The professionalisation of Talent Management

By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt and Chris Tenga

Since the focus on Talent Management started in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the field grew in importance and has always been viewed as an integral part of the Human Resources (HR) profession. Several HR Professional Bodies exist across the globe today, for example the South African Board for People Practice (SABPP), the Institute for People Management (IPM), CIPD, SHRM and many more. Talent Management is an element of most of the Human Resources Profession Models adopted by these various professional bodies. Is it however time to view Talent Management as a separate profession?

Talent Management has become a crucial function in a world of work that is becoming more complex because of various factors such as remote working, virtual teams and -management, technology, changing workforce dynamics and demographics. Exploring Talent Management as a separate profession from Human Resources will allow it to fully realise its scope and impact in organisations.

When viewing various definitions of the word “profession” some common characteristics can be identified. The New Mexico State University[1], Van Rensburg, Basson & Carrim[2],  and the CIPD[3]  summarized the common characteristics of a profession and what it means to be a professional as follows:

Common characteristics of a profession How this applies to Talent Management
It has an expert body of knowledge and skills required to perform. Talent Management certainly has an expert body of knowledge and skills required to perform Talent Management as evidenced in the inclusion of Talent Management standards, skills and capabilities in the models of various HR Professional Bodies.
It requires extensive and specialized training and/or education. Talent Management has been included in most HR Curricula at universities and there are many independent training providers delivering shorter courses on Talent Management. The question is however whether this inclusion of Talent Management in the HR Curriculum is conducive in highlighting the specialization of Talent Management. The company Allaboardafrica has developed standards[4] unique to Talent Management and has been certifying Talent Management Professionals based on this standard for the past 10 years. It seems that it is time to expand this on a broader basis to ensure that professionals involved in Talent Management has the necessary focus to make Talent Management work in the organisations or the clients where they deliver services. Based on a 2018 study by McKinsey[5], only 5% of the respondents in their survey indicated that their organizations’ Talent Management has been very effective. This while the McKinsey research showed that organizations with effective Talent Management programs have a better chance than other companies of outperforming competitors and, among publicly owned companies, are likelier to outpace their peers’ returns to shareholders.
Its services are vital to society’s well-being and has an ethical responsibility in using its knowledge for the good of society. There is no doubt that Talent Management Professionals could do harm to society if their knowledge is not used to the good of society. For example, think of the damage it could do to the organisation and society if the Talent Management Professional advises on the appointment of someone in a critical role based on dubious personal reasons?
Its practitioners usually have a high degree of autonomy in deciding how to carry out their job. As “Strategic Business Partners” Talent Management Professionals deliver services either as internal employees or external consultants. These practitioners usually have a high level of autonomy as they create frameworks for Talent Management that will be followed by the organisations.
Practitioners must undergo a process of certification or licensing to be eligible to carry out certain tasks or provide certain services according to the standards of performance in the occupation. At this stage certification/licensing as a Talent Management Practitioner is not compulsory and as long as a person has an HR Qualification or Certification, they are deemed as qualified to also deliver Talent Management Services. Talent Management does however have psychological outcomes as identified by Dr. Shadiya Mohamed Saleh Baqutayan[6] in her research. This means that Talent Management Professionals should be aware of these aspects and this requires specific Education. The Talent Management Best Practices™ (TMBP™) Standard[7] further sets out the standards of performance in the occupation and practitioners should be certified according to those.
Licensing gives practitioners an exclusive legal right to provide those services. Although Psychologists require licensing from a legal perspective, licensing in the Human Resources and Talent Management space in South Africa and many other countries is not a legal requirement and it is not anticipated that this will change soon.
Professionals are usually organized in “societies” (e.g. the SABPP, the HPCSA, etc.) that promulgate “ethics codes”. Talent Management Professionals are currently organised in Human Resources Societies and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) focuses on talent development specifically. The International Talent Management Academy (iTMA) intends to focus on the full spectrum of Talent Management.
There is a common identity within the professional community and a sense of loyalty to fellow practitioners. Allaboardafrica[8] has created a lively community of Talent Management Professionals, but this is limited. The aim of the International Talent Management Academy (iTMA) is to bring Talent Management Professionals across the globe together to create a professional community that will focus on expanding the study of Talent Management.
Trust and quality of service is important in professional relationships with clients. Talent Management often works with confidential individual information (e.g., the results of psychometric tests or career information that employees would like to be used in a judicious manner). The Talent Management Professional is put in a position of trust and is expected to use the information to the benefit of the individual and the organisation.
Continuing professional development is a requirement to ensure that expert knowledge is continuously updated to maintain the relevant level of professional skill. Talent Management is constantly evolving, and new tools are added to the practicing of the function. Allaboardafrica has for example developed a wide selection of tools for managing the various stages of the Talent Delivery Value Chain™ (TDVC™)[9].

Based on our analysis, we are of the view that Talent Management is on its way of becoming a profession on its own. iTMA’s ambition is to Build Talent Management Excellence and its purpose is to provide Talent Management Professionals with best-in-class learning opportunities to ensure talent and business success. The creation of iTMA is only the first small step in the professionalisation of Talent Management as there are many other aspects that should be put in place to ensure this. It is however a necessary first step to ensure that those delivering Talent Management services in organisations have the capability to ensure talent and business success.

[1] NMSU. (not dated). What is a profession? Retrieved from the internet on 19 March 2021 at https://web.nmsu.edu/~dscoccia/323web/323profeth.pdf

[2] Van Rensburg, H., Basson, J., & Carrim, N. (2011). Human resource management as a profession in South Africa. SA Journal of Human Resource Management/SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 9(1), Art. #336, 15 pages. doi:10.4102/sajhrm.v9i1.336. retrieved from the internet on 21 March 2021 at https://sajhrm.co.za/index.php/sajhrm/article/view/336/353

[3] CIPD. (2017). HR professionalism: what do we stand for? retrieved from the internet of 19 March 2021 at https://peopleprofession.cipd.org/Images/professional-identity-research-report-updatedPFFMay20_tcm29-17960.pdf

[4]http://www.allaboardafrica.com/assets/images/footer/THE%20TMBP%20STANDARD%20_%20OFFICIAL%20BRIEF.pdf

[5] McKinsey and Company. (2018). Winning with your talent-management strategy. retrieved on 19 March 2021 from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Organization/Our%20Insights/Winning%20with%20your%20talent%20management%20strategy/Winning-with-your-talent-management-strategy.pdf?shouldIndex=false

[6] Baqutayan, Shadiya. (2014). Is Talent Management Important? An Overview of Talent Management and the Way to Optimize Employee Performance. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 5. 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n23p2290. Retrieved from the internet on 20 March 2021 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286702236_Is_Talent_Management_Important_An_Overview_of_Talent_Management_and_the_Way_to_Optimize_Employee_Performance/citation/download

[7] http://www.allaboardafrica.com/tmbp%20overview.html

[8] http://www.allaboardafrica.com/inspiredby.html

[9] http://www.allaboardafrica.com/ctp%20overview.html