Are you the authority on talent?
An authority is defined as the undisputed expert in a particular field. And, just as the CFO is the authority on finance and CIO the authority on IT, HR leaders are emerging as the authority on their organization's greatest variable expense — its people.
It’s an fascinating statement. But the point that really interests me is the suggestion that HR isn’t currently seen as the authority on talent or people management. Surely this should be, and should have always been, the case? But of course my own experience as an HR Director, and that of my clients, tells me that it’s not.
I also understand that there is an opposing view – one which suggests that line managers should be the authority on their own people, and that HR’s objective should be to do itself out of a job. But that’s not a viewpoint that I hold. After all, you find the same requirements in Finance and IT as well – the need to upskill managers in managing their own finances and their own information – but you don’t see the same suggestion that organisations can do without a CFO, or an CIO.
The difference of course is the belief that managing people is easy, and that good HR (perhaps without the legal aspects) is simple to do. I don’t think it is. There’s actually a deep and rich skill set involved in doing HR well. The problem for me is that HR doesn’t always have these skills, or put them to good use. So I’d suggest the following three actions are needed for HR to become, and to be seen to have become, an authority on talent:
Developing strategic talent management skills
HR need to ensure it does have the skills it needs. These skills go beyond an understanding of the design and execution of HR processes. And they go beyond the business and financial skills HR needs to have credibility as a business player too. Yes, we definitely need this understanding but we’re never going to have more of it than our colleagues in the rest of the business. Having better business skills isn’t going to make us an authority on talent.
The key skills instead, for me at least, are those involved in motivating and influencing people – skills from psychology and sociology – and of their application in business and business-like organisations. There are skills involved in this application too – for example in segmenting the workforce, in setting appropriate metrics, and in making effective long-term decisions etc. These are all vital requirements for HR to be an authority on talent.
Taking a talent-centric view
However, I don’t think skills alone are enough. We need to use these skills to put forward proposals about the importance of talent in our organisations.
This includes the identification of which people are included as talent. Businesses are often very poor at identifying the right people who are going to generate their competitive success. And it’s not always the most senior people that other business leaders are likely to suggest. (For example, social network analysis suggests we tend to overlook those who have more subtle but often greater impact on an organisation through their network and influence.)
It also includes the management of talent which may require sourcing from previously untapped pools, and developing talent’s full potential to retain them in the organisation as well as to full leverage the key skills which are most relevant to the businesses’ success. This is about developing the organisation as an employer of choice for this talent – being somewhere individuals identified as talent know that they’ll get developed and deployed in better ways than they will elsewhere.
And behind each of these two requirements is a talent-centric view – a perspective which puts talent first, and looks at what talent can provide for a business, rather than simply how talent can be used (ie in which the talent strategy influences the business strategy rather than simply the other way around).
This for me is where talent management technologies really come into play. The enhanced functionality and increased integration within these systems are definitely allowing organisations to gain a better understanding of which people really drive business success, and also of how these people can be managed and developed well.
So identifying the right people, and managing them differently, based upon a talent-centric perspective, and aided by the use of technology are all aspects of being an authority on talent too.
Being accountable for talent
These last two actions allow HR professionals to say, “We understand the way that talent can be influenced and motivated, and based upon this understanding, we believe talent needs to be managed like this…”. Talking like this takes HR some of the way towards being an authority on talent.
Yet this talent-centric and informed perspective still isn’t enough. The piece that is still missing is about taking ownership for the way that talent is being managed within a business.
I believe that HR needs to shift from being an advisor about talent to having a real stake in this resource. And this requires us to take accountability for the results that we achieve.
The difference that makes the difference is being able to say “We will commit to achieving these outcomes in our talent (capabilities, engagement, connectedness etc) within this period of time…”.
And then doing it – and delivering the outcomes we’ve described.
This is how I think we’ll become the authority for talent.
Those are my views, but I’d also recommend joining Kris, Mark and Steve and learning more about their perspectives too. So here are the details on Plateau’s webinar:
Thursday, June 16th, 2011 at 12:00 pm EST
During this webcast HR thought leaders and prominent bloggers Kris Dunn, Mark Stelzner and Steve Boese will discuss their ideas about HR’s role as the Authority on Talent in the organization, focusing on the following questions:
- What do HR leaders need to establish this authority?
- What’s different now from previous “seat at the table” moments for HR?
- What role does technology play?
REGISTER NOW for this webcast!
This is the second of a series of posts at Strategic HCM sponsored by Plateau.
Plateau provides SaaS-based Talent Management solutions for developing, managing, rewarding and optimising organisational talent to increase workforce productivity and maximise operating performance.
Plateau software has been deployed by many of the world's most successful enterprises. Organisations such as GE, Royal Bank of Canada, Singapore Airlines and Thomson Reuters use Plateau to increase the productivity of their employees and partners.
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Also see: Passive job seeking still high in the UK.