You've heard the story repeatedly - organizational leaders claim that employees are their most important asset and that they have elaborate plans for finding the perfect fit for each employee in the organization. Although recognizing the talent within an individual is typically an easy task, finding the right niche for each individual within the organization can be a tricky exercise. Unfortunately, effective talent management continues to be elusive for some organizations.
However, there does appear to be a major transition occurring in this area. Learning professionals are beginning to embrace completely new approaches to talent management that are much more comprehensive and strategic than their predecessors.
As organizations shift from traditional human capital development strategies toward more systematic efforts for finding, developing, and retaining the right talent, ASTD has devoted attention to talent management. Because most organizations still lack a comprehensive talent management strategy, a better understanding of the term is needed to meet the demands of the contemporary knowledge-driven workplace. Some of the specific goals of this effort included
- defining talent management as a comprehensive, integrated approach spanning the whole enterprise and the entire employee lifecycle
- creating a definition of talent management and making it the industry standard
- identifying the leadership role that learning professionals play in the new approach to talent management
- presenting an action plan for the organization's talent management leaders.
Additionally, ASTD, along with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), has reached out to learning professionals to gather in-depth knowledge about their experiences with talent management. A survey on talent management practices, challenges, and lessons learned was distributed to high-level business, HR, and learning professional contacts in 2008.
In total, 518 people representing a variety of organizational sizes and industries responded to the survey. The results were compiled into the new ASTD/i4cp Talent Management Practices and Opportunities study.
Developing consensus on a valid definition of talent management was a priority for ASTD because past research has revealed that common, agreed-upon definitions are scarce. After considerable review by a panel of experts, the following definition was adopted: a holistic approach to optimizing human capital, which enables an organization to drive short- and long-term results by building culture, engagement, capability, and capacity through integrated talent acquisition, development, and deployment processes that are aligned to business goals.
For the most part, the organizational leaders who completed the survey found the definition to be accurate. A large majority - more than eight of 10 survey respondents - agreed with the ASTD definition to a "high" or "very high" extent. Only 2 percent said they either agreed to a small extent or didn't agree with it at all.
Some illuminating findings also emerged regarding the amount of experience that most organizations had with talent management. In fact, more than one in four organizations admitted that they did not have an integrated approach to talent management. Only 12 percent of the study's respondents said they'd had an integrated approach in place for more than five years.
That left the majority somewhere in between - 62 percent indicated that their programs had been formalized for five years or less.
Lack of experience, among other factors, likely led to some difficulty in talent management efforts. Responding organizations revealed that there is considerable room for improvement in the degree to which they effectively manage talent. Just one-fifth of the respondents reported that their organizations were using talent effectively. More than half reported moderate success in their talent management efforts.
These results confirm that many of the existing approaches to employee acquisition, retention, and development have not been able to meet the needs of today's complex organizations.
Despite the novelty of, and self-reported difficulty in managing talent, the vast majority of respondents expected to take a much more prominent role in formal talent management efforts in the next few years. Ensuring that the right person is in the right job at the right time has become a necessity, and recognition of the importance of a formal, integrated approach is gaining steam. Although talent management still has a long way to go for many, there is some guidance on the right direction to take. t+d