"Talking the Talk:" Applying Talent Management Best Practices to HR Itself

I had the pleasure this week of participating in a workshop with a group of exceptionally dedicated, smart, and enthusiastic HR professionals who were spending several days together with the common goal of improving their efficacy and the effectiveness of HR within their large global company.

As a group, we looked at Bersin & Associates research – research that looks at best practices in talent acquisition, performance management, leadership development, succession, and learning – with the goal of applying them not to the constituents that these HR professionals serve – but to themselves.

Like the cobbler’s children, the group decided, far too often the core tenets of talent management that they sought to instill within their enterprise were not part of their own internal management practices.

Finding employees with the skills and talent for tomorrow’s jobs in a world of decreasing preparedness as people enter the workforce is oft cited by employers – but how often have we looked at what that implies for the HR team itself? Will the newcomers to the HR community be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges and what are the implications for HR should increased internal training be required?  This particular team had years of experience in HR and often long tenure in the company itself (only one millennial was in the group). While they cited the stability in their HR workforce this team recognized that retirement could begin to erode that stability in the near future.

Bersin research on leadership and mobility showed that 47% of organizations do not currently have the ability to easily identify their high potentials; these global organizations participating in our research indicated that they can’t easily identify those employees and leaders who,  in fact, do have expert skills. In addition,  they have at best an ad hoc, or no, strategy for managing their expert talent into critical leader  and non-leader positions (see Laci Loew’s study entitled “A High-Impact High-Potential strategy: Key Practices to Maximize the Performance of Top Leadership Talent for more information.)

Our point here:  are HR professionals identifying their own high potentials and planning for the leadership within HR tomorrow?

We know the topic is important: reskilling HR is a critical issue discussed in Cornell University’s ILR School’s publication “The 2011 CHRO Challenge: Building Organizational, Functional, and Personal Talent.” The study reports that nearly all the 200 CHRO’s cite ‘talent’ as the top priority of their CEO’s agenda for HR and that it is the lack of talent in the HR function that is the greatest obstacle to achieving the CEO’s agenda for HR.

Among the top ten best practices for High-Impact HR (see the Bersin study of the same name), one stands out in its applicability to the topic: “Development of internal HR team members is a priority for High-Impact HR teams.”   Through such development, organizations can better position HR for success – and ensure that the cobbler’s children are not running around barefoot.

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