What maketh a talent management practitioner?

Talent management practitioners must exhibit six key characteristics in order to be successful, writes Marc Effron

Talent management’s rapid emergence as a field has left practitioners without a clear success model. Based on our experience as talent management consultants and practitioners, interviews with other well-regarded practitioners, and input from executive search leaders, my colleague Jim Shanley and I have identified the six factors of talent management effectiveness.

We call this the Talent Management 4 + 2 Capability Model, and consider four capabilities to be “core” – the proverbial “price of admission” to reach the 50th percentile of effectiveness. The other two are differentiating capabilities that separate the great from the merely very good. 

The core four
Business junkie: They are deep experts in their organisation’s business and understand the company’s strategy, its financials, how the products or services are produced and how they go to market. In addition, they genuinely love business. They enjoy waking up each morning to participate in the capitalistic pursuit of making and selling things that produce a profit for their company, jobs for their employees and returns for their shareholders.

HR disciple: The HR disciple has strong operating knowledge of the core talent management areas along with compensation, recruiting, organisation development and engagement. They are able to effectively translate that knowledge from academic precision to practical reality.

Production manager: The best in the field know that their job is to build and operate a process that turns out leaders who meet the specifications agreed to, in the time frame that was agreed upon. They are the managers of the talent production line. They understand the raw materials available to them, the tools that can most effectively cut, shape and polish that material, and how to ensure that the finished product meets quality standards and is distributed appropriately. 

Talent authority: When the CEO calls unexpectedly asking for a slate of candidates for any of the top 50 roles in the company, the talent authority can immediately list five names along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. That capability comes from a deep, personal knowledge of the organisation’s talent gained through one-on-one meetings with key talent that uncover their management style, ambitions and future potential.

The differentiating two
While the core four differentiate “good”, the differentiating two define “great”.

Trusted executive adviser: is professionally credible and can demonstrate a track record of success – as judged by the business – in building the organisation’s talent depth and quality. They also build strong personal relationships with senior leaders by demonstrating that they have the leader’s best interests at heart. They understand the leader’s personal and professional agenda and respond to their ego needs.

Courageous advocate: The courageous advocate has a “theory of the case” – a fact-based, brief and credible argument about why a talent decision should or shouldn’t be taken. It is the concise expression of a deeply held viewpoint on why talent succeeds or fails, and the best way to develop talent. They are “appropriately aggressive”, knowing which battles are worth fighting and the politically productive way to bring a potentially incendiary issue to the table.

The closer that talent leaders fit the 4+2 profile, the better odds we have for our profession realising its true potential.