Since the end of 2014, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) has audited 20 companies against the National Talent Management Standard. These audits have revealed some interesting outcomes. While pockets of excellence exist in the field of talent management at most of these organisations, it is evident that the average South African company experiences major challenges in strategising and implementing talent management in the workplace. When asked to do a self-assessment against the Talent Management Standard, the average score of 400 companies in all nine provinces was 43%. The audit outcomes of the 20 companies was slightly higher at 48%, but this is still the second worst performance area of the 13 national HR Standards. A score of 60% is required to achieve the standard.
A group of four trained auditors conduct these talent management audits against the National Talent Management Standard under the leadership of a lead auditor who oversees the process and compiles the final report for the auditee.
The following ten lessons were identified by the auditors at the twenty auditees:
- Overall, most of the auditees had very good talent management conceptual models or philosophies in place.
- Clearly, there is a general commitment to talent management from both line management and HR managers.
- There is a lack of talent management integration and alignment, in other words talent management systems, plans, practices and interventions are not fully aligned and leveraged for optimum impact.
- The extent of application is limited, i.e. there is often a gap between strategy and execution at all the organisational levels and sites of the auditee.
- While talent gaps are experienced at most auditees, a reactive approach is followed and this shows poor alignment with the external labour market.
- Despite the fact that pockets of excellence are prevalent in certain practices such as talent pools, a talent culture is not well established at most of the auditees.
- The role of leadership is key in driving talent management at organisations.
- All HR sub-disciplines (e.g. recruitment and selection, workforce planning, learning and development, wellness) should pull together in the same direction to make talent management work.
- A successful talent management audit depends on tangible evidence of talent strategies, plans and results achieved.
- There is limited measurement of talent management at most auditees.
In the light of the above lessons it is clear that, while South African companies have made good progress in talent management, the audits show that more dedicated professional talent management work is needed to ensure that these practices are well embedded in organisations. While talent management is still a relatively new field in South Africa, it appears as if good practices are implemented at some of the leading organisations. However, we would like to see that these good practices are the norm and not the exception. That is the reason why the talent management standard provides such a useful framework for implementation. I want to thank the HR Directors of the first group of pioneers for taking the bold step in getting their talent management practices audited. They not only provided national leadership, they are world leaders in setting the trend in talent management practices and audits. I am convinced that over time South African HR Directors will be able to grow and sustain sound talent management practices embedded in talent cultures. The CEOs of these organisations will value the business impact and strategic contributions of their talent managers and HR Directors to the success of their companies.