Talent management 4.0: Engaging and leading in HR’s brave new world

Speaking ahead of the People Innovation Europe summit 2014, Paul Turner, a visiting business professor and respected author in the field of HR management, described the need for new leadership paradigm in todays’ global context to Re:locate.

Professor Paul Turner

image supplied by Professor Paul Turner

The human resource (HR) function has undergone significant changes over the past decades. Nevertheless, the adage that people are a company’s best asset remains unmoved. What are the challenges for today’s HR professionals for ensuring that their people have the environment where they can give of their best?Author Paul Turner, as someone who has not only steered change through large corporations including Lloyds TSB, Convergys and BT, but who has also held professorships at university business schools in Nottingham, Birmingham and Cambridge, is well placed to not only observe the direction of travel, but also share his reflections with fellow HR practitioners.Talking to Re:locate about the challenges facing HR and business leaders today – especially those operating in an international labour market and with board-level influence – Paul Turner identified talent management and employee engagement as the most critical for HR professionals as they seek to build capability behind strategic positions.Talent management 4.0 in a global context“The world is an open market for talented people,” said Paul. “That should drive a lot of what organisations do. No company has the ability to grow all of its own talent and there simply isn’t enough talent to satisfy demand. This means organisations simply have to be brilliant at communicating who they are to potential and current employees in order to attract them.“Talent management has also evolved. Talent management in the 21st century is different to talent management in the 20th century. If you like, we are looking at talent management 4.0: multicultural, multigenerational, global and transparent.“We have a complex new environment without the same boundaries we had previously where now people are active participants and not an audience. Individuals are making things happen. HR and employers have to be more adaptable and open-minded as a result.”On this analysis, now more than ever, HR’s role has come of age to become truly about people. Having the insights and the ability to communicate and support an appealing employee brand or value proposition are now central to the function. A company can then deliver on its competitive advantage by connecting with and inspiring the talent it needs; an idea echoed in Paul Turner and co-author Danny Kalman’s new book, Make Your People Before You Make Your Products: Using Talent Management to Achieve Competitive Advantage in Global Organizations. (Published by Wiley in October 2014)“If we take talent management as a continuum, we’ve moved along it so talent strategy now needs to embrace all employees, not just the high-potential ones,” says Paul. “Therefore what employers offer in terms of talent management has to be distinctive and appeal across the generations: Generation X, Generation Y, and soon Generation Z”Employee engagement: joining the personal and professionalUnderstanding people, harnessing their individual aspirations and aligning these with the company’s objectives to deliver employee engagement is the other great challenge for HR today says Paul Turner.“Employee engagement is all about giving people a chance to perform powerfully in a way that no other can copy. Engaging talent is therefore a critical function for HR. Its role here is therefore to create a culture, a context, where talent can flourish, which drives towards employee engagement.”A new paradigm: open-minded leadership?For a more broad-based and inclusive approach to talent and engagement to take hold, and to restore trust in business leaders for this to happen, Paul Turner points to the need for a new set of leadership traits that reflect the challenges of a more open and transparent age.“Businesses need a more nuanced approach rather than a hierarchical approach to leadership,” says Paul. “Technology is a great leveler. There is now more information from more sources. This means leaders have to have the ability to stay true to themselves and to listen too.“In the global context, and for international HR particularly, leaders need to be transparent, have an open mind and the ability to listen to news from across the company and network,” he says. This means leadership that is not only different, but also authentic.The road ahead The HR profession has worked long and hard to make the case for a seat on the board, ultimately winning the argument. Now the agenda is about rising to the challenges and delivering on the promise of a company’s people. Is Paul Turner confident that HR professionals have the information and the skills needed to unpick the complex challenges, both now and ahead, in this era of constant change, globalization and talent scarcity?“Our profession is based on our knowledge of people, plus our ability to get the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time,” said Paul. “With HR analytics, a generation of focused and skilled people, who are passionate about the work they do, and events that share good practice and learning, like the People Innovation conference, HR has the tools to have those insights that align HR with strategy. I am very confident that we as professionals can rise to the challenges.”