Talent management can be defined as the sum of strategies, processes, and systems designed to attract, develop, and retain employees. In other words, how does a company acquire the right people for the right positions, continue to develop and mold those individuals into valuable contributors, and then keep them? The overall goal of talent management is to create a high-performing, sustainable organization that meets its strategic and operational goals and objectives.
Why is it critical to have a consistent, integrated, supported talent management function? The answer is clear: those companies that can excel in attracting/acquiring, developing, and retaining talent will create a distinct competitive advantage through lower costs, higher productivity, better quality, more satisfied customers, and better overall financial performance.
Attracting and acquiring the “right” (project management) talent is not an exact science but is facilitated by such things as having a solid corporate brand, a culture that is known to value its employees, and processes that are aligned with the overall business vision of the organization, all of which serve to draw talent to the company. Putting the right people in the right jobs and on the right projects hinges on the issue of “fit,” and more specifically, the mutual fit. Hiring managers should be just as concerned about the employee’s goals, career objectives, and interests as his/her technical and soft skills when filling workforce requirements. The most talented individual misplaced in the wrong position will not produce optimal results for either party. In order to win in the talent arena, companies must also establish and follow efficient and effective processes during the search, identification, screening, interviewing and selection phases of its project managers.
Upon acquisition of talent, what follows is a key variable to the talent equation. In fact, one could argue that development can be viewed as the link that drives the entire talent management process from the inside out, promoting both retention and attraction/acquisition. Talent development has never been as critical as it is today; as reported by Waxer (2013), it ranked as one of the most important indicators for project success in PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession survey of more than 1,000 project professionals. Companies that make development commitments often stand out in the market as an employer of choice to employees who are hungry for growth and professional development opportunities in their knowledge and skills. In fact, lack of development opportunities is one of the largest causes of declining engagement and loss of top talent, again demonstrating that development impacts retention levels. According to Deloitte-Human Capital Trends (2013), studies consistently identify personal development as one of the top needs across all generations. Moreover, researchers writing in the Harvard Business Review (Deloitte, 2013, p. 13) found that employers who invest more in training and development outperform the market by up to 35 percent. Even during the downturn in 2001, the authors recorded a 4.6 percent increase in stock value among companies with strong talent development budgets.
Acquiring the right talent up front and developing them into valuable contributors makes retention critical given the investment lost (both in dollars and knowledge) if they leave. Retaining top talent is even more crucial in light of today’s sizeable talent gap. As highlighted by Lillian Cunningham, (PM Network, 2013), 83% of organizations report they have had difficulty finding qualified project management candidates to fill open positions in the past year. Therefore, once a company finds talented project managers, it is essential to keep them. This is where knowledge of your talent and development play a significant role in retention. Bright employees often share a dedication to self-improvement, thereby making training and seminars effective motivational tools. Providing development in the area of building more effective working relationships is also a way to contribute to retention as it builds stronger ties to the organization.
It is individuals who comprise the teams that drive projects either to success, mediocrity, or failure. In addition to varying levels of hard and soft skills that are so often the focus of grouping individuals into teams, individual personalities play a critical role in how a team functions and performs. As many project managers can likely attest from experience, the personality factor can significantly affect (positively or negatively) the quality of communication, level of motivation, and degree of conflict that exists within a team. In fact, negative personality influences can actually derail a team from accomplishing project objectives leaving managers to wonder what happened to cause poor results when all the processes seemed to be in place for a successful outcome. Why not consider personality up front as a component in team member selection? As team selection/formation becomes more sophisticated, the argument could be made to include personality type in the mix of which team members to assign to a particular project. Certain types may be better suited for one project versus another, or a balance of types may be more desirable than a homogenous group.
Using scientifically validated instruments to discover one’s own style and priorities and to better understand other styles can serve as a foundation for building more effective working relationships. The use of individual assessments provides clarity on the gaps that exist between various personality styles and guides individuals on ways to adjust their behavior to bridge those gaps. Achieving deeper understanding of oneself and others serves to foster an environment of teamwork resulting in more cohesive, efficient, and effective project teams.