Talent is a term which requires no additional definition for most readers while talent management should be a part of the functioning of society across all economic and public spheres. Yet, the term ‘talent management’ probably calls for further explanation. In brief, it could be defined as the ability of an organisation to identify, acquire, retain and develop the most skilled people with the goal of placing them in leading and highly specialised positions in the future. However, in a 2006 poll among managers in Europe, only about 20 percent of them were able to formally define what talent management was even though 51 percent of them claimed that they were actively performing talent management-related activities.
The need for talent management was seriously taken into consideration in Slovakia when the lack of qualified labour emerged in the labour market, opening the door to the ‘war for talents’ period. This was the time when managers and business leaders began to intensely deal with the need to learn about not only the current but also the future needs of their organisation and prepare for these through nurturing future leaders.
In Slovakia the vast majority of companies still have no clearly set systems, standards and tools for talent management and rather rely completely on the choices and instincts of the manager-individual. Yet, the choice of any one individual does not guarantee that the identified ‘talent’ will work well as a talent for the firm. This is why effective and well-tuned criteria to define talents are crucial; and these criteria should be in harmony with the strategy of the company and afterwards applied in specific areas of the organisation.
Further, it must be clearly defined what will transpire in preparing the identified talent and who will be responsible for this development and managers must be given the appropriate tools for leading and developing their subordinates on a daily basis, not just once a year during evaluation interviews. For this to happen, cooperation with HR departments across the entire organisation is necessary. It is HR that should play the crucial role as owner of the process to guarantee that there is a clearly defined system, processes, standards, and quality – to be the guardian of talent management as a strategic tool of the organisation.
However it is often forgotten that apart from talents in one’s own organisation, a talent management must also look at external markets and the talents these offer. One of these external sources are graduates.
In times of crisis when firms work under the pressure to cost cuts, optimise and improve effectiveness, they try to find reserves within the company and use internal resources more efficiently. In these times, companies usually do not bring in human resources from outside, but they prefer giving chances to the already identified talents inside. Yet, problems can emerge if such talents had not been nurtured for sufficient time and these people were not carefully led towards taking over key competences. Then, the new leaders might not be ready to assume management roles or they might be unprepared, which may have grave consequences for the company. Only if this process is managed over the long run and purposefully can it bring results.
Most firms in Slovakia do not have their talent management systematically set while divisions or subsidiaries of multinational companies that have taken over the know-how from their parent companies and have adapted it to the local conditions might be an exception. A good example may be the Big 4 consulting and auditing companies that work prevailingly with university graduates from the very beginning of their careers, with a precisely elaborated system of further growth and development within the organisation.
Big progress has also been made by banks and some IT companies, as well as fast-moving consumer goods supranational trusts, especially in business structures. The sector of small and mid-sized firms lags greatly behind while the most frequent reason given is the non-existent position of HR manager in local structures. Probably the biggest deficit is generally in the energy sector where this has happened due to the relatively strong position of the former monopolies and the only gradual commercialisation of the sector – and this almost exclusively in the business and marketing – where there is no strong competition putting only slight pressure on these organisations to renew human resources while generational replacement occurs only very gradual based on the natural retirement of the older generation.
Experienced HR consultants can help company owners or top management when setting the criteria for identification of talents, tuning and managing the whole process. A so-called Potential Analysis is another product that can help with identifying talents, defining their strong points and development areas exactly based on the competency model of the concerned firm. The results from a Potential Analysis are then used as an unbiased tool for deliberative work with the talent, an unambiguous setting for the training and development process, as well as the basic criteria for a regular evaluation in the spheres where the potential has been defined.
Many firms rely only on their managers to make evaluation interviews once a year, usually at the end of each year. This can bring a problem, too, if these interviews are perceived rather formally as a necessity for the evaluation of individual’s performance in connection with their financial reward. These interviews should, in fact, focus on evaluation of the individual’s progress while setting criteria for the upcoming period, which should both challenge and motivate the employee. In well-managed organisations the evaluation should not be strictly formal and by far it is not sufficient to make evaluations only once a year; it is recommendable to do it at least once in a quarter.
Today, talent management is a close partner of the succession planning process. After having identified proper talents, potential future leaders can be defined and are made able to gradually take over key competences at managerial levels, which will make sure that the firm is passing on know-how but at the same time developing a successor who will not be a mere copy but someone able to face new challenges.
Miroslav Poliak is partner at Menkyna Partners Management Consulting.
For more information about the Slovak labour market, HR sector and career issues in Slovakia please see our Career & Employment Guide
22. Feb 2010 at 0:00 | Miroslav Poliak