Re-Shaping Talent Management

The ways of work have taken a quantum leap over the past few years. Although these changes attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact is that there were impending and the pandemic just fast-tracked them. As a result, Human Capital management is having a wakeup call on its role in the corporate world. It is, therefore, imperative that Human Capital management practitioners redefine their role if they are to remain significant in the world of business and if they are going to facilitate the achievement of business strategic goals. This article discusses talent management and the shape it has to take given the dynamic world of business and the quantum leap changes accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Talent Management?
Talent management is defined as “the methodically organised, strategic process of getting the right talent onboard and helping them grow to their optimal capabilities keeping organisational objectives in mind.” Ref.: 1 It is “the full scope of Human Resources management processes to attract, develop, motivate and retain high performing employees.” Ref. 2 Talent management, therefore, seeks to attract the right people into an organisation, strategically develop those people, grow and retain them so as to meet the strategic goals of an organisation. Invariably, talent management model (below) pervades all areas of human capital management. The integrated model of talent management illustrates this very well.

The starting place for talent management is the organisation’s strategic direction.The economic theory of supply and demand applies in this case. The demand side is dictated by the direction the organisation is taking and the skills and capabilities that would be required to achieve the strategic vision. The vision defines the future that the organisation is aiming for and, hence, the structural efficiencies for this future business. The required skills are defined in terms of both skills sets and numbers.

With COVID-19 accelerating the pace of change, organisations are being forced to redefine their strategies in order to adapt to the new world of work. Consequently, human capital has to assess this demand side for skills and capabilities and ensure that organisations are not found wanting. Once the demand assessment has been done, there is a need to look at the supply side. This involves assessing the existing skills and capabilities and determining if they will meet the future demands of the organisation. Various approaches have been used by organisations to assess human skills and capabilities. Essentially these approaches look at differentiating people based on their capabilities.

The 9-box review grid, based on the McKinsey model, is one tool that has been used extensively to differentiate talent. Although widely used, this model has its drawbacks as it doesn’t contextualise the work done by individuals. It has also been used subjectively especially with regard to determining potential and arbitrarily in terms of percentages of employees in each of the categories. More progressive organisations have moved towards capability assessments based on the Systems Leadership and Stratified Systems Theory. The purpose of this theory is to assist managers create the conditions in an organisation where people willingly work to their potential in achieving the organisation’s purpose. The envisaged outcomes of this are to place the right people in the right roles, doing the right work. Therefore, people work productively to their potential when their capability is matched to the complexity of the work they work they do. It is not the intention to discuss these approaches in detail save to illustrate the assessment of skills and capabilities on the supply side of talent management and to establish the resultant talent gap between supply and demand.

Once the gap is determined, organisations then need to be able to attract the right skills as to macth the their strategic objectives. This is an obvious imperative given the prevailing and dynamic change the world of work is experiencing. Attracting talent is about luring suitably qualified and experienced people to apply for existing or anticipated positions within an organisation. This hinges on an organisation’s employee value proposition (EVP). An employee value proposition is a specific promise of value to employees. EVP needs to be aspiring, differentiated, compelling, truthful and consistently delivered through all channels. It defines the culture of the organisation, its people, the work done, the opportunities and rewards in such a way that it differentiates it from the rest. A compelling employee value proposition will attract the right skills to an organisation. Once the right skills are acquired it is imperative that they are deployed to right jobs and developed so that they skills remain relevant in the current dynamic work environment. Finally strategies to retain them must be put in place given the nature of the war for talent taking place. In their book “War for Talent”, Michaels et al contend that the war for talent goes beyond human resources process to a prevailing mindset that emphasises the important role of talent to achieve business goals.

