Revealed: the five myths of talent management
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 | By Paul Nettleton
Five myths of talent management have been revealed by one of the team who helped to deliver the London 2012 Olympics.
Talent management is an art and not a science, said Chris Parkinson, whose 17 years in the business have also included time at Dixons Retail, Barclays and American Express.
Speaking at the CIPD Talent Conference in London, he said the first myth was that succession plans are a valuable activity. He believed they were “a waste of time five minutes before they are completed”.
Management roles evolved around individual talents. Where managers could add value was by understanding what capabilities were needed for an organisation to achieve its business strategy. The question was: “What do we need to be brilliant at to achieve our business strategy?”
Myth two was that generalist graduate programmes are a valuable point of entry to the talent pipeline. He had followed such a course at Barclays and, after working in South Africa and New York, had been given his first real job, “head of small business for 14 branches in Waltham on Thames and Staines, quite frankly totally incapable of doing the job. Fortunately my deputy at the time had joined the bank two days before I was born, and I was able to call on his valuable experience”.
Time to competence was really important, getting new people to deliver for the business. The focus should be on entry talent in specific areas of technical skills.
Radical change meant apprenticeships were now “a real key entry point. Whichever industry you are in, I’d beg you to think about apprentices”.
The third myth was that talent management was a technical skill that resided in human resources. “I think that talent should be everyone’s responsibility,” he said.
“No one sits on the bus or the tube in the morning thinking how can I screw up today. People want to be part of a winning team. People want to feel valued and people want to feel that they are being developed.”
Line managers should be rewarded for their part in talent management. Then the job would be done.
That past performance predicts future potential was myth number four, said Parkinson. While 80% of organisations based their succession planning on this view, it was “absolute rubbish”.
“Past performance measures past performance,” he said. “Past performance cannot measure future potential.”
How many in his audience knew of people who had been promoted because a line manager saw “a little of them” in a candidate? He wasn’t saying that gut instinct was not important, but he emphasised that data had to be provided to support, first by defining what ‘potential’ means for your organisation and then finding ways of measuring it that enabled comparisons, for example psychometric measurements.
Myth five was that talent management is a specific process that adds value to a company. But he said: “There is no consistent view about what talent management is and where its responsibility is.
“We recruit against one set of criteria yet we actually measure performance against another.”
At London 2012 this was where what he called “the People Experience” had come in.
How did you measure discretionary effort? “This is where sometimes you come to work and do your job, and sometimes you come to work and really do your job,” he said.
Ultimately, he added, talent management was about values, brand and engagement what people called “the soft and fluffy side of HR, which for me is the critical stuff, the magic dust”.