This is not only a common talent management practice, it’s also a Human Resource best practice. Educating employees helps to increase performance and retention. After all, once you’ve recruited the best people, you want to make sure they remain the frontrunners in the field, right?
Performance management: An essential part of managing talent is tracking and improving their performance.
HR analytics: This was mentioned before. By leveraging data you can ensure that you’re hitting the right KPIs that have an impact on business outcomes.
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. There are many more activities that help to build and maintain an effective workforce.
What is talent management in the digital age?
Talent management in the digital age encompasses all of the above but is supported by a range of HR tech tools. Think of them as your digital toolbox. We’ll highlight a few of them.
The selection of candidates is, of course, a crucial part of your talent management. A data-driven preselection tool can support you with this, especially if you have high volumes of applicants.
In a nutshell, this is how it works. While the applicants go through an online assessment, playing games and answering questions, data about their actions and answers are being collected.
With the help of machine learning techniques, customized algorithms can then make predictions about a candidate’s likelihood of success in the role they apply for. Companies like Harver, HireVue, and Pymetrics provide this kind of HR matching technology.
Onboarding is a part of the recruitment process that has long played – and often still does – second fiddle. A terrible shame, because a disappointing or non-existing onboarding experience is one of the most important reasons new hires leave prematurely.
We’ve said it before, the onboarding period is like the honeymoon for new employees. They’re still on a high from getting that amazing job they wanted so badly and can’t wait to dive right in. As an employer, you want to seize that moment.
There’s some great HR onboarding software out there that takes care of the entire process. From the moment the candidate accepts the offer to the creation of a personalized induction program that’s sent straight to your new employee’s phone.
Feedback is the word. Employees want feedback – and especially the Millennials. Constantly. And although feedback generally is a good thing, I hope we won’t end up like in a certain episode of Black Mirror in which every single interaction we have with everyone is being evaluated.
As a result, you know better what’s going on in your employees’ mind which means you can react if necessary. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on the happiness of your people, increase their engagement and eventually reduce turnover. Technology really is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Winning the war on talent
In this article I answered the question “what is talent management?” and provided 5 best practices to do it right. I hope you see that in order to win the war on talent, you need a focused talent strategy and leverage (a selection of) digital tools. Creating a talent strategy isn’t easy – but when done right, it can be very rewarding.
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