It’s Time for Talent Management

The public service landscape has changed dramatically since the launch of a recent series of budget reviews, starting with Strategic Review back in 2011.  Since then, organizations have undergone Strategic and Operating Review, the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, and, more recently, Targeted Review for a select few “chosen ones.” The halcyon days of hiring (mostly to replace thousands of retiring “Baby Boomers”) and growth (mostly in the security, safety and health portfolios) are securely locked away at the National Library and Archives as a reminder to many of us of what the public service used to be.

Today’s environment is about constant and rapid change, organizational transformation, workforce reductions, work intensification (“doing more with less”), and increased technology to generate efficiencies.  This isn’t expected to change anytime soon, either, as the recent speech from the throne outlined additional budget cuts and a continuation of a freeze to departmental operating envelopes.

Retirement levels are still expected to be significantly higher over the next few years, and improved planning and increased strategic decisions will be necessary to maintain a tight control on costs while executives are still under the gun to deliver high-quality programs with little impact to Canadians.

Scrutiny and measurement will continue with MAF, a new round of PSES on the horizon, and Parliamentary agencies, such as the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages, will keep us aware about program delivery efficiency and overall service to Canadians.

With continued and rapid change comes added stress and anxiety to the overall workforce as managers and employees deal with SERLOs and layoffs, limited training budgets, reduced mobility including promotional opportunities, work intensification, process rationalization and streamlining, and a new round of collective bargaining, which promises to change the employee contract.

Oddly enough, it’s these conditions which place organizations most at risk of delivering its programs, and it’s during these challenging times that we need the heads and hearts of all employees more than ever to step up and be fully committed to the organization.  Sadly, statistics are showing that levels of employee engagement, loyalty, and morale are critically low.

It’s time to take an inward approach to human resources management by focusing on retaining the ones we have and ensuring they’re productive and engaged.  Talent management has proven to be an effective approach in the executive ranks to develop and retain talented people through an approach of integrated discussions and actions designed to support the needs of employees and those of the organization.

The implementation of the “new” performance management directive in 2014 will provide a perfect platform by which to take a more strategic approach to managing our talent and to develop a more modern employee value proposition which is more in-tune with knowledge-based organizations.  Broadening talent management to non-executives simply means integrating discussions on performance with learning and career development needs, making collective HR decisions (e.g. deployments, special projects and assignments, promotions, etc.) to ensure individuals continue to strengthen and broaden their competencies and add value to organizations, building and strengthening diversity, and aligning awards and recognition to values and behaviors worthy of being reinforced and recognized. Recent studies on employee engagement indicate that salary is not the most important factor but rather having meaningful work, provided with learning and career development, having the opportunity to apply skills, and having a connection with the goals and values of the organization are most valued to attract and retain employees.

The public service is slowly moving away from a 1950’s “industrial-based” organizational model where people fit nicely into traditional roles and well-defined functions, toward a knowledge-based model where we need to harness the vast brainpower of people to solve new and more challenging issues, and in a way which often finds them doing so beyond their title or job description.  Taking an inward approach to human resources management via talent management can play a valuable role in retaining employees at a critical time when organizations need more than ever for them to step up and be committed.

David LeBlancDavid M. LeBlanc works with individuals and organizations in the areas of strategic planning and developing current and future leaders. David contributes his time to the Telfer School of Management and the Sprott School of Business by guiding MBA students and grads in making a successful leap to the work world. David also acts as a career mentor to internationally educated professionals in Ottawa. You can connect with David at and on LinkedIn at