Banging My Drum: No Business Plan without a Talent Plan

If there is any one theme that has dominated my career in human capital management it is this – “No business plan without a talent plan.” It is a drum I have been beating on for what feels like forever. But the good news is, so have other people, and organizations are starting to catch on. No longer do we have to struggle to convince business leaders that talent is critical to execution – they get it, and smart business leaders are all in.

But this acceptance is a double-edged sword. Now that business leaders are bought in, they are looking to human capital leaders to deliver tools and information that can help them formulate and execute on that talent plan. So now that the era of “no business plan without a talent plan” is here, there are a couple of key trends I’ll be watching as organizations make this plan into reality.

Analytics. Conversations about big data and little data and unstructured data and all other flavors of data have ensured that the era of data-driven decision-making is here to stay. But what’s really going to be important is how business intelligence and HCM analytical tools can help business leaders with discovery. Discovery is the ability to look at data and drill down, asking questions and discovering root causes. Tools that allow for data visualization and this kind of discovery will be increasingly important to business and HR leaders. HR professionals need to get comfortable with the idea of metrics, data, and measuring performance by business outcomes. Data from Brandon Hall’s 2014 Talent Management Benchmarking survey found that 57% of organizations say their talent management function is often or frequently responsible for human capital analytics, and we can expect this number to continue to grow.

Technology plus content. It’s also no longer going to be enough for HR leaders and the vendors who support them to simply supply tools and technology. Tools and software solutions must come embedded with context and content that helps them be useful to the line manager. For example, an assessment tool needs to be bundled with guidance for the hiring manager on how to use the insights from the assessment in the interview. Performance management tools can no longer be simply a repository for annual record keeping, but they must help prompt meaningful conversations between managers and employees. The Talent Management Benchmarking survey found that only 9% organizations rated themselves very good or excellent on the capability “managers are highly skilled performance coaches” and just 14% rated themselves very good or excellent on “managers provide regularly, timely and informal feedback.” Tools are not enough. They must be in the context of the organization strategy and culture to make a real difference, and both solution providers and HR professionals must help provide this context.

Be the change. Gandhi told us, “be the change you want to see in the world,” and this is good advice for human capital leaders. It is an exciting time for HR professionals, with the business finally getting fully on board. But it is also a difficult time, requiring us to stretch and change and move out of our comfort zones. Find a network that can provide you with experiences, insights, and a listening ear. You are not in this alone – many organizations face the same struggles, and we can all learn from each other. But thriving through this period of change will require a deep personal commitment, an ongoing thirst for knowledge, and the ability to model the future for the rest of your organization.

Mollie Lombardi, Vice President of Workforce Management Practice and Principal Analyst,
Brandon Hall Group

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Mollie Lombardi