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Ten Talent Management Myths

Since the launch of Talent Talks as Africa’s first dedicated talent management platform, it has become evident that there is some misunderstanding of the meaning and features of talent management. In this article, I want to share and dispel these myths to create a better understanding and focus around talent management strategy. Some of the most common myths are as follows:

  1. Talent management is an elitist or exclusive approach to people management: While it is indeed true that talent management focuses on the more talented employees, the intention is to leverage talent for business performance, and not to position talented employees as “superior” to the rest of the organisation’s employees. In fact, some employees not considered talent, but solid and loyal employees doing a good administrative or support job for years or even decades are valuable, but they may not necessary drive business performance directly. All employees are special and need to be treated with respect and dignity, and should therefore have growth and development opportunities.
  2. Talent management is a new name for HR management: This is not true, in fact, the true owners of talent management are senior line management, with HR providing professional expertise in facilitating talent management processes and interventions.
  3. Talent management is the same as workforce planning: Although there is a clear interface between workforce planning and talent management, these are two different, but supporting processes.  Workforce planning covers the whole workforce and all work done in the organisation, while talent management focuses specifically on the attraction, development, deployment and retention of talent in critical and leadership positions.
  4. Talented employees are above the rules of the organisation: Like all other employees, talented employees must conform to organisational rules and policies, and if not, disciplinary action may be taken against them.
  5. Talent management provides you with a license to poach the best talent from your competitors: While a free labour market makes it possible to attract talent from your competitors or any other organisation, developing internal talent remains a top priority for progressive employers. The larger your talent pool, the less it will be necessary to attract external talent to your organisation, although it may be required from time to time to adopt a more external approach to attracting new talent from outside the organisation.
  6. Talent management is only for knowledge companies: While it is indeed true that talent management is absolutely imperative for knowledge companies such as law firms, banks, universities and science centres, it is a key issue for all organisations. Even companies with business models operating against talent management in the past such as mines, construction firms, security companies, factories, municipalities and other labour intensive industries have now realised that they need to adopt their “low talent” HR models to a more progressive talent management approach, given the importance of knowledge, high-level expertise and technology driving talent-driven change.
  7. Talent management is only for the private sector: The private sector was indeed first to adopt talent management, but all organisations need talent management. In fact, poor public sector service delivery can often be attributed to a lack of talent management at state entities.
  8. It is impossible to “manage” talent, because talent is a natural gift and talented employees do not want to be managed: while high talented employees typically do not prefer close supervision given their high-level thinking and implementation skills, talent still needs to be directed and optimised for these employees to perform optimally. They need good leaders to perform at their best. Also, talent management encompasses the processes, systems and methodologies that need to be managed to make talent management work.
  9. Once you have attracted and appointed the right talent, you can sit back and your organisation will perform automatically: Bringing in talent into your organisation on its own is not enough. You need to create an environment conducive for optimal performance of your talented employees. Moreover, a talent culture is needed so that talented employees can thrive. In addition, talent reviews and evaluation approaches are needed to continuously assess the effectiveness of talent management, and given the “talent war” continuous talent management is needed to integrate, align and leverage talent management practices. Therefore, talent development and retention plays a key role in building effective talent management.
  10. Talent management cannot be measured: Although talent management is a relatively new field in South Africa, approaches to measuring its impact is in its infancy. However, leading companies have started to move beyond basic evaluation to more sophisticated approaches to talent measurement.

Dispelling the above myths will enable talent managers and business leaders to create a common understanding of the meaning, benefits and impact of talent management in the workplace. It is recommended that companies develop an explicit philosophy on talent management. The talent management philosophy should culminate in a clear talent management policy in which key terms are defined and clarified in an attempt to dispel the myths outlined in this article.  Clarity of purpose and focus will play an important role in ensuring the effective implementation of talent management in the workplace.

Marius Meyer is the CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).

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