Are We Stuck in a Time Warp? Talent Management in Uncertain Times

The aim of good talent management is readiness. Are we able to respond to change — planned or unexpected —- and put the right people in the right place at the right time?

Recently I ran across an article written by Peter Cappelli in 2008 titled Talent Management for the Twenty-First Century. It always amazes me how forward-thinking he is. Although the article was written almost four years ago, it is even more relevant today given that the world of business has only become more chaotic since 2008.

His basic premise is that talent management seems to be stuck in a time warp. Every other business process has improved greatly in the last 20 years.

  • Distribution;
  • Inventory management;
  • Call center management;
  • Order processing.

Lessons from supply-chain management

If a new approach to talent management needs to occur then it needs to be able to handle the great uncertainty businesses face today. Supply chain management is the model he believes companies could use. By borrowing lessons from supply chain management, a new model of talent management could be developed to better suit today’s realities — talent-on-demand.

To give an example, look at what Cappelli has to say about just one part of talent management — succession planning:

Traditional approaches to succession planning assume a multi-year development process, yet during that period, strategies, org charts, and management teams will certainly change, and the groomed successors may well leave anyway. When an important vacancy occurs, it’s not unusual for companies to conclude that the candidates identified by the succession plan no longer meet the needs of the job, and they look outside. Such an outcome is worse in several ways than having no plan. First, the candidates feel betrayed — succession plans create an implicit promise. Second, investments in developing these candidates are essentially wasted. Third, most companies now have to update their succession plans every year as jobs change and individuals leave, wasting tremendous amounts of time and energy. As a practical matter, how useful is a “plan” if it has to be changed every year?

Talent management is not an end in itself. It is not about developing employees or creating succession plans, nor is it about achieving specific turnover rates or any other tactical outcome. It exists to support the organization’s overall objectives, which in business essentially amount to making money. Making money requires an understanding of the costs as well as the benefits associated with talent management choices.”

Should HR employ talent-on demand?

Article Continues Below

Read this article. Keep an open mind.

Do you think a talent-on-demand system is something HR should be using today? Do you think HR can make the leap in updating a talent management process to more closely align with the rest of company business processes? As an HR person do you feel yourself recoil at the idea that “developing employees long-term” may not actually support a company’s overall objectives?

Here’s the link to Talent Management for the Twenty-First CenturyYou need to be registered at the Harvard Business Review (HBR) website to read the entire article (you get three free per month), but that’s not so bad. HBR has many good articles online. Enjoy!

Jacque Vilet, president of Vilet International, has more than 20 years’ experience in international human resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor, and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. She has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. Contact her at


3 Comments on “Are We Stuck in a Time Warp? Talent Management in Uncertain Times

  1. Enticing article here Jacque!
    innovating and staying in line with technology and advancements is critical in the progress of any field, especially HR. We definitely need more forward thinking mentalities and an acceptance of further technologies in HR especially cloud-based software applications for HR management.

    Are you a job seeker, employee, manager, or HR fanatic? check out for info and tips.
    LebHR – The Lebanese Human Resources Community

  2. I have to admit that I was skeptical upon reading this article, but I find that Mr. Cappelli’s insight usually aligns with my opinions.  Once again, he failed to disappoint.  It was a very informative and accurate article. 

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