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Thinking Talent Management, the Supply Chain Manager’s Way

Apr 09, 2020


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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First it was disruption and now Coronavirus, Talent Managers time and again have been fighting unforeseen battles. But can they plan and prepare for such uncertainties? After all, nothing is worse than fighting your opponents unarmed. Professor Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources, answers a resounding: yes.

In his book Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty, professor Cappelli contends human resources have been customarily confined to “touchy-feely, squishy stuff with little applicability to business problems. HR practices have typically been about meeting individuals’ needs, figuring out what psychological profile they fit and what should be done to help them grow and advance.”

C-suite world over has resonated with these sentiments in anxious heartbeats. As their dependence and expectations from the talent leaders multiply multifold, they eagerly wait for talent leaders to find that fine balance between personnel and profits. Talent leaders to act as “their active partners in success” and not just passive sideline contributors.

Professor Cappelli posits a solution at hand - Manage your talent supply chain like your regular supply chain. Drawing parallels between the two, he said:

“Failing to manage your company’s talent needs is the equivalent of failing to manage your supply chain.”- Peter Cappelli

Tapping into a supply chain manager’s mind

We tried to identify the similarities between a supply chain manager and a talent manager’s role and could relate raw materials with recruitment; value-add with training, development, and mobility; just-in-time with planning; continuous supply with succession planning; and global supply chains with the global workforce.

Suddenly it began to make a lot of sense and we were intrigued to delve deeper into a supply chain manager’s mind. How exactly does a supply chain manager think? One aspect that flared up was the supply chain manager’s readiness for uncertainties and irregularities. Surprises are a way of life for supply chain managers and they are always up with their contingency plans. Questions like “Do we have the necessary items in stock, where can I source these items and who are my most trusted suppliers, is it cheaper to store items or to buy them as and when needed” are embedded in their thinking software and keep replaying in the background as they proceed with their day to day activities.

Build, borrow or buy

Supply managers seldom depend on one source for their supplies. With changing work modalities, talent managers these days have the freedom to pick people from a wide array of sources. They can leverage talent as full-time employees, gig workers or contractors. They can also efficiently plug talent leakages and eliminate all inefficient processes by mobilizing and appointing talent on as “as-needed” grounds. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Relinquish excessive dependence on homegrown
  • Build (skill and upskill) talent for consistent and training intensive roles
  • Buy talent for temporary and urgent needs
  • Borrow talent for less critical, uneven in demand and cyclical roles

Plan, manage and deploy with data

While on one hand technology advancement and business model innovation have disrupted the way talent managers have been working, on the other, it has given them fabulous tools to deal with it in super-efficient ways. Data can come to assistance and it can give insights that weren’t possible earlier. We identified four levels where these insights can be valuable: getting a holistic view of the overall talent needs within the organization and identifying exigencies in different departments; setting up core skills and establishing and utilizing a common set of talent across the supply chain; forging an integrated talent management approach to measure and optimize talent; aligning talent strategies with business goals.

Talent management cannot afford to function as an isolated function. To achieve maximum efficiency, Talent leaders need to get a holistic picture of the organization and drive it as one single umbrella.

If the above looks overwhelming, to get deeper insights and understanding, talent managers can involve leaders from different nodes. They can form a governance council involving leads from IT, operations, design, and others and collect needed inputs to forge the path ahead as one single platoon.

Leverage Analytics

Technologies can help talent managers at multiple levels. Integrated Human Capital Management (HCM) suites and Human Resource Information System (HRIS) can assist in demand forecasting; benchmarking current talent inventory against future demands; identifying functional needs and core competencies, and driving competitive advantage. A visual view gives more impact and clarity. We suggest:

  • Data warehousing and reporting tools: To aggregate and rearrange data which can give quick insights.
  • HRIS/ HCM/ HRMS solutions: To collate data and insights from different points.
  • Visualization tools: To collect data from different sources.

Technologies that have opened a grave skill gap can also help talent managers pin their reskilling and upskilling needs which is crucial in the age of AI and robotics.

Sum up:

Tech disruption, millennials, gig economy, ever-expanding skill gaps and now coronavirus have knocked down all conventional business ways. As we see it, these disruptions are here to stay. To get attuned to changing work modalities, talent managers, like their colleagues in the supply chain management, need to create and follow through continuous contingency plans. In 2020, talent leaders have a larger business-oriented role to play and it is vital not just for the businesses but for entire economies’ survival. Your quick thoughts and quick actions can create a crucial difference.

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