The latest Forbes.com post from HR guru Ed Lawler, titled What Should HR Leaders Focus On in 2014, cites talent management and talent development as the top concerns — specifically, the managerial and technical roles that are “difference makers,” he writes. Lawler, distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California and founder/director of its Center for Effective Organizations, writes that focusing on talent “is a great way to get the HR function into a broader discussion about what is next for the organization and what the business strategy should be. ”
He elaborates further:
The most important thing that HR should focus on in talent management is assessing the skills the organization needs to implement its strategy and the plan for recruiting and managing that critical talent. It is important to understand what the organization can do to add the right talent: Whether it is best recruited or internally developed, and whether it is even possible to develop the right talent in order to implement the business strategy. … Often, the reasons why business strategies fail is that they mistakenly assume that the organization can get the right talent in order to perform the way the strategy calls for. All too often organizations cannot attract or develop it, and as a result, the strategy is not feasible.”
Lawler goes on to cite Google as a good example of a company that’s done an “exceptional” job of recruiting and managing people who have critical knowledge skills, noting the tech firm’s practice of letting its people set aside certain times of the week to devote specifically to projects that interest them. This has proved not only to be a great way for Google to come up with new business ideas, he writes, but to also develop and attract the critical talent it needs. (We’ve been reporting on Google’s talent-development processes for a while here at HRE; here is a recent story on how it strengthened its corporate culture and here’s a piece on its recognition-and-rewards strategy.)
Of course, not all business leaders are sold on the importance of talent, writes Lawler. Some think they can get by without top talent while others—lacking a background in talent management—may see functions such as engineering and finance as far more important to the business strategy than recruiting and developing talent, he notes. HR’s challenge is to show that link between talent and the business strategy, he concludes. I can’t help but think that last week’s announcement by the Conference Board that CEOs consider human capital the No. 1 challenge for 2014 should give HR leaders a bit of a boost in this department.