Today, more than ever, human resources leaders are expected to partner with business leaders on strategic human capital and talent challenges that impact company success and growth. A different perspective and set of capabilities and skills are necessary for HR to operate at the strategic impact level. Operational excellence is no longer enough. Impacting and managing human capital is about more than quick production of offers and reduced cost per hire. What is required is a strategic, highly consultative business focused approach on talent. That approach places the sourcing, hiring, managing and developing of talent as a means to business success, not as the end point, as well as part of a larger overall set of HR capabilities and contributions.
All too often, companies possess many of the tools for managing talent, but no overarching and integrated talent management strategy. Training and development programs, 360° feedback instruments, performance management, leadership development, high-potential identification, and succession management are all important components. However, without a well-developed talent management strategy, these elements are often disconnected from each other and from the overall business strategy. This neither serves leadership priorities nor fosters and supports the desired culture.
I recently posed a short number of questions about integrated talent management to a small and diverse group of individuals. This sample of twelve consisted of either current or past successful HR leaders, consultants, and practitioners, and included a former CHRO from a Fortune 50 company, a few former heads of talent management for major global companies, a talent management practice leader from a global consulting company, a distinguished business educator, author, and practitioner, and a globally known researcher and writer. Members of this group are also long established and highly experienced consultants and published authors. Many, in fact, through their long careers had actually been in more than one of these roles. I am by no means claiming validity or reliability regarding the “results.” Instead, I received an open, focused, honest, and thoughtful set of feedback.
Here are a few of the questions and highlighted areas of consensus:
Q: “What is meant by an integrated talent management strategy or approach?”
A: “A strategy that connects and achieves;” “Integrated means across multi-dimensions, and across various HR functions, processes, systems (recruiting, staffing, assessment, development, compensation, succession planning, etc.) and the lifecycle”; “operating in synergy/together and systematically”; “linked and aligned to the business strategy (which should be the starting point) and HR functioning together.”
Q: “What is meant by having a leadership strategy?”
A: “Leadership strategy-about what’s expected of leaders and how to develop them;” “leadership brand, model including competencies, expectations, knowledge, skills, behaviors, differentiating capabilities;” “connected to business strategy, follows the business strategy and the kinds of leaders you need to execute the business strategy”; “an approach to developing leaders.”
Q: “What is necessary for successfully achieving and sustaining integrated talent management?”
A: “HR having a clear strategy, working together, no silos;” “clear link to business strategy;” “top leadership making this a priority-clear commitment”.
Q: “What makes it challenging or difficult for many organizations to successfully achieve and sustain an integrated talent management strategy?”
A: “Siloes;” “lack of strategy;” “lack of strategic HR;” “competing priorities;” “lack of senior management commitment/engagement-not being active stakeholders in the process.”
When I look at the other comments and responses, and reflect upon my own successes and failures, a clear message and directional roadmap emerges for HR. HR must be more integrated and less divided as an overall function. HR in general, and talent management, in particular, must be more strongly aligned to the business. In addition, we can and should be more strategic, proactive, and evidence based in executing our responsibilities in talent management. Operational excellence is not a sufficient mantra.
At the same time, as we work towards this multi-level integration with our own function, as tempting as it may be, HR cannot fill the vacuum that leadership often creates and consciously or neglectfully delegates to us. The ultimate accountability for managing human capital, just as it is for the organization’s strategy and culture, are the leadership teams of which we are a full member. HR can provide the strategies, alternatives, processes and overall infrastructure (hopefully simplified), all based on what is needed for business success.
Yes, we know what the levers are and what works. We also know what our leadership is capable of. However, the end objective is not to cope with those who over manage the business, and become surrogates for other C-level players. No employee was ever confident and satisfied with having a great HR leader while the company was being led by an ineffective or self-interest focused CEO. Instead, we can and should enhance the abilities and effectiveness of our leaders to perform their stewardship roles, while we contribute as part of the leadership team with full confidence and measure.