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Planning for your future talent


Few actually believe that their organisations are able to adequately respond to the growing issues and challenges of workforce demographics and changes around the world. A Global Awareness Tracking Survey released by Accenture at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, found that issues around talent dominate the thoughts of senior executives at some of the world’s largest companies. Indeed, 67%  of the 867 executives surveyed, highlighted that attracting and retaining talent was second, only behind competition as the key threat to business success.  And by talent, we mean all of the skills and capabilities needed to sustain business performance and growth. 

Within a world of expanding diversity and change, every organisation needs to deal with numerous talent driven issues. These include: global abundance but local scarcity of talent; an ageing workforce; the rising demand for new skills; new work arrangements and career expectations; a more diverse and distributed workforce; and ongoing shifts in the nature of work. These changes are quickly driving talent to the top of every business leader’s strategic agenda. However, the underlying fact is that, in today’s business world, the key to strategic success is talent – but talent is harder to find and nurture, and becoming easier to waste and lose than ever before. 

With once-familiar talent pools drying up and new ones rapidly coming on stream, organisations have to move fast and act smart if they are to attract, motivate and keep the people they need. Talent sourcing has become a particularly critical issue in many businesses as they grow and require new skills, and as they see their existing workforces ageing. Attracting and managing much more diverse talent  – generational diversity, geographic diversity, educational diversity, cultural diversity – is becoming a critical capability which organisations and their HR functions need to adapt to. But this also means thinking realistically about alternative sourcing approaches to access talent, for example, whether that be partnering, outsourcing, or contingent workforce solutions. 

Unfortunately, few organisations today are managing talent strategically. To do this, an organisation needs to understand the talent imperatives aligned with its own business strategy in both the short and long term, and to take a strategic approach to meeting these imperatives. They need to have integrated talent management processes that work effectively across the organisation, but also recognise the diverse segments of the workforce. Employee value propositions need to be targeted to the potential recruits, and delivered on to the current employees consistently.  And line managers need to be much better equipped and trained to manage their people and play their role in multiplying talent and building engagement.  

Generations entering the workforce today use new channels of communication, and collaborate in very different ways with the rapid growth in ‘wiki’ technologies and social networking sites. Word of mouth is now as critical as any formal marketing channel to this generation, and organisations need to understand this and learn how to engage and differentiate themselves in this environment. This generation also expects to be supported and given opportunities to develop and grow, and want openness and integrity in how they are managed. There is nothing wrong with this, and indeed these are good practices through all parts of the workforce, but are your talent processes really delivering this, are line managers sufficiently effective in managing their people, and is your organisation sufficiently nimble and prepared? 

Many HR leaders are fast realising the magnitude of these issues and challenges, but at the same time, they recognise the concerns about their organisations’ readiness to respond. Lack of historical focus and investment, and accumulation of different practices through the years, has resulted in practices and processes which aim to recruit, retain and develop people which are too disconnected, inconsistent, and either incomplete or too rigid. Also many organisations lack good information on their workforces – what are the really critical skills, where are the biggest gaps, what is needed to sustain growth and support the business strategy, where are they losing people and why, and where should they be seeking new talent and how do they attract them? These are very strategic questions. 

So what to do? Well, if the questions are strategic, then a strategic response is required. Business leaders need to address these issues and engage with HR in developing the necessary culture, mindset and capabilities to become a truly talent-powered organisation. It also means that HR must continue to develop more capabilities in working with the business to engage and partner with them on building the capabilities needed, and articulating the issues in business terms. Start with understanding the business strategy and its implications for skills and talent, then think beyond the traditional confines of the organisation to how and where the skills gap will be met. HR needs to have the foundations in place and to be able to support and enable the key talent management processes, but the rest of the organisation needs to be using and embedding them as well.


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