The federal public service faces challenges related to increasing workload, the evolving nature of the work and demographic change. Corporate risk profiles and strategic plans highlight the need for talent management in order to address the potential shortage of human capital (knowledge and competencies), as well as the need for workforce and workplace renewal.
In seeing talent management into reality within this environment a well-defined strategy is an important starting point. Various talent management options need to be assessed against competing HR agendas in a time of funding constraints. Challenges currently exist with definition, setting direction (objectives and initiatives), establishing priorities for investment, and the right focus on desired outcomes short-term and long-term. As in any change initiative, it is essential to have clarity of vision, understand the results you’re trying to achieve, and the roadmap for getting there. The graph at right shows some critical requirements for effective talent management.
Definitions of talent management vary within the government of Canada, leading to different perceptions of its program scope and delivery. Generally, talent management has been defined as a system or strategy that addresses competency gaps, particularly in mission-critical occupations, by implementing and maintaining programs to attract, acquire, develop, promote, and retain quality talent. The notion of “purpose or mission” and vision and outcomes tends to be missing from this formulation. This speaks to the need for an executive sponsored and driven strategy.
An understanding of the target groups and desired outcomes for each is required. One size does not fit all for talent management. A typical workplace is populated with separate generations of employees each with different talents, work styles and work experiences. The attraction and retention challenge is to uniquely assess individual needs and provide support through each stage of an employee’s professional career.
Finally, strategy must align with government and/or departmental priorities and key initiatives. For example, the current Performance Management Directive has introduced a sea-change in how managers must manage. This includes identifying high performers capable not only of fulfilling key goals, but also in demonstrating appropriate core competencies as they do so.
How can a meaningful talent management strategy be developed? Any good talent management program will be guided by a roadmap as depicted in the figure. This integrates all its components within a defined set of objectives and desired outcomes. The roadmap also ensures the right phasing and dependencies between initiatives across an agreed timeframe. Before a roadmap can be developed, a serious effort must occur to prioritize talent initiatives knowing that choices are necessary because of resource constraints.
Strategy also needs to be clear on the “who” benefits. Decisions may be needed, for example, regarding which segment of employees are the priority for talent management investment. Should the focus be on the executive cadre, the stars, or employees in general? How should this scope change over time?
There is a demonstrated need for efficient and practical tools to bring structure, discipline and regularity to talent management. The following list is a starting point for a strategic discussion of priorities required for a multi-year talent management strategy.
• Strategy – a framework of objectives and priority funded initiatives to achieve defined outcomes for talent management;
• System – access to PeopleSoft to track employee competency information for easy use by managers and HR;
• Process – communicating an integrated process and organization of delivery (e.g., with reference to CHRBP) that clearly defines roles for managers;
• HR service delivery – changes to the organization of HR to ensure an integrated approach to talent management and service delivery to managers through strategic advice giving (options and consequences);
• Planning – improve forecasting of talent shortages through integrated business-HR planning to ensure proactive recruitment strategies;
• Organization – develop the right organizational structures to promote and implement talent management;
• Governance and oversight – ensure talent management is a part of discussions at all levels of management, including with middle managers and for critical positions;
o Practical and usable talent plan;
o Onboarding tool, allowing employees to self-evaluate their competencies and learning goals;
o Guidance for supporting managers in performance evaluation discussions;
o Automated tools for results and risk management such as for ensuring succession and risks of vacancies for critical positions;
o Manager led succession plan and process for critical positions, supported by governance.
• Measurement (what gets measured gets done)
o Develop a logic model of desired outcomes, outputs and activities as the basis for strategic planning and performance measurement;
o Workforce trends – going beyond workforce demographics and turnover provided infrequently. Can a dashboard be developed;
o Service delivery – service standards to ensure recruitment and other processes deliver on talent when needed.
o Developing self-service learning for managers in managing competencies;
o Awareness building of values-based management to build a positive and productive team through competency-based management.
Government programs have typically attempted to be all things to all people. The great opportunity presented by talent management is to achieve demonstrable benefits in the short- and long-term. A well-defined and governed strategy for talent management will make this a reality.
Attributes of effective talent management
• Executive led….not HR-led;
• Succession focused…not vacancy focused;
• Assessing performance and potential;
• Championing of talent (mentoring);
• High engagement; and
• Transparency and sharing of talent information