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Exclusive: HR is taking talent management too far, according to HR leaders

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HR is in danger of training staff not to think by over-managing talent and implementing "ridiculous" policies.

At HR magazine's round-table debate on future working practices, sponsored by BT Conferencing, Angela O'Connor, chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency (pictured), said: "I have an intrinsic dislike of over-managing talent. I think sometimes we have to stand back and say we are not a parent here - we are dealing with well-educated, sensible grown-up people."

She added: "(HR has) totally engineered development to the point that we have stopped treating people as grown-ups. And we measure everything that moves a millimetre. It is ridiculous, we have to get back to common sense."

Alan Warner, communications officer at the Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA), commented: "Recently when speaking to a call centre (I realised) people could not answer a question unless they had taken me through three screens of questions. This business of talent is about having 'talented' folk to do some exceptional and brilliant things, but there is a whole cadre of people it seems who are being trained to just read a screen."

But the issue of policies and procedures becoming over-engineered was one that struck a chord with most of the HR directors around the table.

Deborah Lee, HR director, consumer and enterprise at BT Conferencing, said: "I look at some of our policies and I think they are written for the tiny percentage of people that are badly behaved as opposed to assuming that everybody behaves in a particularly good way. Perhaps if we took a different approach, we could get more from our employees."

O'Connor believed the answer to the problem was simple. "We have got to crush the stifling hand of bureaucracy. We have got to push back at regulation now. If HR wants to make a difference it could scrap 90% of the ridiculous policies it has. I got an email yesterday telling me how to wash my hands."

See Round-table debate