Align, plan and manage. There it is in three words. This is what talent management professionals must do to successfully manage their programs and functions in order to become a valued strategic business partner and deliver significant value to their organization.
The words make it sound simple, and in theory, it is. In practice, it is much more challenging, and the majority of those responsible for people and budgets in our field need help doing it. For example, most talent leaders today do not strategically align their programs proactively to their company’s goals (despite what they report in industry surveys). They do not work with senior company leaders before the year starts to agree on measures of success and what will be required from both parties to achieve it. They also don’t bother to set targets or goals for the key effectiveness and efficiency measures they track in their own department. And, since they never set specific, measurable goals for their initiatives or for their department, they have no way to manage their progress toward those goals throughout the year.
This lack of good management is widespread but not surprising. Few universities teach these concepts to anyone majoring in education, human resources, organizational development or human capital development. Once in the workplace, it is nearly impossible for talent professionals to acquire these skills on the job because senior leaders are not practicing them. And, unfortunately, these skills are not addressed at most industry conferences. The professionals most likely to be doing a good job aligning, planning and managing have had experience outside L&D or HR where these practices are common.
So, the bad news is that our profession has a long way to go to reach its potential of delivering much more significant business value to our organizations. But the good news is that more and more talent professionals now want to move in this direction, and we can make really significant progress during the next 10 years. This will make for a very exciting time in our profession. In fact, some would say that it is now L&D’s turn to transform into a strategic business partner, just as IT did in the 1990s and finance did in the ’80s.
So, if you are not already doing a good job aligning, planning and managing, don’t feel bad. But do commit to increasing your business acumen and management capability so your programs or department can have a bigger impact on your organization’s success. (Doing so will also make you much more promotable, just in case you would like to advance. These are exactly the qualities your senior leaders are looking for.) If you are already doing a good job aligning, planning and managing, please teach and coach those around you, share your experience at conferences and become an advocate for managing L&D and HR with business-like discipline.
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