Do you say “you can only manage what you measure”? 
(and then do the opposite with your people)

Talent management sounds boring. But it’s really just how you measure your people


Measuring tape

I get told all the time that talent management sounds like HR speak. That executives don’t believe it has substance behind the buzzwords.

But have you ever been caught saying “Our people are our most important asset”?

Or uttered “You can only manage what you can measure”?

I think both are fantastic statements on management. And let’s face it, we’ve all probably said both at some stage.

To really understand what talent management means is just to understand these two quotes. Don’t get caught up on the buzzwords.

Despite more investment in talent management, still not enough operational managers actually understand why we do it

ManpowerGroup conducts an annual survey on executive attitudes towards talent management. Over 37,000 employers were queried about their talent management challenges. You can find the results here.

Here’s two numbers that sum up the results for me:

  • Only 40% of senior management ‘get’ the connection between talent management and the impact on business.
  • And only half of respondents feel ‘somewhat confident’ their talent management strategies are paying off.

Can you imagine if a survey said the same about the accounting function? Or finance? Or sales?

In a well-run business talent management is as critical as the accounting function. But clearly this isn’t the way that many executives see it today. Far too often, talent management isn’t seen as business critical. It’s perceived as something that we do in HR to keep ourselves busy.

If you think talent management is a HR only activity, you’re doing it wrong

When talent management is just a HR responsibility, you hear statements like those above.

In these businesses, managers typically fail to make the connection between measuring your talent today and delivering on your business plan next year. They don’t understand just how quickly a ‘soft’ competency gap translates into a ‘hard’ profit miss.

The other issue that arises is a real misalignment around skills and competencies. Regardless of how good your business partners are, there’s no substitute for your operational managers engaging in the process. There’s such a difference in new hire success when managers set out exactly what the skill requirements are in their own words.

If a team misses their budget, we don’t blame accounting. In the same way, if a team doesn’t have the talent they need to succeed, we can’t blame HR. At its core, talent management is an operational responsibility. It’s essential strategy work that every manager needs to be doing.

Don’t risk talent bankruptcy

As I’ve written about previously, we’re facing a serious talent crunch. And it’s going to hit Australian businesses hard. Don’t let yourself get caught. Make sure you’ve quantified the talent you have, the talent you need, and the talent you’re going to have to grow.

How have you been able to convince your senior management team on the value of talent measurement? I’d love it if you could share your tips below.