Talent Management – structured mockery of an incredible process

I recently read an interesting article and a paragraph in there read, “Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.”

I thought to myself how true this is about many other seriously effective processes in life and in the corporate world. One such process is Talent Management – I know many an organizations that make a total mockery of a seriously incredible process of developing human capital and making this world a better place.

Indeed, a talent management process is part of strategic workforce planning – an extremely crucial and critical process to retain; redeploy and develop human resources with a genuine belief that employees are the most important resource of the action.

The primary focus of talent management is obviously enabling and developing people, since the quality of an organization is determined by the people it employs and has onboard. Nurturing talent with the belief that human capital development is absolutely quintessential not because you would like to find favourites and surround yourself with ‘yes-men’ but genuine belief in value of human resources.

Talent management perhaps better referred to as human capital management encompasses every process right from hiring people to retaining and developing them. It includes the whole gamut of human resources management starting with recruitment, selection, learning, training and development, to more evolved processes of competency management, succession planning, career management etc. These are all critical processes that enable an organization to effectively manage and seriously develop human capital.

The rate of growth in competition, no matter which industry is at such phenomenal pace, talent management has to be looked as a critical HR activity that will eventually give the organization the competitive edge.

Globally there is a genuine concern that demographics clearly suggest that if you continue to provide lip service or fail to recognize the importance of managing people well that are based on scientific and proven practices and not based on whimsical moods and arrogance of positional power with the belief that human capital can be bought by money.

The global trends clearly indicate the following areas of concern that HR will need to address:

  • Talent War: One of the most difficult aspects of HR management is to find good people, not complete quotas or address regulatory percentages. World-wide HR surveys suggest that there is tremendous dearth of talented employees and it’s often more difficult to retain them. Further research has also shown that there is clear link between talent issues and overall productivity. So organizations need to wake up and overcome race; creed; and nationality biases and genuinely look for talent.
  • Technology: Technological advancements are being made by leaps and bounds but there is serious need to understand which technology will be suitable in the culture of the organization as well as the market. You cannot introduce something by just spending billions of dollars paid to consultants who are never going turn away the business they are getting without analyzing the cultural appropriateness of the technology. It is not the purchase of technology that is important is the sustainability and agile adaptation to market demand that is critical for making technological upgrades to the operations.
  • Promoting Talent Internally: More importantly organizations need to recognize and appreciate the internal talent and genuine identify, nurture and develop leaders from within. An internally groomed executive will be more sustainable, loyal and effective in the long run than somebody hired from outside through agencies whose primary goal is to sustain their own business. Providing learning and development opportunities to internal potential through very need-specific and value-laden training will ensure that the organization will be able derive a lot of long-term mileage from the invested employee; customer-loyalty and culturally appropriate decision making. It is therefore of critical interest to organizations to develop the right individual for succession planning internally.
  • Culturally appropriate hiring: Organizations must try to be regional and culturally specific in hiring senior executives rather than making a mess of a cultural and leadership type mismatch. It is so important to overcome this euphoria and make a more realistic and culturally appropriate selection.


  • Identifying Internal Leaders: Regardless of the type of organization and irrespective of the sector or the niche it operates in since the new economy or the emerging economy places a premium on talent, it is in the interests of the organizations to retain the top performers through a scientific, objective and fair process of succession planning not based on the ‘whimsical moods’ and ‘likes & dislikes’ of senior executives.


  • Emotional Intelligence as an Indicator of Leadership Potential: Having said that, it must also be noted that current research in individual and organizational behaviour seems to indicate that a better measure of the employees’ worth to the organization is the EQ or the Emotional Intelligence Quotient rather than the other attributes such as IQ (Intelligence Quotient) or flashes of brilliance that most employees exhibit at one time or the other. However, assessment of emotional intelligence must be done by setting aside emotional prejudices and based on elements that can actually capture emotional intelligence and not elements that are irrelevant. Often times organizations do 360° assessments because the jargon sounds fancy and flaunting makes them feel good.

