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Talent Management, one of the cornerstones of job creation?

April 2011

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” said Charles Dickens in the opening of his classic, “A Tale of Two Cities”. Dickens may well be referring to today’s corporations who face a similar paradox with regard to talent management, retention and thus job creation.
In these somewhat worst of times, President Jacob Zuma has called on corporations to contribute to economic growth, spread wealth and create jobs.

“We cannot create these jobs alone," the President said, reading his state of the nation speech from an iPad. "We have to work with business, labour and community constituencies. Experience shows that we succeed when we work together.”

It is now known that the forefront of President Zuma's job-creation plan is a R9 billion rand fund to help create jobs and a separate R20 billion rand in tax breaks for businesses to create jobs, a proposal welcomed by both labour unions and business owners. Improving the skills base would entail ongoing training for those who are already employed, developing further skills to make them more effective workers.

The question is: How are we going to successfully respond to President Zuma’s clarion call, particularly because one of the cornerstones of running a successful business and creating jobs also depends on being able to access skills, develop and retain talent.
The answer lies in talent management. In uncertain economic times characterised by lay-offs, salary freezes, bonus losses, and escalating unemployment , while also at the height of a boom when talent can name their price, talent management is absolutely critical to help corporations perform at their peak while also creating more jobs.

Whether we have a recession or the economy is booming, talent management should be at the top of every CEO s list of priorities. If you can t keep your talent, you’re not going to weather the storm, or in good times you’re not going to be able to take advantage of the advantage you’ve got and therefore help in job creation.

Many organisations indicate that their attempts to integrate recruiting,development, and retention into a holistic, systematic process have failed to adequately prepare for creating jobs.

Talent management - - competency development, recruitment, staffing, development, retention, and evaluation of talent - - has moved to the pinnacle of many organisations objectives, along with generating revenue and managing costs, because they need the best talent to produce more jobs, with higher quality, at greater profitability.

The best organisations link together the critical owners of talent management, senior leadership, human resources and line management to drive that improved performance. Failure to connect the various owners and activities of the talent management and development chain in either the best or worst of times can lead an organization to inconsistent and haphazard performance.

Focused and strategic organisations design competencies, tap into the talent pool, engage senior leadership to shepherd the talent, use technology, and tie the critical aspects of talent management together to show consistent business performance improvement, growth and job creation.

Although talent management takes a variety of forms based on the needs of the corporation, Aon Consulting Worldwide, a talent management company based in the United States, has identified the following approaches as successful:

  • Develop talent based on where the organisation is going. Evaluation of talent must be based on the business strategies of the organisation.
  • Make talent development an integral and measured part of each manager's job.
  • Make "people" discussions a regular part of business meetings.
  • Set and implement plans for achieving diversity goals. Innovation and improvement are fostered through a diverse workforce.
  • Establish a formalized process for talent development and assign specific staff to facilitate it.

However it is not easy to use talent management as a building block for stability and future job prospects.

Some firms use a process that screens and/or ranks employees to identify high potentials. This ranking process uses performance management tools, 360-degree review instruments, and routine management assessments of employees. This ranking process, however, has been criticised as subjective and potentially discriminatory against individuals who are unlike the managers who rank them.

Additionally some believe that employees who are not identified as having high potential become disenchanted with the organisation and resentful of those who appear to be favoured by management. Obviously, these issues can have a significant negative effect on the workforce, and if any of these processes are used, they must be carefully documented and made as objective as possible.

Regardless of the approach used, it is critical to recruit and develop talent within corporations. In addition to identification of the skills, knowledge, and abilities of new employees, it is vital that current employees be developed to become the best they can be through the creation of individualised employee development plans and a process that ensures these plans are implemented. Establishment of and adherence to a training standard also is vital.

Finally, the evaluation of employees, managers, and the organization as a whole should include the achievement of development and training goals. Talent management requires an organizational commitment to continuing professional development.

"Who will follow?" and what to do to create jobs are not questions without answers. The key to ensuring that effective leadership will always be available is effective talent management.
Managers who provide their teams with training are making a commitment to better business performance and to being more competitive in the marketplace as well as encouraging a reduced team turnover rate.

To respond to President Zuma’s call to help create jobs, South Africa needs managers who recognise skills training as one of the key elements of not only building a company, but also for stimulating growth, creating more jobs and reducing unemployment.

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