Talent should show a return

I am always amazed when organisations do not evaluate their talent programmes. They go to great lengths to put processes in place to identify, attract and retain key people, but then they don’t measure the outcomes.

It is easy to dismiss talent as a transactional activity or an overhead if you cannot be sure whether you are getting a return on your investment. To build measurement in, you must know what you want to achieve, and you need data from all stages of the process.

It is hard to track the impact of a talent programme if you rely on paper-based procedures. A good talent management system can certainly help you to collect data. It can also help you make talent management a reality for large numbers of people.

You are probably not going to do succession planning for the secretarial pool or the factory floor. But you should be doing it for your directors and senior executives. Technology can help you to actively move talent management much further down the organisation, to line managers and team leaders, ensuring you look after all of your key staff.


Before you rush out and buy a talent system, you have to understand your talent processes, otherwise the system will not give you the benefits you desire. Some organisations have very effective performance management processes, competency frameworks, development planning and succession planning, while in others, these are not clearly defined. But these core processes must be in place if the technology is to support them.

Most systems store staff information such as their career history, education and capabilities. However, advanced systems have ‘people and performance potential’ matrices, which enable you to highlight potential moves for people within the organisation.

If a key director or line manager wants to leave, would you have someone ready to fill that position? Using ‘talent profiles’, you can check who is available to fill those positions now, who will be ready in 18 months, and who will be ready in three years. It puts a pool of potential replacements, for any key position, at your fingertips.


For true talent development, use your talent management system alongside an automated training administration system. This will not only enable you to identify talented individuals and assess their abilities and competencies, but you will then be able to highlight the learning and development that will enable them to fill the gap between where they are now, and where they want to go.

By using the two systems together, you can map live competencies and skills to those on a job profile, highlighting what you need to work on, and then flag up what training or learning is available. When a worker selects a course through an online portal, a training administration system will manage the approval and purchasing processes, send joining instructions, manage the evaluation of the training and update their development plan.

The link between talent and training is important because knowledge workers can leave organisations if they are not given suitable training and development opportunities. So you may know who your talented people are, but if they don’t feel they are growing their skills – and you’re not providing them with appropriate development opportunities – there’s a good chance they could walk.


One of the great benefits of technology is the management information that these systems provide. This enables you to clearly define the impact of your investment in talent and training.

The information that good systems provide will also help to boost the HR team’s credibility. Removing the transactional work is also beneficial, particularly for trainers who spend valuable time booking people on to courses and keeping records up to date.

If you are not using them, you are missing out on the chance to transform your talent programmes. When one of your senior directors asks about the return on your talent investment, will you be able to answer?

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