Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Talent Management

Ooh, there's a new buzz word out there in learning technologies. We're no longer content with an LMS (Learning Management System; I know you knew that right?) that does all that usual learning and development thingy and allows you to track courses and manage all your training? No, now it's all about 'talent'. Or is it? Is this a new dressing on an old idea? Is this like calling me follically challenged rather than the more abrupt and yet slightly more accurate 'bald'?
Partially yes, talent management for existing employees in layman's terms is about matching existing skills, qualifications etc to the needs of the organisation, working out where the gaps are and arranging your training to fill those gaps. Think back two years and we'd have been talking about competency based training and becoming a competency based organisation. The good news is if you're using an LMS with the ability to link to your HR system and that supports a competency framework that you've implemented to automate your training you're probably well on the way to 'talent management' already. If your LMS doesn't do this you're probably using an older more rigid LMS or Moodle. Either way you should consider an upgrade to Totara LMS which is Open Source and great if you ask me (yes, I have a slight lean in this direction and often implement Totara installations for organisations). If you have this and don't know how to approach talent management then drop me a note and I'll try and help!

Of course having the capability to manage your internal talent is not the same as actually doing it. Many organisations have competencies in place but are still more task-based than competency based truth be known and only work with competencies at the current level rather than aspirational positions. If you really want to maximise your talent this will come less from your LMS and more from your internal processes and procedures; this is more about management which has always been more about knowing your people and the organisation, than the system you use to record and manipulate this.

The other part of talent management is about attracting new talent in to your organisation. This is where we start to get muddy in the LMS world. What are you now asking of your previously called LMS? We want a recruiting system to form a major part of the software?! Of course, because it's not good enough to have an LMS that does what it should do about learning, we want it to do wider functions. This is where I think we're starting to go a little awry. I know the wheel needs re-inventing every so often, but this is like trying to put four newly invented wheels on the same car! I thought we'd got past this mega-systems approach to software? No, don't be daft Nigel, everyone likes a good mega approach don't they? Surely your LMS ought to be able to make you as good a Latte as the barrista down the street?
So here's our new 'car'. It's got more wheels than an articulated (no relation) lorry and they are all doing different things. Seems to me that if you had this kind of office vehicle that getting on and off it maybe a bit of a labour of love. I mean, if it's going to do everything and go everywhere maybe I'll just take the bike as I only want to go two blocks? I guess this takes us around to the argument of whether or not we want our software to be able to do everything for us or not.. in fact, that's not really it is it? Because yes it would be great if it did everything, but the question is whether it does everything as well as a dedicated piece of software. So if a system is designed to look after my Human Resources stuff or payroll - I want it to do that really well. If it is designed for learning than I want it to be really good at learning.. you get the theme here..

The problem is that there isn't a single system that delivers the best of everything; that's true of even the core functions of an LMS, let alone managing wider things like your recruitment and HR systems.

I've got a better solution. What about a modular type approach to your systems. This way you pick your HR system, pick your LMS, pick your reporting systems, financial systems, whatever you want to do system. Then they talk. Lets look at an analogy that might work better than my vehicular one above. A small business can work well with a few staff who can do a large number of different types of task; it makes sense for them, but as you get bigger and expand you need specialists to do specific tasks; do you want your billing and accounts staff being the ones designing your graphics and delivering your training? The only issue is getting individuals/departments/software packages to talk to each other.

My advice on talent management is this; you definitely should do it, this mostly comes from knowing your staff and business and being committed to improvement. The system you should choose to do it should be the one that's best for your organisation; if that's an LMS then great, but more importantly make sure whatever you choose does have the capability to link in to your HR, LMS and other systems you run. In good business, talent management, learning and life; communication is the key.

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