Author and scientist Ramez Naam has stated that “In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That’s a resource nearly without limit.” In essence, human beings are an infinitely renewable resource, potentially. The moment a hospital purchases a piece of technology, equipment, or box of latex gloves its value begins to depreciate. Talent, however, has the potential to create inestimable value for the organization. The objective of talent management and organizational development efforts are nearly universally centered on this objective: to unlock the potential of individuals in support of the unique strategy of the organization. There is an elegant intersection of organizational strategy, talent management strategy and process, and talent technology that—when working in concert—can be a powerful force in any organization. What follows are three guidelines for your organization that can assist in ensuring that your talent management strategy, process, and technology are aligned in a way that unlocks human potential and delivers organizational value.
Guideline #1: Process First
A former boss and mentor were fond of a simple formula with which you may already be familiar (but is still worth remembering): New Technology + Old Process = More Expensive Old Process. There are technology solutions for every talent management process imaginable; hiring, promotion, leadership development, succession planning, performance management; the list goes on and on. And sales demonstrations of those solutions always follow an ideal (and sometimes wholly unrealistic) process that might very well never fly in your organization. Like the latest and greatest home appliance wonder, we are apt to be drawn to the potential of talent management technology without first fully considering how it will work in the context of our organization. When that occurs, we may find the actual return on investment more akin to the Salad Shooter sitting in my pantry at home.
This trap can be avoided by focusing on the process first, and talent management process is highly contextual. Is your organization geographically diverse or centralized? What are the demographics and technological savvy of your employee population? Are you in a rapid growth phase or looking to optimize existing resources? Make sure the talent process, whatever the process is, is well-understood and delivers what you need it to deliver. Then leverage the knowledge that talent management technology vendors bring of industry-wide best practice to enhance your newly functional process, not replicate what wasn’t working before.
Guideline #2: Talent Process Leads to Better Decisions
The goal of any talent management process is to help the organization make good decisions. Ellen Maag, former partner with the consulting firm Navalent, wrote about this concept, stating that “many organizations get caught up in the activity of data collection, but this is only a means to an end. The real value comes from the comparative insights that are generated, insights that not only help to improve individual performance, but that help inform meaningful and targeted talent investments and choices.” All talent management processes should provide the right data for the right person to make the right decision. For example, an effective talent selection process is one that takes into consideration what the right talent is for both the organization and the role, effectively susses out the quality of fit for individual candidates given the talent criteria and needs, and (importantly) presents that information in an actionable and understandable format for the decision-maker. Finally, if we’re really good, we take what we learn from the effectiveness of the process to inform and improve that process going forward.
The problem, of course, is that there is a tendency to create process just for process’ sake. Obviously, there are elements of many talent management processes that require governmental or other governing-body oversight to ensure compliance with rules and laws. Compliance requirements notwithstanding, a useful rubric for evaluating talent management process (or steps in that process) is the question “Does this help the organization make better decisions?” If not, reconsider the step or the process.
Guideline #3: Technology is an Enabler
If your organization is thinking process first and has successfully optimized those processes to provide better and more useful data to make better decisions, then you are well-prepared to leverage technology as a catalyst and enabler. In my own organization, we have seen the powerful impact of coupling innovative process and cutting-edge technology in the talent management arena. When used effectively, you put in the hands of your leaders the data they need to identify, grow, and move talent throughout the organization. And, with access to the right data, your talent management team can ask more questions and provide more insights that moves the organization forward and unlocks individual potential. Talent management is exciting work— grounding your organization in solid principles helps ensure that work creates value for both the organization and its employees.