State of Talent Management: You Need to Get Your Senior Managers Engaged

Wonder about the state of talent management as the economy struggles to recover after the deep recession?

Here’s how a new survey views it:

Our fourth annual survey finds that the increased tenure and near universality of talent management (TM) groups still isn’t translating into consistently effective results. This year’s survey provides insights to help address that challenge. We find that senior team support, clear accountability for executing talent processes, and simple process design emerge as key drivers of TM success.”

3 key Talent Management insights

This comes from the 2011 State of Talent Management Survey that was conducted in March 2011 by the New Talent Management Network, which describes itself as the “world’s largest global network of talent management professional … with a focus on serving corporate practitioners.”

There are three key insights that come from the Executive Summary of the State of Talent Management Survey, and they are worth listing here.

  • INSIGHT 1: In charge but not in control. “The keys to talent management success appear to lie largely outside of our direct control. CEO/senior team support and managerial accountability top the list of reasons why talent management practices are successful. These factors are ranked significantly higher than more controllable factors like having a supportive head of HR or HR team. Surprisingly, HR technology seems to neither help nor hinder these processes. One bright spot – the design of TM processes was seen as a moderately powerful enabler and blocker of success. Survey analytics further show that easy to use process design is significantly related to perceived process effectiveness.”
  • INSIGHT 2: Here to stay (for now). “Those writing off TM as a passing fad or an exercise in repackaging HR will be disappointed our 2011 results. The average age of TM groups increased to just over four years and 70 percent of participating companies with more than one thousand employees had formal TM groups. A relative paucity of senior TM talent is keeping compensation at strong levels with pay packages in the $700K – $800K range for talent executives in larger companies.”
  • INSIGHT 3: Investment flows in. “In the post-recession corporate world, increased funding unmistakably signals increased corporate commitment. With 53 percent of companies increasing TM budgets and 27 percent increasing TM staff, those who control the corporate purse strings are sending a very clear message about their commitment to talent management. Mid-sized companies were most likely to see increased budgets with 74 percent of those with 5K – 15K employees receiving more cash for talent management in 2011.”

Here’s the key finding that jumped out at me from this survey: to make talent management successful, it’s all about senior management and the CEO. If they are engaged in the process, it’s likely to work. If they’re not, it probably won’t.

And one of the things that makes this an interesting survey is the makeup of the companies that took part in it, because they’re pretty large.

The survey was administered this past March and was open to any organization interested in participating — and 111 did. And these weren’t inconsequential organizations. The average revenue of participating companies was $15.8 billion, with a median revenue of $4 billion. Nearly 80 percent were based in North America, and more than 70 percent have more than 5,000 employees.

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“The results of the State of Talent Management Survey survey dramatically raise the bar for talent management leaders,” said Marc Effron, president of the Talent Strategy Group, in an e-mail about the survey. “Technical competence has been reduced to a mere a ‘ticket to entry.’ Anyone hoping to be successful in TM today has to convince the senior team that TM initiatives are both worthwhile and to hold leaders accountable for executing them. This means that influence and relationship building skills will now differentiate great TM leaders, along with a knowledge and love for the business.”

What enables talent management practices to work?

There is a lot to dig into in the 2011 State of Talent Management Survey, but one finding that jumped out at me was a list of the leading factors that enables talent management practices to work, “findings (that) were consistent across large and small firms and those with more and less experienced talent leaders.” The list includes:

  1. Executive Team Support — Accountability and executive team support are the critical ingredients in the success or failure of TM practices.
  2. Manager accountability for completing the process.
  3. CEO support.
  4. Design of process/program — Those with job experience outside HR were more likely to say talent process design was a key to success.
  5. Availability of resources.
  6. Head of HR support.
  7. HR team support.
  8. HR technology — Despite HR technology’s high cost, it’s not seen as relevant to talent practice success and only slightly related to failure.

You can get a copy of the 2011 State of Talent Management Survey here, and it is must read for any manager, executive, or HR professional who wants to stay plugged into the latest insights on where TM is heading — especially as organizations everywhere work to find the right balance in their talent management practices post recession.

“My experience as a consultant and speaking with my TM peers is that the recession was a mere blip in the ascendance of TM issues in organizations,” Effron says. “The State of Talent Management Survey shows that top TM talent is scarce, suggesting that demand is strong. The survey shows a strong increase in TM investment in every size organization. Organizations are giving our profession a great chance to prove that they can add value.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.