The war on talent. McKinsey consultants started it with a book of the same title. By focusing on what it seemed like a universal problem of scarce talent, and a subsequent call to arms in a battle to acquire it, they skilfully managed to distract the attention from a problem significantly greater: hosting talent. The military analogy (that management loves with narratives such as ‘win-win’, or ‘kill the competition’, for example) implied that talent is ‘outside’ and therefore there is a war to ‘get it’. Undoubtedly true in some occasions, organizations have today a greater problem with retention, engagement, and, as I said, hosting that talent. If you fancy a war, it should be the war on employee engagement.
The wrong capital. ‘Talent management’ ( a sub-industry in its own rights) focuses too much on Human Capital, with emphasis on skills (and with emphasis on people ‘who have done it before’). However, organizations are desperate for people with Social Capital (= quantity and quality of relationships) and people with Emotional Capital (= ability to understand and play with the soft, non-rational side of human behaviour). Of course skills and capabilities are, rightly so, at the core of Talent Management. But I have not seen many Talent Management programmes paying much attention to the ability to master, both, relationships and emotions. High talented people with High IQ may have the social skills of a cactus. Just maybe. IQ is OK, but the trick is how to really master EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and SQ (Social Intelligence).
The best thing a Talent Management programme can do is to start by defining ‘talent’. You’ll be surprised how many people can’t seriously articulate it. The narrower the definition ( e.g. career progression) the bigger the problem.