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Building a national talent community in South Africa

Last week I highlighted the average national Talent Management audit score of 45% (20 audits in 6 provinces).  I concluded the article with a call for action in uniting HR and Talent Managers and other business leaders in prioritising sound talent management practices in their organisations.  I also requested HR Managers and universities to position Talent Management as a top priority in improving the current 45% audit average for Talent Management.  However, the scope and extent of the change required necessitates a long-term journey of embedding talent management into the fabric of our organisations, economic sectors, learning centres and society at large. Hence, in today’s article I take the discussion forward by offering a solution to the current skills crisis and under-performance of most organisations.  The solution is to build a national talent community in South Africa.

But, what exactly is a talent community?  A talent community is a group of purpose-driven committed talent managers working with HR managers, business leaders and other key stakeholders in building a community of talent management practice.  This talent community will be focused in driving excellence in talent management. The community will develop, implement and share best practice in talent management. They will continue pursuing this goal until talent management is embedded in all organisations, so much so that talent has become a key competitive advantage in achieving economic success.  While talent management is always driven by talent managers, it is important to identify all the stakeholders involved in talent communities. Typical stakeholders are as follows:

  • Talent managers
  • HR Managers
  • Learning & Development Managers
  • Recruitment and Selection Specialists
  • Business Leaders (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and other top leaders)
  • Academics developing talent at universities
  • Learning providers involved in skills development
  • Consultants advising organisations
  • Key knowledge sectors (e.g. hospitals, research institutions, IT companies)
  • Top talent (professionals such as lawyers, scientists, accountants, engineers)
  • Professional bodies building talent (SAICA, SAIPA, ECSA, SABPP, IODSA)
  • Young talent (youth studying before entering professions)
  • Retired talent transferring skills to successors
  • Other identified talent groups

So, how do we embark on the process of creating a talent community from the above multiple stakeholders?  It all starts with the change agents, and over the short term it will be talent and HR managers.  These change agents will form a network to start the process of developing a national talent community.  A talent community requires cross-organisational collaboration.  In the absence of talent networks, Talent Talks was launched in September 2016 to provide a platform for talent management thought leadership.  Initially, the idea was to build talent management knowledge by means of articles and information sharing.

Given the phenomenal success achieved over the first six months, a need was expressed by talent managers to arrange talent networking sessions.   With the support from top consulting firms Korn Ferry and PwC and other companies committed to talent management such as Sasol, several talent management networking sessions were arranged during the first quarter of 2017.  Since then, the need was expressed for a national talent indaba, and the Talent Talks Africa Conference on 22 June serves as a catalyst for creating this national talent community.

In addition to the talent advisory leadership provided by EOH, Korn Ferry, PwC, Adcorp and others, leading companies such as MTN, Standard Bank, Sasol, Tiger Brands, McDonalds, Hollard, EOH and Edcon have put up their hands to show talent management leadership by presenting their pioneering work at the first national Talent Management Conference organised by Talent Talks.  While these companies are the pioneers in sharing their talent management cases, ultimately we need to develop a repository of other South African success stories as we develop the science and practice of talent management in the workplace.

In conclusion, the state of talent management in South Africa requires a national talent community.    Talent Africa provides the opportunity of taking the talent conversation to a new level of national significance.  Establishing this national conversation about talent management as a key business imperative, is the beginning of the journey towards building knowledge and achieving excellence in talent management.  Already top universities such as Wits Business School, the University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, University of South Africa and North-West University have prioritised research in talent management. Now is the time for the business community to come to the party.

Achieving sustainable success in talent management provides a platform and opportunity for business leaders to elevate current talent management practice in enabling companies to improve on their national talent management audit scores. Let us build a national talent community in South Africa and indeed the rest of the African continent.  Join as at Talenttalks Africa 2017 to kick-start the process of establishing and building a national talent community.

Marius Meyer  is CEO of the SA Board for People Practice (SABPP) and vice-chairperson of the UNISA Talent Advisory Board.

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