Perspectives On Post-Recession UK Talent Management

As the UK begins to emerge from a recession that has impacted all companies to varied extents, talent management professionals are realizing that attracting and retaining key individuals can make the difference between a future of success or stagnation. In recent times, most organizations have concentrated management efforts on cost cutting, as they understandably fought to sustain profits. While the need to protect the bottom line obviously still exists, confidence is now returning and companies are once again looking at additional avenues for growth.

The most favored strategies are likely to be the expansion of product and service portfolios, but organizations globally see talent management as one of the key factors affecting their ability to achieve such aims. In a recent study carried out by professional services firm Towers Watson, businesses highlighted gaps in the processes and tools needed to manage talent. A report published in June 2011 outlined the key insights. According to the research, UK organizations are viewing talent management very seriously, with a clear message emerging that companies are prioritizing the development of an internal talent pipeline.
"Just-in-time talent resourcing is distinctly out of favor, as is manipulating the workforce design," the report noted. Almost two-thirds of organizations surveyed said investment in internal pipelines was a current concern, while 55 per cent were actively creating more movement, rotation and development opportunities for existing talent. In terms of what is attracting new talent, the factors were found to be quite distinct from those appealing to the general employee population. "Talented individuals crave challenging work and the opportunity to progress their career," the Towers Watson findings revealed.

While pay and benefits certainly made it onto the list, they were generally said to be of less importance to genuine high flyers who know they will perform and earn well as a result in any case. The report added: "Another notable factor in attracting top talent is the reputation of the organization as a great place to work. Since this can only be built over time, companies that aspire to attract the very best have to take a long-term perspective." In the researchers' view, employers should aim to segment the employee population and develop a compelling value proposition for each talent segment. "All change should be evidence-based; talent management is no exception," they said.

But the Towers Watson research also showed that talent management practices were not currently well linked to workforce planning. "Getting the right talent in the right place demands a clear understanding of business goals and changing markets. Practices need to be able to design and work with longer-term plans and processes," the firm explained in its report. It suggested that many companies were not trying – or making unsuccessful attempts – to understand the future demand for talent. As a result, a lot of firms fail to properly align their talent management strategies.

The report concluded that changes to talent management programs must always be evidence-based, using robust analytics, with results of investment carefully measured to build a thorough understanding of the talent segments most required by the company.

"Take time to measure talent activity within the organization, for example the percentage of jobs with succession cover or critical roles filled by talent", it advised. Talent management professionals were also urged to mark and celebrate business wins made by bringing talent together, as well as generating regular discussion about talent at top executive level.