Talent management is a top priority for organisations taking talent seriously from a strategic perspective. The importance of talent management in enabling business strategy for a high performance organisation cannot be over-emphasised. The role of HR Directors, HR Managers, Talent Managers and other HR professionals is therefore of utmost importance in developing and implementing sound talent management in the workplace. This is the reason why the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) included talent management as a key HR capability as part of the South African HR Competency Model (second capability from the top of the model). The five HR capabilities at the top of the model (the top five HR capabilities forming the roof of the Competency house) are essential in driving value-adding HR practice. The purpose of the HR Competency Model is to provide a clear framework for building HR competence in South Africa, and the fourteen competencies are positioned to guide HR professionals regarding their development and practice around clearly defined competencies (see figure below).
Source: © SABPP (2014) South African HR Competency Model.
However, it is important to consider how HR professionals are currently performing against these competencies, and if there are any gaps, devise plans as to how these gaps can be filled. A point of departure is to approach talent management competence from a professional perspective, and that is to consider how typical professionals behave and perform. All professionals, whether engineers, accountants, lawyers or psychologists, apply their professional skill, based on two key areas of professionalism, i.e. standards (knowledge of what you are expected to do in your profession) and competency (the ability or competence to do it). Hence, the need to view standards and competence as two sides of the same coin. You cannot be competent if you do not have clear standards of practice. Likewise, you cannot apply standards of practice, if you are not competent in these standards. It is therefore critical to compare the HR Competency Model with the National HR Standards to identify the extent of congruence or gaps in performance.
If we extract the talent management data of the twenty companies that have been audited against the National HR Standards, it makes some interesting reading. Combining the audit scores of all twenty auditees (the organisations that have been audited), and calculating an average, provides a “national” average of 45% against the talent management standard. This means that the average South African organisation scores 45% on talent management, and given the fact that this score has remain consistent since the first five audits, it is safe to assume that saturation has been achieved fifteen audits later. The need for developing talent management competence in improving our national performance in talent management should therefore be a top priority for South African organisations, learning providers and universities. This is also the reason why Talenttalks plays such a pivotal role in raising awareness and sharing knowledge and best practices in talent management.
The recently launched talent management research centre at the Mafikeng Campus of North-West University is the first one of its kind in South Africa and indeed the African continent. Led by South Africa’s top researcher in talent management, Prof Nicolene Barkhuizen, this centre will not only drive research and academic knowledge about talent management, but also serve as a catalyst in encouraging the application of talent management in the workplace. Moreover, the newly established National HR Academy to be launched by SABPP in June 2017 will position talent management as one of the key programmes in building national HR competence. I also want to encourage all universities offering HR and industrial psychology qualifications to include talent management a part of their HR curriculum, academic programmes and short courses.
At organisational level, large companies have the resources to employ specialised talent managers who focus exclusively on implementing talent management. In medium-sized companies, HR managers are expected to fulfil this role. Developing talent management as one of their fourteen HR competencies is of paramount importance in ensuring that talent management practices are infused into all the other HR functional areas such as recruitment, selection, workforce planning, career management and learning and development. Another alternative is to contract a talent management consultant to assist organisations in integrating talent management into their HR planning. Fortunately, over the last five years, a growing number of high quality talent management consultants have emerged on the HR market. They provide specialised services in niche areas such as talent strategy, talent sourcing, talent mapping and competency-modelling.
In conclusion, while talent management is the second HR capability of the South African HR Competency Model, and clearly of strategic importance for any organisation to achieve its objectives, it is evident that we need to do more work in building talent management competence in South Africa. HR will not be able to implement sound talent management strategies at their organisations if they are not competent in talent management. Good talent management starts with HR talent, and developing high-level HR talent should capacitate companies in becoming leaders in talent-driven business practice. As competitiveness increases over the next decade, and the speed and execution of business plans and actions accelerate, nurturing the best talent will be a key enabler of competitive advantage.
Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and editorial panellist of Talenttalks.