Making Talent Management Work

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

Talent management is becoming a major business system as companies look for ways to improve workforce effectiveness, knowledge transfer, succession and leadership. However to become a truly value-added system talent management initiatives must move beyond routine assessments and sporadic performance discussions to integrated talent management leadership. Following are five leadership imperatives that will transform talent management activities into a successful talent management business system.


Managing talent requires working with individuals, teams and organization processes. However, organization complexity, specialization and competing department goals can create company silos, which are the natural enemies of collaboration – a fact of organizational life! Talent management leaders must integrate collaborative behaviors and practices into performance management, recruiting and development planning as well as operational processes. Behaviors that encourage employee participation and challenge in addition to commitment and buy-in.


Studies show that people learn faster and deliver higher quality results when coached effectively. Therefore leaders must allocate a significant amount of time to coaching. Moreover, coaching has to become an integrated part of leadership style and everyday practice. There are various techniques and methodologies for coaching, but they are not all simply common sense or necessarily intuitive. Many are situational, require careful planning, and may even warrant outside assistance. However, good leaders continually learn about coaching and evaluate their own coaching ability, i.e. the ability to move individuals and teams to the next higher level of performance. Simply put, a leader who can’t coach really can’t lead or create the environment for people to grow and succeed. Good leaders are always looking for opportunities to coach and to become even more effective at coaching.

Leadership Agenda

Talent management is a subset of an organization’s leadership agenda. One could also argue the reverse of this relationship but the point is they must be integrated. A leadership agenda identifies:

· Skills, practices and behaviors expected of leaders.

· The Leadership Quotient (strengths, challenges and needs of the current leadership team)

· Leadership learning focus (workshops, forums, seminars, action learning, coaching, dialogue, etc., required to nurture and expand the current leadership quotient from where it is now to where you want it to be)

· Collaborative assessment processes to ensure continuous improvement.

The leadership agenda must also be brutally honest at balancing management expectations with the organization’s short-term needs and long-term goals, i.e. there must be realistic planning, opportunities to learn, and consequences for not meeting leadership expectations.


Moving from good to great or even from excellent to outstanding (substitute your own superlative) is not easy. It requires change. Doing what we do now but just a little better is not change. It’s simply a reinforcement of the status quo. To make talent management work successfully requires cultural change regarding the ways managers and leaders work with people. All would agree that honesty, openness, trust and respect are roots of organization culture. However, demonstration of such cultural roots varies from company to company and all too frequently within companies. Inconsistencies or confusion within these areas is what actually defines culture, not a philosophical acceptance of their importance. Therefore dynamic organizations that face a constant barrage of new and challenging issues must determine if their company cultures are keeping up with the rate of change. Change that requires leaders to address new issues, do new things, walk the talk, and fundamentally change relationships with subordinates, peers and bosses – to demonstrate honesty, openness, trust and respect.

Chief Talent Officer

Every business system must have a system owner and for talent management the system owner is the CEO. Certainly there are major roles others must play, particularly human resources as coordinator and senior managers as process experts, but the CEO is the organization’s chief talent officer. The CEO models the way in making talent management a top priority for all leaders, and redresses those who don’t.

Making talent management work is not easy. It requires a deep understanding of these imperatives and a willingness of leaders to move from concept acceptance to practicing new behaviors. It requires individual change. However, the outcome, – great people, great quality and great business results – is well worth the effort.

Sigma Resource Group, Inc 521 S. La Grange Rd. Suite 206 La Grange, IL 60525 | T:708.354.4673