· Features

Talent management strategies need to widen their horizons

Making sure top teams and managers have the right skills to lead their organisation and employees through these difficult times is the primary focus for most talent management professionals. But where does this leave other employees in terms of their development? And what impact will this have on businesses and society in the long-term?

The term, ‘talent management’, within HR circles and wider, has been around for years. But the meaning of it has changed over time and most dramatically during the recession. In 2008 the sentiment of talent management encompassed everyone in an organisation; it was about businesses maximising everyone’s potential – from the cleaner right up to the CEO. The general consensus was that talent shouldn’t be taken for granted as you never know when you might find that diamond in the rough.

But in today’s critically competitive market, the term, talent management, appears to be reserved only for the senior rankings within many organisations; this is due to increasing scarcity of resources and tight budgeting, followed by the decision to invest heavily in the top team. Organisations are trying to make sure that those currently at the head of the company have the capability to drive business forward in a competitive, yet sustainable, manner.

While the decision to focus on developing those at the top is understandable, it remains important to ensure that the rest of the talent pipeline is not forgotten. Taking a more strategic view towards succession planning and talent management should include looking more seriously at those entering the jobs market.

When thinking about those at the start of their career – young people – the outlook is bleak: research by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) found that vacancies for graduates fell by 7% this year; the report also highlighted that there are 69 applicants to every single graduate vacancy. It’s a tough business market in general, but it’s almost an impossible one for graduates; and when considering the recent scrapping of the default retirement age – the market will be even harder to break into as exit rates look set to decelerate.

HR should be doing everything it can to get young people into roles within their organisation – for the future of the industry and society as a whole. With regards to the former, there has been a real gear change in the way we talk about HR; it’s much more about HR aligning more strategically with business objectives, rather than just paper pushing and solving immediate problems. 

One opportunity to continue with this more strategic focus, while addressing the problem of young people entering the workforce, will be for talent professionals to address the mismatch between the talent that is being produced – and what is being demanded. After all, they are in the best position to improve what should be a two-way link between business strategy and the talent that is likely to be available. This will greatly improve graduates’ chances of actually find a place in industry. Creating a connection between Government and schools on the supply side, and the business strategy on the demand side, should be the responsibility of talent professionals to make sure the right talent is coming through.

But in order for lasting change to take place, talent professionals should be striving to get ahead of the game by educating those that come up through the ranks; linking with careers services and the Government to help ensure that the skills the industry needs are being developed before people start looking for a job. Once these individuals are in an organisation, processes should align the business needs with individual needs and the long-term outlook.

Failure to widen talent management horizons, create strategic links and tackle youth unemployment will have a considerable impact, not only on business and personal motivation but also on society as a whole. The UK currently runs the risk of having a well-educated generation of unemployed youths – who have learned skills that are not directly transferable to the workplace, nor in line with the future of industry – and how will talent management then deal with that?

David Cumberbatch is managing director of Xancam