Aligned Talent Management & Business Strategies – Coming Your Way Soon?


Please, you protest, not this hoary old chestnut again. Haven’t we done this one to death? Well, allow me a festive break because it seems to be my abiding memory of 2012. This year has seen me working in the UK, mainland Europe, the Middle East, and now Malaysia. Everywhere I’ve been I and my colleagues have had to tackle this abiding conundrum…

For years now in HR we’ve been demanding a seat at the big table. The holy grail of business partner status. Ulrich and then both his detractors and supporters have left us in no doubt that the only way forward is for talent management to be both integral to our business strategy and indeed to drive it. In the same way that innovation and creativity are the domain of the whole organisation and not the preserve of a select few, so talent management should lie at the organisational heart.

And yet and yet and yet. Name the company where this truly is the case beyond lip service, where talent management is truly embedded throughout the organisation, where talent management truly is business strategy and vice versa. Where all this is more than an espoused value and brand concept. Where leaders fully role model behaviours, where change is dynamic and supported, where talent processes infuse every strategic decision…

I hope a number of names leap to your mind. I hope indeed that you can point to your own organisation as a living, breathing example. I suspect, however, that many of us will struggle with this. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the key lies with ourselves in HR. In projects and workshops and training courses and coaching sessions and my own office and myself (alas!) I see examples of HR professionals not fully conversant with business strategy and why talent management should be a core element of this. I see lack of understanding as to how business strategy is formed and even what an organisation’s business goals are. Sometimes I even get a fatalistic shrug of the shoulders and a ‘What to do?’

First though we need to raise our game. From outmoded push learning delivery mechanisms to paper-based performance appraisals, from guesswork P&L accounts and budgets to subjective job interviews and five-line JDs, from ignored SOPs to lack of communication and line involvement on initiatives…there are too many examples of HR not practising what we preach.

This isn’t meant as a harangue, but change starts with each one of us. If we in HR can’t proactively demonstrate the case for us to be involved in driving business strategy, then it’s not a surprise that our talent management strategies are not fully aligned and that they develop as an afterthought response to top-down direction. We need to prove ourselves for the organisation to welcome us at the metaphoric table.

I’m a strong believer that we all have our own solutions to our issues. Please, let’s eat this strategic frog so that we can all tackle something new in 2013…Good luck!

About Julian King

Julian King is an international HR consultant and certified executive coach with a keen interest in intercultural matters.