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Can you define Talent Management? - these HR specialists had trouble!

Talent Management - also now being called Human Capital Management -  is now a well used phrase within both HR and business, but can you define what it is? The actions of talent management are easy to define - sourcing, attracting, selecting, training, developing, retaining, promoting. But trying to get a defined statement can be difficult when it means many different things to many people.

To highlight how difficult this can be, Personnel Today put this question to six HR specialists, who you would expect to know how to define talent management……..maybe the lack of defined answers won’t surprise you!

Barbara Simpson (Head of Talent Management and International Resourcing, HSBC): : The definition of talent at HSBC is very much about future leadership. That is, individuals who have the capability to reach the very top of the organisation - consistently high performers and those believed to have potential. Mobility is a firm requirement. There’s much more emphasis now on creating a diverse pipeline of talent through the organisation, whether that’s at the top of the business, or at the top of a particular function.

Claire Thompson (Head of Talent Management, RWE nPower) : We do this at all levels of the organisation - it’s just as important for us to have a pipeline for a good call centre manager as someone who will reach the top of the organisation. The way I see this evolving is through a focus on more junior groups of jobs and through applying talent management more widely. It’s also about building greater transparency about the career development opportunities available to staff. That’s not there in all organisations there’s a lot of fog.

Margaret Cheshire (Head of People and Organisational Development, Bentley Motors): In an engineering environment you need to identify people who don’t necessarily show leadership qualities but are talented specialists. You need to give them a variety of development opportunities - it’s not just about them going for a general management position.

Ali Gill (Director and co-founder, Getfeedback): There is a fear about talent management becoming elitist. But if you take that perspective you’re dumbing down the fact that you’re looking for something that’s missing. To succeed, especially in very senior roles, is actually very difficult.

Alison French (Director General, Civilian Personnel, Ministry of Defence): One of the challenges is managing talent across the organisation. You can focus on one group of specialists where you need capable people, but once you spread out across the organisation it becomes more difficult.

Alistair McIntosh (Organisational Development Director, British Library): The British Library has some challenges in finding specialists. For example, there may only be a few people in the world who know about western Chinese manuscripts, so where are we going to find our next expert? Yet we have the same need for general managers as any other organisation.

I know you are going to now ask me for my definition! Well I personally like a derivation from a Mackinsey definition:

Talent Managemnet is the process of developing and nurturing new employees though onboarding, developing and retaining current employees and attracting highly skilled individuals to work for your company.