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Talent Management Trends 2018: An Update from the Road

11 October 2018

Nine months into 2018, smack dab in the middle of fall conference season events, so it seems like a good time to pull up and reflect on what I’ve been hearing from the road. I have three new trends to add to the list, and three that I think are still especially relevant right now.

There are a few new trends I would add to the list from March, and these include:

  1. Talent management strategy – more necessary now than ever. In some research I led years ago, we found that organizations with a clear talent strategy outperform those without one. With the substantial amount of information, initiatives, and opportunities for organizations to navigate today, the need for a talent strategy seems greater than ever. Yet, if my anecdotal evidence is any indication – a minority of companies have invested in developing one. As organizations start to look forward to 2019, now could be a great time to plan to make one.
  2. Employee voice – listening is just the beginning. I have seen some impressive employee listening technologies – and some strong examples of company’s successes with these technologies – in the last six months. LinkedIn’s acquisition this week of Glint (I will post my thoughts on that later this week) only underscores the criticality of this space. That said, I think that employee listening technologies that primarily rely on surveys (be they pulse or longer-form) are just the beginning. The next step is to think through how we enable the workers who contribute to those insights the capability to do something with that information. We are working on new work on this topic (called the responsive organization research), so stay tuned.
  3. HR organizational structure – a new vision is necessary. I don’t know if it is because Dani Johnson worked with Dave Ulrich at RBL Group or what, but for some reason, I’ve been asked a lot in the last few months about my opinion on modern HR org structures. My answer is generally yes, I think they need to evolve – but I haven’t seen a great model yet for what they should look like next. In general, I’m a fan of getting closer to the business units HR serves so as to make more strategic decisions closer to them. However, I haven’t seen many models that do this in a significant way that departs from the current HR business partner approach (let me know if you have one!). I definitely see the old COE model, where talent management was often siloed off (and often disconnected from learning), as not being terribly relevant any more. We don’t have an answer on this one – but for those of you who feel like this is a problem for your organization, I wanted you to know I am hearing it from a lot of your fellow practitioners, too!

Of the trends I wrote about back in March, three remain a consistent trend in all of my conversations:

Diversity and inclusion – now core HR responsibilities

D&I, as a topic is EVERYWHERE. As many of you know, we wrote a report on D&I technology, which is part of the reason I’m talking with folks about it so much. Even beyond that specific topic, though, I am especially hearing folks talk about the following:

  • Gender. Many organizations are choosing to primarily focus their D&I efforts on gender this year, at least in part, because they can positively impact 50% of the population and gender is a diversity characteristic that is similar across all cultures. We are working on some new research on the topic of women and their organizational networks and behaviors, which will help advance this topic.
  • Legal risk. In many conversations – especially those around D&I data – many organizations are asking how to manage the legal risk of becoming aware of D&I problems on which they previously had no insight. One person I spoke with in the last month said that when this question was posed to a group of CEOs, half of them said they couldn’t focus on D&I data because of the legal risk and the other half said that the first half simply needed to find a less conservative general counsel! All joking aside, the answer is more complex than this, though, and is worth a deeper conversation.
  • Power dynamics. It is not possible to solve the challenge of women’s equal inclusion without addressing the question of who is in the “in-group” versus the “out-group” and the associated power dynamics. While I’ve heard some really good ideas about how to address pay equity, female promotion rates, etc., this question of how to address power dynamics to make women’s inclusion systemic is one that is still open for me.
  • A new era in people data – with great power comes great responsibility. So if D&I is super white hot, this topic is just white hot. I may have some recency bias on this one, as I have been to three people data-related conferences in the last three weeks, but the opportunities in people data are huge and the field has come incredibly far in just the last three years. For example, at last week’s People Analytics and Future of Work Conference, the stories told by leaders from organizations such as JP Morgan Chase, USAA, Pfizer, Western Digital and others absolutely blow away what was commonplace just a few years ago, especially when it comes to organizational network analysis (ONA). At this week’s Connected Commons event, Michael Arena told a story of phenomenal transformation using ONA to drive wide-spread network-owned innovation at General Motors – you can read more about it in his book, Adaptive Space. This topic deserves its own post, but let’s just say that this is definitely a space to keep watching.

Converging people practices

…but they need to create business results (not just a common employee experience). We keep hearing about this convergence – particularly between, but not limited to, performance management and learning – in our conversations with organizations, but we have also seen it reflected in the vendor space. If you’ve been following our newsletter, you will see the huge number of acquisitions: LTG bought Peoplefluent, Degreed bought Pathgather, Saba (which had already bought Halogen) bought Lumesse, YouEarnedIt (a recognition company) bought Highground (performance management), and – as previously mentioned – LinkedIn bought Glint. Many of these vendors used to play in different spaces, but are now coming together to create new visions of what it means to manage and enable talent. This trend is only going to accelerate in the coming months.

I’m going to be talking about these topics in a lot more detail on October 25 in Los Angeles at an event being hosted for talent management consultants by The Predictive Index – I invite you to join me and share your thoughts on what you are seeing, too! If you can’t make it, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
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