Here Are Some Talent Management Trends Transforming HR

The human resources value chain is in the midst of a fundamental shift. Here's some trends that reveal where we all might be heading as 2017 unfolds.

February 17, 2017 – Executives continue to say that their organizations cannot succeed without assertive HR leaders who can take a strong stance on talent issues and use relevant facts, including data analytics, to deliver an informed point of view. This makes understanding current talent management trends essential for HR leaders everywhere.

Marc Effron, founder of non-profit HR networking and research firm, New Talent Management Network, has outlined five talent management trends for 2017. These are based on insights from global HR leaders, his organization’s own research, and experiences gleaned from his clients and discussions held at the Talent Management Institute.

In no particular order, Mr. Effron has identified these key macro trends in talent management:

Performance Management Obsession Continues

If HR leaders and consultants put as much energy into fixing performance management as they do writing and complaining about it, said Mr. Effron, “we’d be far further along this journey.” The past few years have seen a near obsession with this topic, he said, marked by ‘pro’ and ‘con’ articles in Harvard Business Review and plentiful opinions on the topic presented as fact.

The low point, he said, has been the endless debate over a minor element of managing performance — ratings. The debate (they’re fine vs. they’re horrible) will end as the evidence mounts from objective sources like CEB and the Center for Effective Organizations that companies get better outcomes with ratings.

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The larger sense of urgency around performance management redesign / improvement will continue, he noted, driven by HR and leaders’ noise about the process. “That noise seems to be driven by both lack of agreement about the purpose of performance management (Improve performance? Evaluate? Develop?), well-intentioned attempts to make it easier and to make people enjoy goal-setting, coaching and reviewing,” he said.

While the energy around performance management may drive simplification of the process, he said he’s not optimistic that it will help most companies realize performance management’s true potential. “The power of performance management comes from brilliant goal setting, not flawless reviews, so until companies put effort and accountability into that area the quest for truly effective performance management will not be realized,” he noted. Mr. Effron said he is seeing some effort but little accountability.

Potential is the New Performance

The performance obsession will be overshadowed by a focus on predicting potential as senior teams increasingly differentiate their talent investments and demand more accurate insights to guide them. The challenge for HR professionals and consultants is that only two things are scientifically proven to predict potential in every situation – intelligence and select elements of personality. So, when consulting firms suggest they’ve found the secret ingredient to predicting upward potential, they’re either relabeling those two constructs or stretching the truth, said Mr. Effron.

The two most popular potential models highlight the challenge of accurately assessing potential. Korn Ferry and CEB each offer a potential model and diagnostic tools that they claim is ‘the’ accurate model. There are meaningful differences between the two, so either one of them is right and one is wrong, or both are not right, he said.

Two encouraging sub-trends should help here. Data analytics is still glorified turnover analysis in most companies but capabilities are rapidly evolving. Within five years, said Mr. Effron, we should have better firm-level predictors of potential. Similarly, he said, he has seen (a little) more work on understanding how the other half of the potential equation – the company situation – factors into accurately predicting an individual’s potential.

The Talent-Focused CHRO

The capability to improve talent depth and quality is among the top three factors CEOs are requesting in new CHROs (and the reasons select CHROs are being replaced). The trend to reorganize HR to have leaner COEs, high level HRBPs and service center-based transactional work means that – except for executive compensation and the occasional lawsuit – CHROs will spend disproportionate amounts of time involved in talent management.

In transformed organizations, the line will increasingly blur between the traditional CHRO role and the VP talent management role, said Mr. Effron. As long as responsibilities are sorted out between the two roles, he added, this is a positive trend which ensures even greater focus on this key area.

How Technology and Data Analytics Fits Into the Scheme of Things

If there is one common theme that ties together trends in HR, it is the ubiquitous presence of technology in the talent world. It doesn’t matter what industry your clients are in – manufacturing, professional services or retail to name just a few – every company can now be classified as a technology company to some degree. That has forever changed the way talent acquisition experts do their jobs, and what candidates have come to expect ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

2017 Talent Trend Predictions
Based on insights from recruitment experts around the globe, the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry shared its 2017 predictions for talent acquisition. The list reflects trends that have emerged during the past 12 months as well as those predicted to dominate during the coming year.

Transparency Gets Traction

Companies will be dragged kicking and screaming into greater transparency in 2017, partially by younger generations demanding it, and increasingly because transparent companies show no ill effects from their openness. Mr. Effron said his firm’s proprietary data from the executive teams at 50 companies shows that executives (not necessarily HR) support a talent philosophy of near total transparency in communicating performance and potential. That same data shows that today most companies are moderately transparent at best.

When some companies such as investment management firm Bridgewater Associates videos every meeting and makes them available to any employee and other companies publish their budget and everyone’s salaries, employees will be highly skeptical of companies that say they’re not ready to be transparent, he said. If you don’t believe in transparency, Mr. Effron said to ask this: What is the ideal length of time to lie to your employees about their performance and potential?

Talent Teams Turnover

The first wave of talent management hiring happened between 2005 and 2015 as companies staffed this new slice of HR as best they could from a collection of HR generalists, learning types and leadership development leaders. Over that period, Mr. Effron said he saw talent management evolve into a more strategic, data-driven and process-oriented field – an evolution that clarified the capabilities that differentiate great talent management leaders.

But Mr. Effron said he is now seeing that initial array of talent being sorted out, with talent-oriented generalists and business-loving types getting the VP talent roles and learning, operational development and leadership development people sub-specialized underneath them. The key variable in his data that he said he believes explains this trend is that learning folks self-disclose as being least interested in their company’s success and most interested in helping individuals succeed.

With the profession now 10-plus years old, there are deeply experienced talent professionals available and companies are replacing ‘humanistic’ talent leaders with more ‘capitalistic’ ones. Stay tuned.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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