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Do You Want to Know the REAL Cornerstone to Talent Management?

For years now, “talent management” has been all the rage in larger corporations. The problem, of course, is that the term is like some kind of organizational Rorschach test, an inky and amorphous concept that looks like different things to different people.

Well, that’s where rigorous, clarifying research can play a critical role.  It allows professionals to envision the true shape and benefit of integrated talent managment (ITM) structures in today’s organizations.

I think the American Society for Training & Development’s report Learning’s Critical Role in Integrated Talent Management – which I coauthored – fits the research bill.  As far as I know, this is the first study to rigorously measure the strength of relationships among the nine key components of talent management and then link these relationships to both high and low market performance.

In a blog, there’s no way to  adequately report  the complex architecture of today’s ITM systems, so I recommend that interested readers get the full report. I can say, however, that one component stands out above all the rest as being central to ITM success: that is, performance management.

Third Blot of the Rorschach Inkblot Test

“Oh no,” you may be groaning. Whereas talent management seems strategic and professional – with more than enough ambiguous luster to make it respectable – performance management is just the opposite. It’s tactical, hands-on and usually depends on lower level managers. Even worse, employees and their bosses alike often resent it, especially the appraisal portion, which can create hard feelings.

Yet, performance management is the component that gets the highest ITM integration score. It’s especially integrated with comp and rewards, employee learning and individual professional development.

So, as with so many other things in life, the secret to the big stuff such as strategic talent management rests on getting the basics right:

  1. Designing a performance management system that employees don’t hate and yet is accurate
  2. Teaching all levels of supervisors how to manage performance well instead of just expecting them to do it well
  3. Distinguishing between higher and lower performance in your compensation system rather than giving the best employees token raises
  4. Putting performance analysis to work by tying it to individual learning and development plans

If you’re an HR pro who hates performance management, then get over it. It’s where you need to start.  Get that performance management system right and then build around it, incorporating the viewpoints of other functional experts. This will allow your ITM system to move from amorphous, rhetorical inkblot to something a lot more valuable: a structured but dynamic system that employees and executives alike can believe in.


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