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Why Talent Management Isn’t the Sole Responsibility of HR

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Monika Götzmann –  EMEA Marketing Director of the Miller Heiman Group. Her opinions are her own. 

Talent management is an organised strategy, where businesses focus on attracting, recruiting, developing, motivating and retaining the best quality talent. While the concept is broad, the basic principle involves making the most of the talent at your disposal, in an effort to optimise overall business results.

Conventional wisdom dictates that talent management is a human resources concept and, as a result, many organisations delegate it to their HR staff. However, this is an inefficient, short-sighted, narrow approach, which places too much responsibility on their shoulders, while giving others too much of a free ride.

In this post, I will outline various reasons why talent management should not be the sole responsibility of HR, and why successful talent management strategies require a much more holistic approach.

Overworking HR

One of the biggest reasons why delegating talent management responsibilities to HR is a mistake is because it demands too much from HR. In the average workplace, the HR Department has many responsibilities, ranging from resolving pay issues and handling absenteeism, to dealing with disputes and various admin tasks.

Although there is clearly a role for HR in areas such as recruitment and employee development, such as drawing up person specifications, expectations need to be realistic. HR departments cannot be expected to balance their essential administrative tasks with taking sole responsibility for the management of talent too.

It is also necessary to point out that most HR departments do not have daily contact with individual members of staff, limiting their influence on things like onboarding. In fact, ill-advised delegation to HR may go some way towards explaining why onboarding outcomes are declining and 60.7 percent of sales organisations now have average ramp up times of more than seven months, according to CSO Insights research.

Treating talent management as the sole responsibility of HR is unlikely to produce the required results, but is also likely to mean HR staff take criticism for things that are, realistically, beyond their capabilities. Instead, organisations should only delegate them specific, suitable tasks, which require HR skills and expertise.

Reducing managerial responsibility

Another significant problem with the mass delegation of talent management to human resources, or even to a specialist talent management team, is that it takes responsibility and influence away from departmental managers and fails to make the most of the leadership role they have.

Similarly, this bypassing of individual managers when it comes to managing talent means that those managers will become disengaged with regards to this key element, which plays a huge role in their team’s success. Worse, it gives them the ability to pass the buck when specific issues related to talent arise, even if they are part of the problem.

“The rise of a central function makes it too easy for managers to forego their personal accountability for acquiring and developing the right talent,” says Ron Ashkenas, writing for the Harvard Business Review. “If things don’t work out, they blame HR — despite the fact that they’re in a much better position to assess and develop their own people.”

Such a reduction in managerial responsibility is also potentially problematic because managers are often key contributors to one of the biggest talent problems organisations face; high turnover rates. In fact, research carried out by Gallup suggests that as many as 50 percent of people leaving a job do so to get away from their manager.

The need for a holistic approach

It is important to stress that this does not mean human resources departments do not have an important role to play in managing talent. Rather, the crucial take-away is that talent management strategies are extremely broad, and responsibilities should, therefore, be delegated to a broad range of people within an organisation.

When you consider the various functions that fall under the talent management umbrella, the need for cross-departmental collaboration becomes more apparent. For example, recruitment alone involves HR drawing up person specifications, marketing departments creating the recruitment content and HR and managers conducting interviews.

Employee development, meanwhile, is the shared responsibility of department managers, individual employees and training experts, while most training strategies require buy-in at executive level. Retaining staff is largely a job for managers, but turnover rates can even be impacted by the design of the workplace itself.

“Talent management is everyone’s job,” explains Tina Merry, senior director at Electronic Arts, in an article for LinkedIn’s Pulse platform. “With everyone taking clear responsibility for their own role…we can ensure a meaningful and engaging employment experience and outstanding business results.”

A talent management manifesto

With an acceptance that talent management is not the sole responsibility of HR, companies need to think about how they can develop and empower the various people, from managers to senior marketers, who are involved in the process. One of the best ways to do this is to create a talent management charter or manifesto.

Not only will this make it clear that responsibility for managing talent is cross-departmental and falls across many shoulders, it can also be used to define exactly who is responsible for which aspects. For example, you may write it into your charter that responsibility for turnover lies primarily with managers.

Drawing up a document in this way can also help when it comes to developing the talents of those with a stake in talent management. It may be that, once their responsibilities are in writing, the case for providing regular, high-quality sales management training becomes much stronger, which then has a knock-on effect on turnover.

Moreover, a talent management manifesto or charter can also include a clear mission statement, which is shared by the various departments. This will help to ensure that different departments are all working towards the same goals and that their various talent management efforts are more clearly aligned with one another.

Monika Gotzmann

Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global employee development and sales training firm, providing sales and customer service training solutions.

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