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The HR Ego and the Battle for Talent: Successful talent management programmes since 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has brought new expectations to the ever-changing methodology of talent management, which professionals and managers need to be aware of if they want to remain competitive in the labour market and not spend their time replacing key talented and competent employees who leave the company. If we were to summarise the impact of the market changes that started in 2020 on talent management in a nutshell, it could be said that in all the successful organisational development exercises conducted in the last two years, organisational development companies have applied a combination of two basic methodologies. They have recognised that there is already talent in an existing business that has not necessarily been brought into the organisation through a conscious organisational development methodology, so a development-focused solution may work for them. But beyond that, they are already consciously building the future using a selection-focused methodology.

Existing talent

The first step is always an honest and raw assessment of the talent situation in the current organisation. This requires nothing more than defining the expectations of the organisation’s leaders for the right positions, then subjecting the talent in the organisation to a deep analysis in terms of personality and behaviour, and then comparing the two profiles. The comparison will show the current state of the company from a talent management perspective, which is both valuable feedback on the effectiveness of HR work and also a perfect indicator of the future challenges of the organisation. A critical element of this process is the confrontation of HR with its past challenges when managing talent. Many organisations don’t start building real talent management programmes because they are scared of this first “mirror” that can show the reality. Getting the process started depends very much on the personality of the HR leadership. Also, within the personality issue, mostly on the level of “ego protection”. Unfortunately, many HR professionals take external criticism as a personal attack, despite the fact that although there are serious challenges in the organisation and they are increasingly aware that they cannot manage it from within, they try to get support even from an outsider who “nods along” with the bad situation created by past decisions, so that they will never be able to change it in any meaningful way, at most they can give the impression that something is happening. This approach may have worked in the pre-pandemic period, when the labour market was less harsh and unforgiving, but it is now clear that it is necessary to move beyond ego; otherwise, organisational disasters will occur, and the HR department as a whole will fall victim. Moreover, HR’s job is always to find the best solution. The HR professional working for a company cannot be responsible for personality-based research and development, nor can they be held responsible for the fact that these talent management solutions, often requiring 60-70 people with scientific backgrounds, were not developed by them for their own company. It is their job – and only their job at the top management level – to bring the best solution or the support that delivers real results to the organisation. To put the level of talent acquisition and retention capability of a company in a nutshell, it is certainly not an untruth to say that it is in direct proportion to the ego of the HR decision-makers in the company. The greater the degree of unconquered ego, the worse the situation on the talent management front. HR professionals understand this perfectly well, by the way, and even those who were otherwise opposed to it until 2020 have started serious work on attracting external support.

The perfect transition

Once you get past this ego issue, you cannot go wrong with talent management from that point on, because seeing the state of the existing organisation, you know exactly what is realistically in store for the near future and, more importantly, how and at what pace you will be able to make meaningful changes. For existing talent, the timeframe over which the company can rely on them is defined, the steps needed to ensure the best possible return on the energy and money invested in them, and their development programme and career plan are built on this basis. This in itself gives the company a great deal of peace of mind, as they are not drifting with the tide, but know exactly which key talent is likely to leave the company when, or who they can really count on in the long term. It is also important to know, in the light of analyses and profiles, who are the ones to really stick with and who are the ones who, although they may seem like a great solution in the present, will, in fact, change in a direction that is no longer appropriate for the company in the short term. And attracting new talent requires a clear selection focus, which is slower but provides a real solution for the organisation. Selection-focused work needs to be applied at the position formulation stage, throughout the recruitment process, and then during onboarding. However, selection-focused talent management also has a major impact on two other strategic areas by triggering their development. The first is corporate communication, or employer branding as it is more commonly known, as it determines the attractiveness of the company for future talent. The other important strategic development area is idol management, since attracting and retaining talent cannot work without consciously building and developing it.