Rethinking Talent Management

Most talent-management implementations over the last few years have been failures, said Jason Averbook, founder of Minneapolis-based consultancy KnowledgeInfusion and a presenter at this year’s IHRIM conference, held this week at Washington’s Gaylord National Harbor resort.

Most TM implementations are simply digitizing old processes that didn’t work in the first place, said Averbook, who spoke to a standing-room only crowed packed so tightly that people stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the walls during his presentation, entitled “New Technologies for 2011: Emerging Trends and Technology Critical to Your Workforce.” Averbook outlined what he called his “TM Call to Action”: rethink, innovate and get creative, think “big” and focus on adoption: “Put yourself in the mindset of the end-user asking ‘What’s in it for me?” he said.

Averbook, who punctuates his intense delivery style with the phrase “Does that make sense?” to ensure his audience is following along, urged attendees to push their vendors to build “outcome-centric and cross-functional” solutions instead of “HR-process-centric” tools. Using a texting-based polling service, he asked attendees to grade their organizations’ TM deployments to-date. The majority rated their efforts a “C,” only one attendee–a woman from the Mayo Clinic–awarded her organization an “A.” “We had really great change management,” the woman told Averbook (who handed out Starbucks gift cards to each person he called on).

A successful TM implementation is one designed for the worker, not the HR department, he said. Organizations should put together cross-functional “workforce experience teams” to audit all employee-facing HR initiatives for usability and intuitiveness, said Averbook.  And HR must not wipe its hands of a project once it’s “gone live,” he said; instead, the focus must now be on user adoption and outputs, ensuring that the new system is useful and is being used. And usefulness must be based on the business metrics of the organization, not HR metrics, he said.