The new year brings new goals, new challenges and new trends in the still-evolving field of talent management. We describe below 5 Talent Management Trends based on insights from HR leaders globally, our NTMN research, experiences at our clients and discussions at the Talent Management Institute. In no particular order, we believe that the key macro trends in talent management are:
#1. The Ratings Obsession Ends; The Performance Management Obsession Continues
If HR leaders and consultants put as much energy into fixing performance management as they do writing and complaining about it, we’d be far further along this journey. The past few years have seen a near obsession with this topic, marked by “pro” and “con” articles in Harvard Business Review and plentiful opinions on the topic presented as fact. The low point has been the endless debate over a minor element of managing performance—ratings. The debate (they’re fine vs. they’re horrible) will end as the evidence mounts from objective sources like CEB and the Center for Effective Organizations that companies get better outcomes with ratings.
The larger sense of urgency around performance management redesign/improvement will continue, driven by HR and leaders’ noise about the process. That noise seems to be driven by both lack of agreement about the purpose of PM (Improve performance? Evaluate? Develop?), well-intentioned attempts to make it easier and Quixotic attempts to make people enjoy goal-setting, coaching and reviewing.
While the energy around PM may drive simplification of the process, we’re not optimistic that it will help most companies realize PM’s true potential. The power of PM comes from brilliant goal setting, not flawless reviews, so until companies put effort and accountability into that area the quest for truly effective PM will not be realized. We’re seeing some effort but little accountability.
#2. Potential is the New Performance
The performance obsession will be overshadowed by a focus on predicting potential as senior teams increasingly differentiate their talent investments and demand more accurate insights to guide them. The challenge for HR professionals and consultants is that only two things are scientifically proven to predict potential in every situation – intelligence and select elements of personality. So, when consulting firms suggest they’ve found the secret ingredient to predicting upward potential, they’re either relabeling those two constructs or stretching the truth.
The two most popular potential models highlight the challenge of accurately assessing potential. Korn Ferry and CEB each offer a potential model and diagnostic tools that they claim is “the” accurate model. There are meaningful differences between the two, so either one of them is right and one is wrong, or both are not right.
Two encouraging sub-trends should help here. Data analytics is still glorified turnover analysis in most companies but capabilities are rapidly evolving. Within 5 years we should have better firm-level predictors of potential. Similarly, we’re seeing (a little) more work on understanding how the other half of the potential equation – the company situation – factors into accurately predicting an individual’s potential.