It Takes a Village for Talent Management Plans to Succeed

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Succeeding with strategic talent management initiatives requires line managers to participate wholeheartedly, consultants say.

While there may be many different reasons organizations fail to successfully implement strategic talent management plans that look good on paper, research shows that “the ultimate executor of talent management strategies isn’t HR, it’s managers,” Jay Jamrog, co-founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), told Bloomberg BNA June 7.

“What happens is, managers say to themselves, ‘I work 50 hours a week getting the damn widget out the door,’” and therefore they don’t have time for talent management that they are neither measured on nor rewarded for, he said.

“Although led by HR, it takes company-wide discipline and a proactive mindset to create a high performance workforce,” Amy Schabacker Dufrane, CEO of the HR Certification Institute, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 7 email.

In a series of surveys HRCI commissioned between February and June 2016, 31 percent of executives and line managers said they “have implemented strategic HR initiatives,” and an additional 29 percent said they support them “but have not yet implemented such practices,” Dufrane said.

Thirty C-suite executives and line managers were interviewed in depth for the HRCI survey report, and 571 more completed online surveys (the larger group included some HR professionals as well).

Offering a slightly different perspective, Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president at the Conference Board, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 7 email that part of the reason companies aren’t being more strategic about talent management “is simply avoidance behavior.” Also, she said, “strategic planning is a long-term play and the pain of not finding the right talent (or in the right quantities) is a current reality. Many of us only take action when we are standing on the burning platform, not simply when we can see the dark smoke fumes in the distance.”

Get Non-HR Managers On Board

That more than two-thirds of C-suite executives and line managers haven’t implemented strategic talent management seems to support Jamrog’s argument that since line managers “are rewarded for getting the widget out the door,” strategic talent management doesn’t top their list of priorities.

In addition, Jamrog said, “some HR departments don’t know how to sell it properly to line managers” or as a business proposition, and other HR departments may be “weak” and unable to get other departments to implement strategic talent management.

Therefore, “line managers’ involvement in development of the talent management strategy is crucial, so it doesn’t seem like something HR dreamed up, " Jamrog said. HR also needs to ensure that the line managers have the skills they need to implement the plan and that they are measured and rewarded on it (not necessarily with money), he said.

“Proactive HR leadership is the biggest factor for getting companies to adopt strategic HR initiatives,” Dufrane said. HR professionals must “put together killer executive-level presentations with expert analysis on how talent management strategies link to business goals,” she added. This requires that they “be much more well-rounded in the language of business, finance, and strategy” and that they become “more interconnected with the major business functions, their goals, and their challenges.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

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