Apply Operations Principles to Talent Management

Peter Capelli offers us some valuable supply chain guidance as a way to think about talent management (HBR).

Principle 1: Make and Buy to Manage Risk. A deep bench of talent is expensive, so
we should undershoot our estimates of what will be needed and plan to hire from outside to make up for any shortfall. Some positions may be easier to fill from outside than others, so we should be thoughtful about where we put precious resources in development: Talent management is an investment, not an entitlement.

Principle 2: Adapt to the Uncertainty in Talent Demand. Uncertainty in demand is a given, and smart companies find ways to adapt to it. One approach is to break up development programs into shorter units: Rather than put management trainees through a three-year functional program, for instance, bring employees from all the functions together in an 18-month course that teaches general management skills, and then send them back to their functions to specialize. Another option is to create an organization-wide talent pool that can be allocated among business units as the need arises.

Principle 3: Improve the Return on Investment in Developing Employees. One way to improve the payoff is to get employees to share in the costs of development. That might mean asking them to take on additional stretch assignments on a volunteer basis. Another approach is to maintain relationships with former employees in the hope that they may return someday, bringing back your investment in their skills.

Principle 4: Preserve the Investment by Balancing Employee-Employer Interests. Arguably, the main reason good employees leave an organization is that they find better opportunities elsewhere. This makes talent development a perishable commodity. The key to preserving your investment in development efforts as long as possible is to balance the interests of employees and employer by having them share in advancement decisions.

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