All Together Now

All Together Now

     Integrated Talent Management is one of the top buzz phrases in our industry right now.  The main idea is that by aligning the various disciplines and data streams of talent work, we can create higher value and more impactful work. 

      In theory, a great idea.  In practice,  the reality of knitting things together that are usually apart is hard work with frustrating barriers.  Fortunately, there are also enablers of collaborative teamwork.


Why Apart? It’s the People


      Classic organization design principles cause work to be broken down into sub-units for appropriate focus and optimizing the resources of the specialty.  And it usually works quite well.  The good people in compensation create programs  to deliver cost-effective and competitive pay practices.  The skilled professionals in recruiting work hard to bring in the most qualified new employees as quickly as possible.  The pro’s in learning and development crank out  online and classroom material for all those well paid and well placed employees. HR Generalists cast a narrow field of view when offering HR services to a slice of the organization, hoping for a little more help and a little less bother from compensation, recruiting and training.  The strategies and objectives are set in isolation of each other.  The cycle of new practices and change initiatives spring forth mostly independently. Rewards and resources go to the subsets, rarely the whole.


Why Apart? It’s the System


      The information age of HR ushered in automation to more efficiently manage the transactions of each subgroup.  Compensation systems to process payroll and incentives  Recruiting systems to sort resumes and track candidates. Learning management systems to document competencies and class completions. Each state of the art with a different software vendor.  Overtime, the attempts have been made to link systems and the best systems providers are promoting integrated, full suite talent management systems.   The evolution is promising but the conversion process usually means someone gives up their favorite functionality for the greater (promised) good. 


How Together?


      There are barriers aplenty to integrate and there is hope as well. But it takes extra effort and the kind of intelligent and willful change management effort that we advise line organizations to apply.   I have seen a few ‘common enablers’ which pull the practices and systems of talent management together. 


  • Common Planning.  Author and consultant Patrick Lencioni presents the very useful idea of a Thematic Goal as a way to pull multiple departments together. I’ve seen the power of crafting a talent management thematic by posing the question, “if we don’t get anything else done in the next six months together, we must do …?”.   Then by getting specific multiple-unit efforts behind the common thematic a roadmap is created to achieve the collective mission.  Once the short term thematic is reached, the common planning cycle is repeated and short term success builds momentum.
  • Clear Accountabilities and Measures.   Integration means great teamwork and much as in the sports world, winning teams perform because of clearly understood and coordinated individual contribution.  It is all too common to find promising HR initatives unwind due to the simple lack dedicated time to establish and revisit role expectations.  An integrated talent management thematic once established, should be followed by answering “who is going to do what by when to make this happen?” as well as,  “how will we monitor and measure progress?”


  • Competent Processes.  Smart integrated talent management software installations take the right amount of time to map out the current and optimal way a process and then configure the information system to effectively enable the complete practice, not just any one subunit. Getting different HR departments together in a room to create a mutual view of how real work happens is always educational and sometimes transformational. But don’t let the software impose too aggressive new practices  I’ve never seen an organization overcome poor managerial talent management habits by imposing a sophisticated out of the box software package.


  • Collaborative Values. Let’s be candid here, there can be peer jealousies and functional in-fighting across HR departments.  Integrated the ”hardware” of talent management calls for investing in the “software” of mutual trust and collaboration.  Devoting time to bring different groups together to renew healthy relationships is as smart investment as any new software package or redrawing the HR org. chart


      Integration makes sense but recognize the hard work of overcoming the entrenched obstacles of past habits and legacy systems when launching an integration initiative.   Ensure the fundamental of high performance teams are in place: aligned goals, understood roles, effective processes and healthy relationships.


© Kevin D. Wilde