Talent Management as an Alignment Vehicle

An example effective of top-down alignment.
An example effective of top-down alignment.

I think the rage about competencies has gone dead, and it’s too bad.  I think the imagineering around competencies held the most promise for enabling new forms of community within organizations and I would’ve liked to have seen that play through.  Talent Management folks, I think, had the gem of a great idea.

What intrigues me about the idea of Talent Management in an enterprise is that it enables profiling of employees.  The idea being if you’re a burgeoning project manager looking for someone in your organization to look at your Request For Proposal (RFP) because you’re dealing with a huge business system like PeopleSoft and you don’t know anything about it — right now you need to network your way socially through friend-of-a-friend means to find someone with those skills.  It’d be a lot faster if you could look it up, which is the promise I hear about from the HR tech side (yes, there’s more than just learning technology in HR, friends).

As learning people, we’ve kinda given up on competencies, but the backdoor might be some other metaphor (I’m betting on “skills” but we can conjecture all day long).  The question is: will everybody have access to that data when your Talent Management system gets turned on, or will it be kept to people managers and need-to-know people in Human Resources?  That’s the part that has me concerned, because there’s huge value in that data for the entire workforce, if a company cares about agility and alignment.

But I also suspect there’s still a lot of old-world thinking in the “protection” of the data, even though it’s, for the most part, user-generated.  Think about that for a second.  Most of the data that’s in a company’s talent management system is the data you, yourself, put in there as an employee.  What’s your return on investment (ROI) for the effort?  I’d argue that you can get a lot of good information to help you perform better as an employee.  What I don’t know is if you have access to a broader set of data to augment your decision making.

I’d love for others to weigh in here so I can get smarter about Talent Management systems, but it seems to me these systems are adopted (not necessarily “designed for”) for top-down management of data, but if an organization exposes pieces of that data — not the sensitive personal data, but make the skills or talents (// competencies) parts with names and FACES (of huge importance in workplace networking) — you can enable employees to find people who share the same goals.  They can collaborate with each other to work on their shared goals.  This does a couple of things senior leaders seem to like: getting people across functions to work together as one whole company, and enable employees to help develop themselves.  Senior leaders also really like the notion of alignment.  In a socially-aware world, the top-down definitions of alignment just aren’t enough.

Most every organization has vision and mission statements, but aligning thousands and thousands of people to even a well-written, concise mission is difficult unless you can distribute the message and localize it.  There’s usually a host of goals to support a mission, and those goals can probably be broken down into smaller goals that small groups can work with.  Organizations do this, but how many of them reinforce it daily, even hourly?  And if your company tried it, could they avoid feeling like Big Brother in the process?