March 10, 2023 | by Dr. Jia Wang

Rethinking Talent Management

Talent management has been one of the long-standing concerns for organizational leaders and HR professionals. Simply put, talent management is about leveraging human capital to achieve optimal business results and build sustainable competitive advantage.

The term talent management is often used as an umbrella term to capture many distinct procedural processes, for example, workforce planning, talent acquisition, performance management, training and development, compensation and benefits management, and employee retention. I would argue, however, that at the core of talent management is managing employee performance — the essential process through which companies address the changing demands of customers and business needs.

As a human resource development researcher, I have frequently encountered the following questions raised by business leaders, managers, and HR professionals:

  • How do we manage average employees?
  • How do we manage employees who continue to have performance issues despite their genuine effort to improve?
  • How do we manage employees who have lost their drive over time?
  • How do we manage employees who simply have no career aspiration
  • How do we manage employees who are passed over and not promotable
  • How do we manage promoted employees who cannot let go of their old jobs?

These questions have no easy answers. The COVID-19 pandemic has added even more questions, and here are a few:

  • How do we view performance post pandemic?
  • How do we manage employees who desire new modes of working
  • How do we engage employees who work from home
  • How do we measure performance of employees who work remotely?

The list of questions can go on … and on.

We live in a post-pandemic world full of unprecedented challenges. The value of human capital has never been more prominent than now in organization management. Company leaders and HR teams are actively seeking ways to push their employees to perform at their maximized potential, yet their efforts have not always yielded satisfying results.

Here are some possible explanations.

First, not every company has an effective talent management system in place. Second, not every manager or supervisor has the tools of know-how to evaluate the performance of their subordinates. And, last but not the least, not every employee strives for excellence or desires to reach the top. In fact, as common wisdom and research inform us, 20 percent of employees contribute 80 percent of organizational outcomes. In this case, you can focus on engaging and rewarding the top 20 percent (the high performers).

But what about the remaining 80 percent of employees? What do you do with them? Are you spending way too much time and energy in managing your average or low-performing employees?

If any of these questions resonate with you, I invite you to join me this year on a four-part Talent Management Webinar Series with MSCI. Through these online sessions, we will dive deeper into different core areas of talent management practices with forward-thinking HR leaders who have a wealth of talent management experience in diverse, global contexts. Our first webinar will take place on March 30 at 10 a.m. CT. Register here.

Jia Wang is a professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on international and national human resource development, organization crisis management, and learning within organizations.

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