A lot of organizations like to use all sorts of fancy jargon and the irony is they also are proud of it without realizing how they are in the process destroying careers or providing a disservice to development of talent by using jargon! They hear, I guess about various processes and without getting into the real essence and objective of the process will have it transplanted or copied into their organizations without ever considering the realistic applicability of the process.

I have seen organizations reduce this incredibly effective process of talent management to a mere visually impressive graphic power point presentation. They would love to talk and brag about the 9-box and plotting of talent and often manage to make an impressive visual display with little or no real intention of using the information to actually work on building capability-pipeline or career plans.

A whole gamut of batteries are also deployed to gather information such as 360° feedback, balanced scorecard, assessment centers etcetera to arrive at a plotting without actually getting to the essence of the quality of information being gathered or creating a culture of meaningful feedback for talent management a developing human potential rather than doing it because the ‘top guy says it so’.

The elements used for gathering 360° feedback have to be worth the while and not just anything one wishes to include, they have to be carefully selected to gather information that will be useful in developing human potential, communicated and properly explained and most importantly demonstrated and lived by the top management not just randomly select some elements to gather feedback from disgruntled people who probably are giving any feedback for the first time in their life or are glad to use the opportunity to get back at someone, play the ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ game.

Organizations also talk about values!  Values have to be thought-through, lived and inculcated as the cornerstone of a desired organizational culture and not because these are some fancy words. They must be effectively communicated, explained and meaningfully demonstrated.

And finally after gathering inaccurate date you have a bunch of people who happen to be in the room for their position because they have, probably, excelled technically in their area of expertise and not necessarily for having any meaningful experience in human resources management.

One of the most sensitive of resources – human resources are, unfortunately managed in the most insensitive way based on likes & dislikes, first impressions, uncomfortable arguments that went against the top guy or the worst hearsay and sly whispers. Rewards and fates of careers decided on whimsical beliefs!!!

Plotting of people is completed on a 9-box after shuffling favorites into the top right had corner of the matrix only to be given handsome bonuses and short-term rewards. Whereas the main obective of talent management which is development of human capital is then forgotten until next year because that was never the intention!!!

I am not saying that organizations do not have a right to reward people, nor am I saying that a process should not be followed, definitely some sort of process must be followed but as Dr. Seuss said, ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’. Don’t say we have a talent management and succession process to identify and develop talent, while the process is just to identify favorites and give legitimacy to arbitrary decisions made to reward the favorites – this more a process, as I would like to call, the ‘Inner Circle’ concept.

‘I would like to include those whom I like, those who make a good first impression, those who can play ‘yes men’ to me and I will have those whom I did not like based on my whim & mood, those who disagreed with me during the year or against whom I chose to believe the sly whispers because I am ‘wet behind ears’ in the outer circle.’ – said one senior executive of a reputable organization.

This concept of three concentric circles can be defined as follows: The inner circle is filled by the people who are my favorites and who always agree with me, they are my ‘yes-men’, will be loyal to me and cover my back.

The second circle is of those that are core to the operations, have to keep them otherwise the organization may collapse and are like flies on the wall; they are mean nothing to mean and they are no threat to me.

And finally are the third circle guys, these are those whose face I did not like the first time I met them; those who had arguments with me during the year and I lost the argument because they were right, or those against whom one of my yes-men had some sly whispers to share and I chose to believe it!

And then these organizations, not just conveniently, but proudly proclaim that we follow state-of-art talent management process whereas what they are basically doing is ‘favorites management’.

In conclusion, what I would like to leaders of such organizations is to stop being hypocrites and ruin the essence of an effective process of actually valuing human resources. Be realistic, think-through before adopting any process, be clear and honest about the objective of the process and be open and transparent with people…don’t mess with people’s lives and careers just because you have managed to get into a position of power.

Remember, along with the power comes a great responsibility, be truthful, be authentic and have the humility to honor mankind!

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