Talent Management: the Important Questions

April 3, 2012 by Wally Bock

“I have no idea.”

Dave was one of the best HR people I ever knew, only he called his department “Personnel” back in the early 1970s. That’s when the CEO asked him how many people there were in the company. He didn’t know.

I was shocked. I mean, you would expect the head of a company’s people department to know how many people worked there. But Dave didn’t know, and he told us why.

“I know about how many we’ve got and I know where we fit in our industry. I’ve got more important things to think about, like where we’re going to find qualified people for the expansion we’ve planned.”

With all the talk about analytics these days, we run the risk of using our powerful new technologies to measure the wrong things and of abandoning judgment altogether. That would be a colossally bad mistake.

There’s a measurement component to talent management, to be sure, but judgment is far more important. Judgment is the human capacity that decides which of dozens of possible analytical questions are the most important questions.

The problem is that judgment about people is something requires contact and reflection. To make it work, bosses from the bottom of the company to the top, should be doing the bulk of the talent development. They should be sharing what they know with each other both in conversation and on the computer system.

Talent is the only sustainable source of competitive advantage in today’s world. That’s people with knowledge and relationships. And people, to slightly misquote Dee Hock, “will not yield their secrets to a yardstick.”

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Talent Management

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