HR Roundtable: Is Talent Management More Than Just Another Catch Phrase?

The September HR Roundtable in Cincinnati roared into the meeting room with incredible excitement as people gathered to discuss “Talent Management.”

This month the forum was trying to discern if Talent Management truly existed, or if it was becoming another convenient HR catch phrase. To delve into this, the group started with the following three questions:

  1. What’s the difference between “talent” and “staff?”
  2. Do you “manage” talent or “lead” it?
  3. Why is Talent Management necessary?

The groups were very diverse this month and the sharing of perspectives was fairly broad. When they reconvened to share their findings, it was quite captivating!

What’s the difference between “talent” and “staff ?”

TALENT                                                 STAFF

More of a “person”                         More of a role (thing)

Yikes! Can you believe this answer? The group did. In fact, there was a general split of sentiment as to those that are defined as “talent” in an organization are those of value (note: That wasn’t ADD value) and staff are those we tolerate.

Vision and Mission folks            Executors (Doers)

Again, note the distinction of value that is lined out in this answer. It infers that staff are necessary for the “doing” of work within a company, but talent are the folks who exude and define the true strategy and direction of the company.

Improve Performance                  More Project Oriented

This speaks more to the “focus” of those we deem as talent within a company and it may be very accurate. It is a much more palatable answer than the one before it!

Future                                                     Headcount

There are so many questions that jump out of this answer. What is the “future” and how does talent make that come to life? Can a person hold a “staff” role and yet be critical to the company’s future? If you are deemed to be in the “talent” pool, are you no longer headcount – which is obviously expendable?

Article Continues Below

Do you “manage” talent or “lead” it?

The group struggled with this question. People got hung up on semantics and couldn’t truly differentiate between these two approaches when it comes to talent.

There was discussion around “talent” being self-managed and were seen as leaders themselves so it was hard to quantify this answer. There were two key points that did come from this question though:

  • The issue of “fit.” Everyone felt that employees who were seen as “talent” were a better fit within an organization because they were seen as people who were current and potential future leaders. This is an incredible belief to follow when you look at the reality of company culture’s today. HR struggles to be consistent with the concept of fit because they too often tend to mimic what they feel Sr. Management is saying “fit” is.

This is a legitimate factor in considering talent in an organization, but HR needs to step up and be the voice of reason to make sure that people are considered for their strengths and how they add value to the organization. This isn’t a dodgeball team that you’re picking. It’s people that should be high performers not only in their area of expertise, but across all facets of the business venture.

  • We don’t like spending time with our people! We have to face the fact that we neither manage or lead talent because we rarely take the time to even talk to them! We haven’t broken from the old Theory X model of the expectation that people should be thankful to have a job and they should shut up and do what they’re told.

Not true? Ask your employees.

Not just the “talent,” but all of the employees. We spend so little time on our people in they’re day-to-day performance let alone their development. This is not something to be solved by a Performance Management System either.

What a PHENONMENAL opportunity for HR to step in and lead. If we can model and show people why it’s important to spend time with our talent, then (and only then) can the issue of “Talent Management” even begin!

Why is Talent Management necessary?

  • It’s our future. Companies that will do this well will be the companies that not only survive into the future, but they will thrive. True “talent” will run to work for companies that do this well because they will know that this isn’t a program, but how the culture is all the time.
  • You need it to be strategic. Without Talent Management, you’re just filling holes. You can’t claim to be strategic in your HR efforts if you don’t show how current talent is performing, who the future talent is and how the company can perform workforce planning to sustain itself to be adaptive regardless of the economic climate. If you’re not looking at doing effective Talent Management, then your approach will be solely short-term. You’ll always be chasing the next great person while not being able to retain who you already have.
  • It’s not a catch phrase. There is a faction of HR folks out there who are using it this way, but it is one of the most relevant items in our HR profession now and well into the future. If you’re not doing this, you’re just falling behind.

This was a great and heated topic to go through and it was exhilarating. Make sure to join us in October when we discuss “What competencies do people needs in business/HR today?”

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *