Is Talent Management Too Important to be Left to HR?

Chris Young
June 18, 2008 — 1,975 views  
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A review of the recent Human Capital Institute/Vurv roport on The Role of HR in the Age of Talent revealed some interesting insights about where the HR function is and how the leaders of an organization feel about HR and its role in management and developing the talent within an organization.

The following excerpt from the HCI/Vurv report really got me thinking:

The term "Talent Management" is now part of the corporate lexicon and has become a board level concern. Yet the HR profession, which evolved from "personnel" in the 80's and 90's, seems unable to make a definitive move up the corporate ladder – in prestige or influence. In some ways, it's almost as if corporate leaders have made a collective, unconscious decision that talent management is too important to be left to HR.

The Vurv/HCI report confirms what many of us have known for some time – talent management is one of the key challenges and priorities facing organizations these days.

So… is talent management too important to be left to HR?

Given the strategic importance that talent management demands, yes I do feel that talent management is too important to be left to solely HR.

Here's why… Talent management is too important to an organization's success for it to be left to any single department or function.

Think about this… If a new production facility was being considered would it be the sole responsibility of manufacturing to handle the task? Of course not... Marketing would need to be consulted to determine sales estimates and future capacity requirements, Finance would need to be consulted to determine the availability of resources, breakeven point, and the required return on investment for the project to be approved, IT would be consulted to determine the impact on current technology and how to integrate the new facility into the organization's existing systems, and HR would be consulted to gauge the availability of local labor if additional manufacturing capacity is needed. Naturally manufacturing would play a key role in the design, layout, and functionality of the new facility, but it certainly wouldn't be required to "go it alone."

Given the value placed on a strategic talent management program it would seem preposterous to suggest that HR be left to carry the torch alone on such an important assignment. While HR is the natural place to turn to for guidance and direction when it comes to workforce issues, to delegate the task of talent management solely to HR would only set it up to fail and further denigrate its standing within the organizational hierarchy.

What is needed is a collaborative approach towards talent management that relies on HR's expertise in the areas of training and leadership development while drawing on functional leaders and managers to articulate their understanding of the skills and talents that are needed for their department to meet organizational goals and objectives and succeed into the future. With this approach HR can focus on tasks it is best at such as sourcing fresh talent and creating training and development programs and functional leaders and managers can implement HR's advice and customize it to meet their specific needs.

For successful organizations this suggestion isn't anything new. In fact this is the way many successful and strategic minded organizations approach talent management. Problems arise when leaders of less strategic organizations come across reports such as the HCI/Vurv report or stumble upon an article touting the importance of talent management in today's business landscape and start firing off directives to HR to develop a talent management program without ever knowing what it is they really want or need in the first place.

If talent management becomes an initiative solely "owned" by HR, the chances of widespread buy-in and successful implementation are reduced dramatically. The result is another tally in the "HR Dropped the Ball" column of the organizational scorecard and a further reduction in HR's credibility among the executives that set it up to fail.

HR can't be expected to go it alone when it comes to talent management, but it is more than capable of taking the wheel and guiding the ship. Ultimately talent management offers an excellent opportunity for HR to get some "face time" with senior management and show its ability to think strategically, add to the conversation, and maybe even gain that much coveted seat at the table.

Chris Young


The Rainmaker Group is a human talent maximization company specializing in helping organization maximize their bottom lines by improving employee retention, hiring the best talent possible, and strategic talent management and coaching services. From the Fortune 50 corporation to the small medical office, The Rainmaker Group guarantees lasting organizational change via a unique blend of energy, insight, and science to maximize talent, transform organizational culture, and provide strategic intervention.