Talent Management - An Idea Awaiting Execution

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 1665 , Published on 16 June 2013

“People are not your most important asset. The RIGHT people are.”

Jim Collins

This single statement both solves and poses the biggest problem to the corporate world. In an ever competent and turbulent economy the firm capable of maintaining its human capital invariable has the cutting edge. Though our assertion on the importance of people to an organization is hackneyed over time, see managers scurry for cover when asked “What kind of people?” or “Who are the ‘RIGHT’ people?” or simple yet “What on earth is Talent Management?” for there is no single definition for ‘RIGHT’ and what may be fair for one organization may not hold good for another.

“War For Talent” by no means a recent development. Albeit the term found corporeal existence about fifteen years ago through a group of McKinsey consultants, the field of Talent Management suffers from a lack of goals, models and (astonishingly) even a lack of clear definition. Organizational leaders seemingly hinge on to commonly accepted HR practices, rebranding them as Talent Management.


J Heidke, 2006 defines talent management as a dynamic, ongoing process of systematically identifying, assessing and developing talent for future critical roles to ensure continuity and optimal organisational performance. So effectively, it helps organizations achieve strategic goals by tapping into the inherent potential of their human capital. However, in focusing on their stars, organizations often commit the mistake of neglecting their ‘B-players’ who often are their best bet if they hope to be there in the long run. According to a Harvard Business Review article (HBR, June 2003) the star employees often focus more on themselves and their own needs, and not on what is good for the company. Solid and capable “B-players” on the other hand are steady, they stay longer and make huge contributions to the success of a business. It therefore becomes imperative for organizations to augment their Talent Management initiatives to include a majority of their workforce.


Another trap organizations seem to fall into is to consider recruitment as atonement for poor people management. Neither that nor is recruitment a substitute for training and development. Organizations need to accept the challenge of unearthing hidden talent and developing it to suit its requirements, though, in doing so organizations make people more attractive to competitors and expose them to poachers in the marketplace. This brings the challenges of retaining the valued talent. Though it is impossible to shield talent from competition, it is nevertheless fair to undertake initiatives to ensure its commitment. The drive towards retention should not wait for an assault from the market but should start from the very first day of employment. To this effect, the job design should be such so as to promote freedom and scope for exploration and enhancement of the individual’s talents facilitating mutual growth.


It is critical that organizations stay clear of the pit of ‘Golden Handcuffs’. Any such craft can and will be easily matched by the competition and would only result in disparity and low morale among the employees. Organizations are better advised to consider alternatives as deferred bonuses, hot skills premium etc.


And finally, let us consider an example from our own surroundings. Several of us here have rejected offers form equally good B-Schools owing to the bonds of friendships formed. A Harvard Business Review (January 2000) suggests that loyalty to colleagues is a strong retention factor. So, it makes good business sense to invest in promoting relationships in businesses so as to further employee commitment.


These are just a few suggestions that the world is attempting to follow. It is up to you, the managers of tomorrow to conceive ideas that change the nature of people management for as rightly said by someone, “Talent hits the target no one else can hit....genius hits the target no one else can see.”

The Article has been authored by Rahul Ranganathan, XLRI Jamshedpur.


  • Andre O’Callaghan. (2008) “Talent Management Review.”
  • Collings, D.G. and Mellahi, K. (2009) “Strategic Talent Management: A review and research agenda”, Human Resource Management Review, 19: 4, 304–313.
  • David Burkus, Bramwell Osula. (2011) “Faulty Intel in the War for Talent: Replacing the Assumptions of Talent Management with Evidence-based Strategies” , Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 3: 2, 1-9.



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