The talent crisis is a complex problem that defies quick solutions. However, we can quickly identify at least 3 key reasons organisations are struggling with their talent including the failure of HR to become a true strategic partner in the organisation, the prioritisation of process over individual needs and the difficulty in connecting the purpose of the talent programme with what the organisation actually needs. Let's explore these 3 important issues:
- Failure to harmonise. Many organisations, especially SMEs, haven’t unified their recruitment, development and retention programmes into one unified concept. Many organisations are good at one of these three, but few are good at all 3. For example, you might hire a great talent but have poor development programmes and zero retention processes. It’s no surprise then that a talent that isn’t getting the development they need, and isn’t actively being retained, will leave and in today’s market they can leave quickly i.e. after 6 months!
- Failure to individualise. Organisations are obsessed with processes and these result in a de-humanising effect on talent. The desire to treat everyone efficiently often results in nobody being treated in the way that is right for them. This isn’t soft and fluffy, it’s to realise that the key talent you spend a lot of time and money trying to hire, and then sent to expensive training seminars is probably going to leave you because their individual needs are not being met.
- Failure of purpose. What is the purpose of your talent programme? Most exist to ‘fast-track talent to the top’ which is fine until you realise that a lot of talent doesn’t want to go to the top and it also means you lose a lot of good people just because they aren’t ‘heading to the c-suite’. Too many programmes mindlessly assume that their purpose is to get people to the top and therefore miss out on key talent that really makes a difference. For example, a top engineer might not be c-suite material but she is the key lead on all your big projects. How can you maximise her development and chances of retaining her if she isn’t on your talent programme?
- Unify your activities into one vision. Stop focusing on tasks and start building a unified talent ecosystem. It is better to integrate and perform all 3 key processes of recruitment, develop and retention ‘good enough’ than to have 1 area that is excellent and the rest poor or non-existent. This requires a truly strategic approach to HR, and a great example of that can be found at Netflix.
- Individualise your development & retention efforts. Stop obsessing about talent processes and start taking the time to listen to the individual needs of talent. Yes it will take more time and resource but you will be able to provide personalised development & retention solutions for each talent which will much more effective. It’s better to get it right than implement processes that don’t work well.
- Clarify the purpose your talent programme. Stop defaulting to what your talent programme is about. If you say ‘we develop the future leaders of the company’ then that is exactly what I mean. This is a generic and meaningless statement. What kind of leader? For what level? What about other skills e.g. innovation or certain specialists. HR leaders need to look at the business as a whole to understand what it really needs; does it need more intrapreneurs? Specialists? OK, you need leaders, but what kind? At what level? Clarifying the true purpose of your talent programme can help the organisation focus on building the talent it needs not the 'leaders' it thinks it needs.