The Upside Down of Talent
Executive Vice President,
Head of Human
Open. Flexible. Inclusive. These words haven’t always described the workplace from a talent perspective, but that’s
changing. As organizations shift away from traditional “
top-down” cultures, where policies are made at the executive level
and passed down, they’re moving toward a “bottom-up” dynamic,
in which employees at all levels—not just the C-suite—have
increased mobility, opportunity and input in the workplace.
This and other trends are transforming the future of talent
management and changing how businesses operate, perform and
succeed in today’s complex global marketplace.
A (work)force to be reckoned with. Millennials are now
the largest living generation, racing past baby
boomers and Gen Xers to comprise more than
one-third of the U.S. workforce. Ranging in
age from 20 to 36 in 2017, they bring fresh
energy and ideas, along with valued expertise,
as the oldest millennials are now approaching
the age of 40.
This group also possesses a uniquely
collaborative workplace mindset that’s
challenging long-held talent-management
practices, and nudging companies toward more
inclusive, open and flexible HR strategies and
programs. If you don’t know them, you better
“get up to speed” fast.
“Us” is the new “me.” Talent
management has long nurtured individual
employees and leaders. Today, however, the
focus is less on the individual, and more on
building skill-based teams to tackle projects
and accomplish organizational outcomes. A
2017 Deloitte article on global human-capital
trends backs this up, suggesting that traditional
hierarchal structures based on function,
tenure, etc., are being replaced by a “network
of teams” or “natural work groups.”
This re-emerging team mentality is being driven from
different factors than in the past. Now, digital technologies
enable specialized groups from around the world to easily connect
and engage in real-time to resolve business-specific challenges at
an unparalleled pace. Teams can form and disband quickly based
on commercial needs. It also aligns with millennial preferences
for collaborative work groups without the focus on hierarchy.
Professional growth is going organic. You’ve heard of the
“growth tract” for professional development. If you’re on one
employee tract, you need to do “xyz” in order to get to the next
level. Well, that’s going by the wayside.
Instead, it’s more about the growth “flow” of employees
and building on a series of meaningful experiences within the
organization. The number of years on the job may be important,
but the quality and quantity of their on-the-job experiences may
weigh more heavily. It’s less about chronological progression and
more about how the employee’s combined experience drives their
This helps dissolve internal boundaries, and empowers
companies to better utilize top talent in roles where they can
make the biggest impact on the business. Creating systemic
programs to address this is the next big challenge.
The blurring of internal and external lines. When filling
new positions or even with succession planning, it’s natural to
look within first. Yet, more organizations are also proactively
cultivating external sources of qualified talent. They’re looking
at their consultants, freelancers and contractors. They’re looking
across functional departments and even within customer
businesses to scout the top talent.
A dynamic commercial environment requires a diverse
workforce on which you can draw, making it critical to maintain
strong ties with these groups and other potential candidate mines
in order to keep your opportunities open.
Become an analytics fiend. Today’s talent-management
executive uses program metrics and big data analytics as the
foundation for nearly everything. In fact, nearly every trend
mentioned in this article is informed and powered by talent
The data is out there and it’s growing exponentially by the
minute. For example, data gathered through HR technology
integrations such as applicant-tracking systems can offer “
cradle-to-grave” tracking, capturing the point a candidate first engages
with the employer through background screening, onboarding,
development, retention and release. This comprehensive insight
can help talent managers pinpoint when, where, why and how to
focus on the top talent, and do it in the most timely, competitive
and cost-effective manner.
At the end of the day, are these trends “up-ending” talent
management as we know it? In some ways, yes. Moving from a
leadership-driven workplace to clusters of “networks and teams”
is an evolution. Yet, these trends are providing a future path for
leaner, smarter and more competitive talent management. After
all, the quality of talent we bring into our organizations and the
tools we give them to grow and succeed within the workplace will
ultimately help take our businesses to the next level of success.