The people problem in talent management

Here is an excerpt from another outstanding article featured by The McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. It was co-authored by Matthew Guthridge, Asmus B. Komm, and Emily Lawson. Granted, this article appeared several years ago but what it reveals and explains is, if anything, even more relevant — and more valuable – now than it was then.

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Talent-management processes can’t work if managers don’t think it’s important to develop their people.

Increasingly, companies view the ability to manage talent effectively as a strategic priority. [Note: Steven D. Carden, Lenny T. Mendonca, and Tim Shavers, “What global executives think about growth and risk,” The McKinsey Quarterly, 2005 Number 2, pp. 16–25.] Yet our research finds that senior executives largely blame themselves and their business line managers for failing to give the issue enough time and attention. They also believe that insular “silo” thinking and a lack of collaboration across the organization remain considerable handicaps. Moreover, executives who think that their companies’ succession-planning efforts are deficient don’t, on balance, see talent-management processes and systems as the chief problem.

The results of our research—which included in-depth interviews with 50 CEOs, business unit leaders, and human-resources (HR) professionals from around the world—suggest that the obstacles preventing talent-management programs from delivering business value are all too human. [Note: The respondents represented 29 multinational companies operating in a range of industries and regions spanning Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.] As one leader commented, “Habits of mind are the real barriers to talent management.”

Nearly half of the interviewees expressed concern that the senior leadership of their organizations doesn’t align talent-management strategies with business strategies. “This is a real blind spot for our leader — they don’t realize the importance and significance of it,” commented one HR executive. Furthermore, 54 percent of those interviewed agreed that senior managers don’t spend enough time on talent management. “Senior managers aren’t managing their time well or don’t see the point of managing people and getting the best out of them,” lamented one respondent.

Business line managers—the group responsible for a company’s day-to-day operations—were found equally culpable. Fifty-two percent of the respondents identified an insufficient commitment to developing talent on the part of line managers as a critical barrier. Moreover, 50 percent observed that line managers were unwilling to categorize their people as top, average, or underperforming, and 45 percent felt that line managers failed to deal with chronic underperformance by employees. As one interviewee noted, “We recognize underperformance, but the challenge is what to do about it. We find it difficult to have the ‘hard’ conversations.”

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Matt Guthridge is a consultant, Emily Lawson is a principal in McKinsey’s London office, and Asmus Komm is a principal in the Hamburg office.

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