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Why Talent Management Must Report to OD

Case 1:

A highly successful service organisation hires a new Marketing Manager. 

Many of the Executives have been with the organisation for many years and the culture is generally quite conservative. 

However, the Executive Team has decided, quite correctly, that the organisation needs a “new generation” Marketing Manager to position the organisation in an increasingly digital age with a client base increasingly spanning different generations.

The talent team has chosen an ideal person. Relatively young, energetic and full of new ideas to appeal to future clients drawn from the “digital generation” she is an ideal choice. Exco has high expectations of her.

She in turn hires a new “like minded” marketing team and sets out to transform the organisational brand and internal processes to reflect that brand.

The problem is that, while the organisation has selected the right person with the right talent, it has not changed the context in which it expects her to operate. 

Overt or covert resistance to her new initiatives by senior managers is frustrating her efforts to fulfil her mandate. The result is totally predictable…

Case 2:

A large manufacturing organisation hires a new Technical Director with a mandate to improve efficiencies through improved technical standards and processes.

The talent team designs the specifications with experience, qualifications and competencies.

Rigorous assessments are conducted and the person who most meets the specifications is appointed. So far so good!

Again the problem arises when the new Director finds himself embroiled in politics at an Exco level. His attempts to introduce better technology and processes are met with “we tried that – didn’t work” or similar comments by the Head of Manufacturing who rigorously guards his power base.

Again the results are predictable…

In my experience these kinds of problems are common in many organisations around the world. Talent management is focused on individual talent and competence and relatively little attention is paid to the context in which such talent will be required to perform.

A good OD unit will ensure that there is a cultural fit and that selecting talent will extend well beyond individual competence and attributes. Where people whose attributes are “counter culture” are hired to bring about transformation in the organisation, an effective OD unit will institute initiatives to manage the needed transformation to enable them to perform. 

In the final analysis the aim of talent management is organisational effectiveness not just individual effectiveness. The emphasis must therefore be on creating a highly effective organisational context in which highly talented people can perform at their best.

For this reason the agenda needs to be set by an OD unit and the talent management strategy should be subsumed within that.

Some organisations have recognised this and structured accordingly; many, however, have separate departments with separate agendas – generally individual competence versus organisational effectiveness.

Terry Meyer
 is a strategy and leadership consultant, academic, author, blogger and keynote speaker. He is also a part time Faculty member of USB-Ed where he is responsible for the HR Executive Programme.

His areas of expertise include strategy, organisational design, leadership, and human capital strategy. He has written and edited 6 books, the latest being Strategy, Leadership and Change: A Practical Guide for BusyExecutives”. 

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