Talent management is an essential strategic HR practice aimed at improving business performance. People who perform at higher levels generate greater profits for businesses, much needed in highly competitive environments where it is increasingly challenging to gain a competitive edge.
In our knowledge driven age, prosperity depends on Richard Florida's so-called "creative class" - workers who use their brains more than their hands to add economic value. Naturally, there will be a demand for wide range of other kinds of workers in specific industries at particular times. All businesses need to make talent management a strategic priority in order to ensure that it has the right talent producing to its potential at the right time.
Why is there a war for talent?
Skilled workers are in shorter supply in many industries, older workers are retiring, employees are not feeling engaged, turnover is very expensive, managing a global worksforce is challenging as well as expensive and educated workers expect more from their careers. They are harder to satisfy.
Innovation is much more important than it used to be. Efficient execution is no longer enough. Businesses are not good at innovation because it is so hard to do. All the more reason why businesses need talented innovators to drive competitive advantage. But skilled innovators are in short supply and the best ones often want to launch their own businesses. Acquiring, retaining and motivating these people is no easy challenge.
Talent management components
Effective talent management requires an integrated series of HR systems and components including recruitment, performance management, career management, people development, succession planning, effective deployment and employee engagement.
Talent management can be led and supported by the HR function but it must be owned by all senior executives and regarded as one of their strategic priorities. This means that they need to be personally better at managing and engaging people. It is not that they necessarily lack people skills, though many do. The real problem is that they would rather focus on the more exciting kinds of work such as winning major new business, acquiring other companies or making great deals. They want HR to provide them with fully competent, motivated people so they won't have to spend too much time cultivating talent themselves. This mindset must change in order for talent management to be more than a slogan.