Mark McMillan | Founding Member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Mark McMillan | Founding Member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Please welcome Mark McMillan as the newest member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Mark is co-founder of Talent Function, where he combines executive coaching expertise with ten years of recruitment software industry experience. He started his software career for the Oracle Corporation and later joined BrassRing as a Director of Strategy and Business Development. Full Bio…


The air that staffing leaders breath today is full of “Talent Management.” Ding! Buzzword alert.  So is it smoke? Or is it a breath of fresh air? The answers to these questions are worth consideration, but the questions themselves spotlight an advanced leadership principle – and great leadership minds have the capacity to hold both sides of a paradox.

Stepping back and tracing it to its roots, the phrase “Talent Management” originally came about as a marketing concept in the HR software market. Terms like “knowledge management” or  “social recruiting” or “talent management” are typically the brainchildren of a venture-backed software executive who is looking to create a new market category of solutions.   And if the strategy works, said software exec becomes a market leader and wealth is created by all those involved. So, software vendors, in a sense, create artificial movements to entice minds companies to buy their software.  But, of course, good thought leadership strategies are based on a perceived marketing pain. And if the movement is around long enough then there is a kernel of real substantive change.

And so we have a paradox. Talent Management is part artificial movement and part real substantive change.

Effective minds possess the fluidity to stay open to the flow of complex ideas. They have the ability to hold both sides of a paradox as true. And that’s important because it enables one to stay engaged to more people and to more situations. Conversely, when people “dig in” on one side of a paradox they shut off part of their mind and end up giving power to the other side – just think about those political discussions you sometimes have with “that” friend who has a completely black and white position.

Talent Management is a marketing movement. This is the first side of the paradox. If you ask ten HR or recruiting practitioners what Talent Management means you will get ten different answers. It seemingly combines staffing with performance management with a myriad of process inclusions. Recently, we informally asked our clients if their organizations are re-organizing their staff around the Talent Management concept. The answer was unanimously no. Or try finding a “Talent Acquisition” software vendor and ask them why they stopped using the term recruiting. There won’t be a client-driven answer. They’ll likely say that they did it to conform to trend of Talent Management marketing. The examples abound –the great Talent Management hype.

Talent Management is a real evolutionary movement. And then there’s the opposite side of the paradox.  It absolutely means something when the two largest, competing public recruitment talent acquisition software vendors organize their product suites around Talent Management.  And companies are increasingly issuing RFPs to software vendors that combine performance management and recruiting.  HR Leaders are now looking to infuse employee performance data with their talent acquisition processes because data needs seemingly go hand in hand. Talent Management is a real movement.

It is anyone’s guess as to whether we will still be using the phrase Talent Management in five years.  A new marketing movement in the HR software space will surface and we’ll have new buzzwords for our vocabulary. But if you hold both sides of the paradox, you will stay connected to the dialogue that will offer opportunities. Marketing movements can get you resources. And wading through a bit of hype will ultimately lead to a substantive discussion about real practices with your peers.

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