Emerging HR Practices

Talent Management

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The business world is characterised by an emerging form of a psychological contract, an emphasis on the satisfaction of the customer, the presence of advanced technology, and changes in demographics in terms of talent diversity (Busine and Watt, 2005). These changes have made talent management as the number one priority for business success. In terms of the demographics, there is an increasing need to develop young talent (especially the generation Y (those born between 1980 and 1990), as the baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1960s) are set to retire. In most literature, it is reported that most of the top executives in different companies are set to retire with in the next ten years. Gandossy & Kao (2004 in Blass and April, 2008) asserted that between 40 and 70% of senior executives of well established corporations were to retire 2009.

In 2007, Smith (2007) predicted that the South African labour market of the age over the age of 45 years and over 55 years was 48% and 12% respectively. These proportions were said to increase to 57% and 20% for the ages over 45 and 55 respectively in the year 2010

Further, in terms of emigration trends, “In South Africa there have been three peaks in emigration: in 1977 (after the Soweto riots); in 1986 (during the States of Emergency); and in 1994 (during the introduction of the ANC government) (Simelane, 1999). The past ten years have witnessed a dramatic increase in the emigration of South Africans to countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (Statistics South Africa, 2005 in Kerr-Phillips, and Thomas, 2009:10). This trend points to brain drain of the South African human capital.

In addition these demographic trends, in some organisations there is an underutilisation of employee knowledge and skills. Meyer and Litheko (2007) assert that most of the well known private companies in the US underutilise their employees’ skills, knowledge and skills with only 40-45% of these competencies being used. I have heard some companies that send their employees on short courses. On coming back to their workplaces, these employees wait enthusiastically to put what they learnt to practice, but the organisation does not provide a conducive work climate in which the knowledge is to be put to practice. During the Masters Lecture week, some guest speakers shared with us, of circumstances where they hire cleaners, with university degrees. But because of they engage with these employees, they find out about such useful talent, and take further steps in developing these employees.

The paragraphs above have pointed out the gaps in talent management and the environment in which the business which the business world operates. A discussion on the definition of talent management will follow:

The term talent management

In some literature, the term talent management has been used interchangeably with the term Human Resource management. Because of this, can we conclude that talent management is the new term for Human Resource management? Or , on the other hand we can say that talent management is one aspect that Human resource practitioners deal with? Lewin and Heckman (2006) agree with the former because they argue that the term talent management or human resource management in itself comes to the same interpretation, though different approaches are taken to come to that meaning. For example, talent management, could be referred to by Training and development experts as “a process of growing talent through development programmes”, on the other hand compensation experts may refer to it as rewarding behaviours that align with strategy through designing compensation and performance management processes, and lastly leadership experts may approach talent management through designing succession plans (Lewis and Heckman, 2006).
The general definition of talent management is to place the right people, with the right competencies in the right jobs. From this broad definition, a discussion on the meaning of talent and competencies will follow;

Van Dijk (2008) defines talent as “the product of ability (competence, education, training and experience), coupled with motivation (engagement, satisfaction, challenge and wellness) and opportunity”
With the above definition of talent comes four main elements according to Van Dijk (2008) namely
•Potency (person’s power, influence and capability to achieve results
•Truest interest (Passion)
•skills intelligences (mental and physical learning and performance abilities to compete, conquer and survive)
•Virtue intelligence (moral excellence and integrity).

From what most people will refer to as competencies, is a whole combination of skills, knowledge and attitudinal behaviours required for a task or a job. Some people will refer to competencies as the ability to do something.

An organisation could clearly identify its core competencies given the criteria proposed by Prahalad and Hamel (1990: 15):
First, a core competence provides potential access to a wide variety of markets.
Second, a core competence should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product. Finally, a core competence should be difficult for competitors to imitate. And it will be difficult if it is a complex harmonization of individual technologies and production skills.

From the term competencies, we can argue that there are individual competencies, functional competencies and organisational competencies. Individual competencies are those that are specific to an individual task, position or a job. Functional competencies are those that are specific to a department. For example the Human Resources department could have competencies such as; rewards and compensation, training and development, and recruitment. Organisational competencies are a synergy of all functional competencies that drive the organisation, for example the Human Resources competencies, the sales, marketing, finance, operational and technical competencies. From the company’s strategy, a company could dictate what direction to take and what competencies to drive the organisational strategy. From this statement we can conclude that a company would have adapted a specific mind-set. In a globalised and competitive business world, an organisation could adapt more than one mind-set. Lahiri, Renn, & Perez-Nordtvedt (2008) propose four kinds of organisational mind-sets and these are; Global mind-set, innovative mind-set, virtual mind-set and collaboration mind-set. A global mind-set would be triggered by the globalisation forces that enforce quality, and efficiency. A common philosophy for most companies is to act local and think global (the “Glocal” concept). For an innovative mind-set, because of competition, companies are urged to produce a variety of products that will appeal to different market segmentations. Technology is usually an enabler of an innovative mind-set plus a combination of creative and smarter minds of talent. With a virtual mind-set, companies would usually want to minimise waste and costs with the best quality. For this reason companies have resorted to lean practices (where waste is reduced, and efficiency is increased). In some cases organisations may resort to outsourcing some functions. For example, a function such as production may be outsourced to china, Russia, Brazil, and India. In addition the Human resources function could be outsourced with the use of management consultants. Lastly for a collaborative mind-set, though companies are in competition with each other, companies could share some information among themselves. In the South-African environment, some companies may join employer organisations, for collaborative purposes.

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