Talent Management is the process of identifying, developing and retaining current employees and attracting highly skilled individuals needed by the organization.    Talent management requires the organization to be clear about what talent is, who they regard as talented and what their typical working background might be.

As Talent Management is concerned with the long-term success of the organization, the process has to primarily be the responsibility of the organization’s leaders.  If Talent Management is the sole responsibility of HR, it simply will not work.

Clearly talent is a complex combination of an employee’s skills, knowledge, experience, behavior as well as other characteristics such as their personal preferences, values, and motivations.  But how should leaders in an organization define talent?

There are many different definitions of talent.  However, a simple way of thinking bout it is to consider talent in terms of an individual’s potential.  People with potential have by definition not reached their full potential.  They have an ability to take on more complex, broader or senior roles to the one they are currently in.  However, it is important to recognize that just because someone is currently a high performer they may or may not have potential.  A high performer may consistently deliver results over time in relatively similar situations, but may struggle to deliver high performance under first-time, different, or non repeat situations.  Such a person is clearly capable of fulfilling their current role effectively, but it is unlikely that they have the potential to fulfil a more complex or demanding role.

Therefore Talent can be defined in terms of an employee’s potential to

  • Be promoted two (or more) levels above their current position.
  • Be promoted to one level above their current position.
  • Take on a broader or more complex role.
  • Stay at the level they are now.

It is important to recognise that all the above categories of Talent are important to an organisation.

Each category can then be defined in terms of the characteristics that an individual displays.  For example an employee who has very high potential will:

  • Demonstrate superior leadership traits beyond their current work role.
  • Learn very quickly and have the ability to change/modify their behaviour.
  • Manage ambiguous circumstances extremely effectively.
  • Have significant impact and influence outside of own work area.
  • Think strategically across the whole of the business/organisation and not just about their own function
  • Deliver superior performance under first-time, different, or not repeat situations with limited guidance.

Conversely an employee who does not have the potential to take on more senior roles will:

  • Demonstrate adequate leadership traits within their current role only.
  • Find it difficult to learn new skills and approaches.
  • Manage similar/repeat situations effectively but will struggle with new or ambiguous situations.
  • Have impact and influence within their own sphere of work.
  • Consistently deliver results over time but in similar situations.They will need significant guidance to deal with new/different situations.

Ultimately the process of Talent Management is about minimising the risk to the long term future of the business/organisation by ensuring that there is a pipeline of people with the right skills, experience and behaviours to fulfil key positions in the future.  Talent Management is therefore primarily the responsibility of the organisation’s leaders.  However, for Talent Management to be successful leaders must first define what Talent is before they can identify anyone with it.