Wither to Talent Management?
In the light of the above discussion, what direction should talent management take, especially in the developing world and in Botswana. Talent management is essential for any organisation to achieve its strategic and operational objectives and the changing playing field demands human capital practitioners to be proactive in facilitating talent management. In re-shaping talent management, there is a need to pay attention to the following imperatives:

1. The increasing use of technology in business.
Digital transformation has had a dramatic impact with the advent of COVID-19. Many organisations were caught unawares and especially so the human capital management discipline. Artificial Intelligence, blockchain technology and big data are more and more becoming the order of the day. It is important to re-shape talent management in line with the increasing use of technology. People analytics are taking a new shape with the use of technology. People analytics are deeply data-driven and people processes, functions, challenges, and opportunities use technology to achieve sustainable business success. People assessment analytics are available and these lead to better interpretation and thus decision making for talent management. The resultant decisions are data-backed and are not easily accessible but applicable to every stage of an employee’s tenure in the organisation. Digital technology has also evolved from prescriptive to predictive analytics. For talent management, this helps organisations to better plan to close the gap between the demand and supply equation presented above.

2. The takeover of business leadership by millennials.
Millennials are taking over the leadership of the business world from the baby boomers. This brings in significant dynamics for talent management. According to Jay Gilbert, “research has shown that boomers identify their strengths as organizational memory, optimism, and their willingness to work long hours”. In contrast, he says “millennials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. Millennials are well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to multi-task, and have plenty of energy”. Talent management needs to adapt to the needs of this different crop of employee and meet them at their point of need. The major advantage is their amenity to technology hence their easy adaptation to digital transformation.

3. The evolving diversity of the workforce.
The workforce has taken on a new diversity requiring a different approach to talent management. There is an evolution towards out-sourcing and part-time work and the talent frameworks have to take this into consideration. Succession planning, for instance, is not as rigid as it has been in the past, with options open in the world. It is, therefore, imperative that the new shape of talent managers take these dynamics into consideration.

4. The fluidity of roles in the work place.
Cecile Alper-Leroux in her article “Re-engineering the workplace”, identifies three types of fluidity that are becoming crucial in this age of the workplace. These are job fluidity which describes a workforce where people are not tied to or identified by a specific job description; rather, they flow among initiatives and supervisors to maximize their contributions. Organisational fluidity accepts the reality of how work gets done, generally through collaborative efforts with diverse minds and skills coming together. Identity fluidity which encourages new levels of self-definition and expression, with the knowledge that feeling safe in one’s authentic uniqueness fosters innovative ideas. These dynamics have an obvious impact on the definition and implementation of talent management. Some organisations are developing a penchant of employing people for graduate development based on their cognitive and analytic skills instead of technical background. This is especially so in the world of banking, commerce and retail.

5. The changing ways of work.
The world of work is changing. Work is no longer just about where one goes to but more of what one does. Virtual offices are becoming the new normal. The variables used for defining and categorising talent take on a new meaning. The emphasis on output and achievement of targets become the most important measure of performance as hours of work become irrelevant.

6.The increasing employee mobility.
Increase employee mobility has become prevalent and this impacts organisations’ ability to attract and retain talent. The new calibre of employee is restless and ever seeking for change hence mobility between organisations is becoming more frequent than in the past. This is exacerbated by the global village concept which has opened the world to people seeking growth opportunities. The war for talent thus knows no boundaries and opportunities are more accessible due to the information age. The above dynamics highlight the need for change in the way talent is management. Generic talent management needs to be replaced by a more individualised approach due to the diversity of the workforce. Human capital management has no choice but to be proactive in managing talent in order to contribute to the success of organisations.


1. Ghosh, P (2019) What is Talent Management? Definition, Strategy, Process and Models; HR July 17, 2019

2. Van Vulpen, E What is Talent Management? 5 Tips to Do it Right; DigitalHRTech

3. Bersin, J (2010) A New Talent Management Framework

4. Gilbert, J (2011) The Millennials: A new generation of employees, a new set of engagement policies; September / October 2011.

5. Alper-Leroux, C (2017) The Reengineering of the Workforce November 30, 2017