Kelly Cartwright, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Kelly Cartwright, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Please welcome Kelly Cartwright as the newest Contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board.

Kelly Cartwright is General Manager of The Newman Group, a Futurestep Company and part of the Korn/Ferry International family.  In her role, she oversees the strategic direction, development and growth of the company, applying more than fifteen years of leadership experience in talent acquisition and talent management consulting. Ms. Cartwright is a trustee on the Global Board of the Human Resources Outsourcing Association and also serves on the board of the Northwest Recruiters Association, based in Seattle. Ms. Cartwright holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine. Full Bio »


My “What’s taking so long?” Talent Management List

by Kelly Cartwright

We read about them every day, and we’ve been talking about them for years. I’m referring to those high-level concepts and ideals that seem to drive business and HR talk, if not action. Workforce planning, integrated talent management, business and talent agility, the comprehensive talent management technology platform, truly global talent processes, and of course, that proverbial HR seat at the table.  They’re all priorities. But we’ve been talking about these things for years, some for decades. Why are companies taking so long to “get around to it?”

This question is a good conversation starter, but I think it’s more than that. Your answer to these issues may affect your budget, your talent management organization’s effectiveness, your company’s bottom line, and, very simply, your future.

Obviously, there is no single right answer, but I will stick my neck out and say that there are some areas where most people should agree about each of those ideals. They are important. They are easier said than done.  Some progress has been made. We have a lot of work to do. Beyond that, the details differ for each priority and best practice. So, once again: What’s taking so long? Here’s a short review of the top six (in no particular order) on my “what’s taking so long” list.

Workforce Planning

Why it’s so important: Companies are realizing that those cuts they made over the past two years have left them with workforce gaps today. Understanding and predicting workforce needs is essential for linking business strategy to talent strategy.

Why it’s easier said than done: Despite all the press devoted to the subject, workforce planning still means different things to different people. A company may refer to a spreadsheet of current headcount and predicted headcount for next quarter as “workforce planning.” To have real impact, workforce planning must be more predictive than that.

Progress and opportunity: The practice of workforce planning has matured, along with its related technology. There is a general understanding today that workforce planning is a core link to business strategy, and as companies evolve their Integrated Talent Management capabilities (see next item below), the role of workforce planning will grow.

What still needs to be done: Going beyond a one-time event and developing a continuous workforce planning process requires considerable commitment. Gaining internal support is one thing. Sustaining workforce planning in the budget over time is another. It’s no small task.

Integrated Talent Management (ITM)

Why it’s so important: Disconnected processes cause havoc and waste money. How often does a company end up recruiting external talent simply because talent acquisition didn’t have the information from learning and development about its internal talent supply? How can a company develop a coherent corporate talent strategy when different parts of talent management don’t interact with each other?

Why it’s easier said than done: ITM is a complex effort requiring long-term commitment and coordination. Companies are beginning to tackle the challenge of moving beyond one-off technology deployments and process initiatives to create meaningful ITM strategies, but there is a lot of work to do.

Progress and opportunity: Organizations are recognizing the value of integrated talent management, and they are beginning to tackle the tricky problem of strategy development. The major technology providers understand the ITM message and are trying to deliver on it.

What still needs to be done: Companies are looking to mature their ITM capabilities and realize successes that translates directly into profitability. The business case is key to the ITM strategy. That business case will be need to be solid and backed up with early successes if it is to sustain the long-term vision.

Agility (Business Agility, Learning Agility, Talent Agility)

Why it’s so important: The term agility” applies to several different areas of business and talent management. In an uncertain economy, the ability to adapt to changing conditions is top of mind for individuals and organizations alike.

Why it’s easier said than done: Building an agile talent organization requires some level of integrated talent management structure. That is coming along slowly. Identifying, attracting and retaining learning-agile people  is a question of brand and culture as well as talent management capability.

Progress and opportunity: Organizations are gearing up to make their talent management operations more flexible by integrating processes and improving the interaction between technology solutions. Likewise, they are recognizing the importance of learning agility, particularly in areas of leadership and high-level critical talent. There are very effective tools to help them identify learning agility.

What still needs to be done: Almost everything. The quest for a more nimble organization with an agile workforce will continue to drive strategic decisions related to technology, organizational structure and every aspect of business and talent.

The Comprehensive Talent Management Technology Platform

Why it’s so important: The race to build a complete platform has been driving the evolution of the talent technology solutions marketplace for years—at least among the big providers.

Why it’s easier said than done: There’s a big difference between building a truly integrated platform of solutions that work in harmony, and cobbling together a Frankenstein’s monster of disparate niche solutions under one umbrella. Reality is somewhere in between.

Progress and opportunity: More awareness of the need for integrated functions is driving demand for more complete solutions.  Fewer and fewer people are talking in terms of standalone ATS systems. That’s progress.

What still needs to be done: Even among providers that do offer a complete “platform,” from talent acquisition to learning management, there is a recognition that the component systems need to improve their ability to work together, and there is continual improvement on that front. Add social networking and its related technologies, and you have a new universe of additional functionality needed to make that platform “complete.”

Global Processes

Why it’s so important: The world is shrinking. While companies think they’re getting away with localized disparate processes for talent management, their competition is likely to be outcompeting them for key talent, and doing a better job of retaining the talent that matters.

Why it’s easier said than done: It’s an old story—balancing the need for global consistency while accommodating regional variation is the main challenge.

Progress and opportunity: There are success stories in this area. The age-old debate between centralized and de-centralized processes has settled on something that has elements of both. With best practices established, companies can understand what it takes to implement global processes.

What still needs to be done: Combine global consistency with integrated functionality while bending to address legal and cultural variation across different countries. Plenty of work to keep everyone busy.

HR and the Seat at the Table

Why it’s so important: Many business decisions are still being made with talent as an afterthought. HR still struggles to translate its talent strategy into meaningful business strategy.

Why it’s easier said than done: Getting a seat at the table means changing a business culture that grew up with the “Personnel” department, which later turned into Human Resources, and now is emerging as Talent Management. Changing that culture requires HR to look beyond measuring its own performance and instead focus on delivering and measuring strategic impact on business performance.

Progress and opportunity: When lines of business own budgets that drive talent initiatives, the priorities and focus tend to change. This is happening in some companies today.

What still needs to be done: When the CEO becomes the first point of contact for talent management strategy development, we’ll know that HR (or talent management) has accomplished what it has set out to do.

Well, that was a lot of harrumphing.  I’m sure there will some disagreement on all this, and I welcome your view. Regardless of the detail, I think we can all agree, talent management is a field where there is a great deal of progress and opportunity. Where that opportunity leads remains to be seen.    


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