What is Talent Management? – the views of our Connected group

What is Talent Management? This was question that formed our discussion at our May ‘Connected’ networking group.

‘Talent Management’ as a term was popularised by a McKinsey article in Harvard Business Review in 2001 and since then has become part of ‘management speak’. But what does it mean – the ‘talented few’ or the ‘vital many’?

In our (often vocal!) discussion with ‘Connected’ group members, it became clear that there was no one shared definition of what Talent Management is. The organisations represented at ‘Connected’ are taking very different approaches.

At one end, it is an exclusive activity, focussed on the organisation’s senior leadership, the top 100 or top 250 for example, and their successors. At the other end, Talent Management was seen as a totally inclusive activity, developing the talent in everybody in the organisation:

“Talent is…….The potential within each of us. The challenge is…….Tapping into that talent.” 

We talked about the % of time spent on the top talent and poor performers and the worrying lack of time spent on the majority to spot untapped talent.

We discussed the use of the 9 box model and the advantages (and disadvantages) of having performance conversations behind closed doors.

Many of our HR and L&D Manager colleagues felt that organisations need to introduce more transparency into a process that can often be ‘opaque’, leading to considerable tension around where responsibility for talent management lies in an organisation. Line managers clearly have a key role to play, but many are ill-equipped or not interested in doing so.

So, what is Talent Management? Clearly there is no one successful talent management formula. Successful Talent Managers have to have a good understanding of their organisation’s business strategy and the ability to design and implement talent management strategies that will contribute to that.

Well-developed stakeholder management and influencing skills are vital in order to work successfully with the range of priorities and personalities involved – as well as the personal ability to live with, and navigate through, the ambiguities and tensions that are inherent in the Talent Management role.


If you’re interested in joining one of our future ‘Connected’ networking and discussion forums, please contact me to find out more – Tracey@leading-edge.co