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The Journey of Strategic Talent Management- Jennifer O' Brien


Last week, I began my series of articles to delve into the topic covered in my MA HRM thesis. The thesis focused on the extent to which Strategic Talent Management is understood, and properly utilised, in the Life Science Sector in Ireland. I chose this sector as the focus of the study due to the significant presence of, and investment in, this sector in Ireland. Through some industry connections I have gained over my career, as well as with introductions made by Fastnet – The Talent Group, I was lucky enough to interview five Senior HR Professionals from multinational organisations within the Life Science sector in Ireland to gain more perspective and hear about their invaluable hands-on experience.

Over this series of articles, I will explore various themes that became apparent within Strategic Talent Management throughout my research, but what better place to start than the topic itself?

Talent Management has been on a journey. In the Sixties and Seventies, Talent Management was considered a peripheral responsibility consigned to the personnel department. The concept of Strategic Talent Management has, thankfully, increased in popularity due to McKinsey’s research in the nineties, and many other subsequent studies. Talent Management is now the leading priority that organisations are addressing over the coming two years, with fifty-eight per cent of organisations in Ireland focusing on it.

The theory of Strategic Talent Management remains underdeveloped, nevertheless, due to a lack of clear definition and conceptual boundaries. Research by CIPD reinforces this, outlining that although fifty-one per cent of HR professionals surveyed engage in Talent Management activities, only twenty per cent of those HR professionals function with a formal definition of Talent Management. Strong linkages remain between overall Talent Management and the development of talent, with Talent Management being perceived as a way in which to develop talent within the organisation, as opposed to a more holistic, overarching concept.

Talent Management involves a mixture of HR practices, the flow of HR within the organisation and the sourcing, managing, developing and rewarding of talent. It is no longer enough to simply attract talented individuals. Instead, these individuals must be managed, developed and ultimately retained strategically, even amid a global pandemic. A superior Talent Management strategy is a key characteristic of a game-changing organisation; one which is comprehensive, adds value to and supports the overall business strategy.

Organisations who utilise the elements of a Talent Management Strategy have a more engaged and productive workforce with significantly higher retention rates than those who do not operate strategically. Additionally, strong links have been identified between optimising the employment relationship through a Talent Management Strategy and the ability of the organisation to achieve organisational excellence.

Having gained their seat at the table, HR now plays an important role in achieving operational excellence by enhancing the value provided by the organisation to its customers, employees, and investors. Essentially, HR is now assisting the organisation to recognise the full potential of their employees by optimising how to manage, develop, engage, and retain these individuals to achieve organisational excellence and foster their desired culture. According to Accenture research, however, seventy-five per cent of HR Professionals acknowledge that ensuring their operating models are providing them with a competitive advantage is challenging in the current economic climate.

We often hear companies and Managing Directors say they would be nothing without their people and it is becoming increasingly clearer that Talent is most definitely the prime source of competitive advantage. Although organisations realise talent is their most valuable asset, the majority do not act as though Strategic Talent Management is paramount and despite good intentions have failed to create a talent first strategy.

The workforce is facing a new era of incomparable talent shortages, shifting worldwide economic activity, not to mention global pandemics, and organisations need to fundamentally change their approach to workforce challenges. It is clear, therefore, that Talent Management should be elevated to a burning corporate priority and may very well be the necessary measure to both counteract the war for talent and maintain a high performing workplace. Talent Management is the way of life going forward and HR professionals need to learn to adapt.

Talent Management has come a long way since the sixties but has not yet reached its destination.

Pure and simple, talent magnet companies live their values. They focus on employee experiences — using their talent processes as a way to translate their values into the culture, thereby creating great employee experiences (Stroko and Adamsen, 2016)


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