Predictions about the nature of future work and the way work is performed have been ripe, but organizations also must tackle the issue of attracting and retaining talent. We’ve previously looked at the future of talent recruitment, but what about talent management?

The Future of Talent Management

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In this post, we’ll explore what talent management entails and why it’s an important aspect of organization’s operations. We’ll examine the current situation and the key challenges facing organizations. Finally, we’ll introduce five trends key to the future of talent management.


Before we start exploring the trends in talent management, it’s auspicious to remind yourself about the concept and its importance.

First, what does talent mean in this context? The official dictionary definition lists different meanings for the word, one of which explains talent to be “a capacity for achievement or success”. Therefore, talented people are individuals who can make a difference to an organization through their contribution.

When organizations are looking for attracting and retaining these talented individuals, they must look into talent management. Talent management is therefore a set of human resource (HR) processes, which are used for boosting company performance in a sustainable manner. It’s a systematic approach to attracting, identifying, developing, deploying and retaining these high contributing individuals.

But why does talent management matter? There are a number of reasons why attracting and retaining talent should be at the top of a company’s ‘to do’ list. First, talent management can help understand the organization’s current talent pool better. Knowing about the current talent pool and the future shortages can help companies focus their recruitment efforts and align company objectives around the talent they have. It essentially allows the company to make better use of the resources they have available.

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Talent management can also improve the organization’s competitive advantage. As the organization can ensure the top talent wants to work for them, not the competitor, they are able to select the best team. The continuous focus on training is also essential for ensuring long-term benefits of the talent. If employees notice the organization invests in its employees and is the leader within the industry, it can guarantee the top talent doesn’t look elsewhere for employment opportunities.

Furthermore, with the help of talent management, the organization can solve many common retention and recruitment difficulties. The different practices can guarantee the organization offers enough advancement opportunities, provides the kind of benefits talented individuals are after and ensures the right fit for the organization gets hired in the first place. With increased knowledge about the current talent, the future talent and the company’s needs, recruitment will be more focused and therefore, faster and more efficient.

Studies have also found a link between proper talent management and better financial performance. The companies with the best leadership and talent management capabilities were able to increase their revenues faster than companies that overlook this aspect of recruitment and HR.

Finally, appropriate emphasis on talent management answers possible skills shortages within an organization. The organization will be more aware of what the current skill landscape is and how to improve it. It can also help the company decide on the training and cross-training options, as resources won’t be faced in areas that don’t currently require attention.


The current landscape is going through an adjustment for a ‘war for talent’. This is largely driven by skill shortages and organizations are therefore fighting over the scarce talent pools. ‘The war for talent’ was coined in 1997 by McKinsey & Co, when they published a similarly named article. The company used data to suggest the competition for talent is heating up, as managerial talent is becoming increasingly scarce.

Organizations have indeed been reporting on the lack of suitable candidates. It isn’t just the lack of technical skills recruiters are worried about, but candidates also lack soft skills. Research by global management consultancy Hay Group found last year the lack of skills starts as early as graduate recruitment. Almost 90% of respondents believed less than half of the graduates in the UK have the talents needed for the roles they are applying for. Furthermore, 77% said they’ve hired ill-properly skilled staff to roles simply because of lack of choice.

But the issue isn’t just visible at the graduate level. Organizations are also reporting issues in finding suitable senior managers and directors. Again, a previous study by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) found UK companies reporting on problems in finding talented senior level managers, with internal hiring being almost non-existent in many companies.

The above has led to a creation of a plethora of talent analytics tools and strategies. Companies are increasingly focused on crunching data when it comes to talent management; trying to ensure the right candidate is hired for the role. In some sense, organizations’ focus is on the niche candidates, the employees who fit the narrow job descriptions better.

Another important part of the current talent management scene is ensuring workforce diversity. In 2015, a study found inclusion and diversity efforts were behind some of the most successful strategies of retaining talented employees. Nonetheless, the differences in approach remained between organizations that focus on talent management across the organization and those that only think of talent management as an afterthought.

Overall, while the benefits of talent management are more discussed and often identified as key for organizational success, the proper implementation of this tactic is lacking.

Below is an interesting video on the topic of the ‘war for talent’ and its next wave:


Future talent management must essentially solve three key challenges going forward. These are adjusting to the changing work environment, understanding the differences of the future employee, and shifting the process from pure talent management to people management.

The workplace is rapidly changing

The workplace is undergoing a huge change, driven by the increase in technology. Organizations aren’t reliant on permanent staff to the same extent, as work can be contracted by an individual operating on the other side of the planet.

Therefore, the new norm might be for organizations to have a small in-house staff, completed with virtual networks of freelancers and other contractors. According to the data, the US already has 15.5 million working as self-employed. What’s more interesting, is how some studies have estimated these independent workers to account for over 40% of the total US workforce by 2020.

The further chances of this could also mean the workforce will become more fluid. A talented individual might not stick to working with a single organization, but offer his or her talents to a number of companies. The fluidity will in turn increase networking, as people work with different people more regularly.

The future employee is different

As the workforce is shifting from the ‘baby boomers’ to Millennials, HR department must also prepare for a different type of employee. Already, studies have highlighted the different approach Millennials tend to have towards work.

Career development is at the centre of their plans, as the new employee is taking responsibility of their careers. This means they are careful about the applying for the jobs they want and they expect a more personal experience from the recruitment process, as well as the job. In Deloitte’s 2014 survey, 75% of Millennial respondents said the organizations they work aren’t appropriately developing future talent.

On the other hand, the future employee isn’t solely looking for financial gain and a rose-paved road to promotion. Job flexibility is high on the agenda for the Millennials, with a PwC survey finding a number of Millennials would give up pay for a more flexible schedule. Millennials are therefore prepared to work hard, just on their own terms.

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Shift from talent to people management

The final challenge talent management must resolve deals with the shift from the traditional talent management to people management. The above points, enhanced by the internationalization of the workforce, are creating a more diverse work culture. This in turn means a generic approach is unlikely to work as different people have different needs and requirements.

Therefore, organizations must ensure the focus is on improving the work culture through better engagement and empowerment. Leadership qualities must be emphasized to ensure organizations are able to hire from within and that individuals find more career climbing opportunities within an organization.

Josh Bersin, consultant on HR and talent management, has suggested companies should start thinking about employees as consumers or customers. According to Bersin, organizations should understand that most talented individuals have more opportunities now to go elsewhere if the work environment isn’t satisfactory enough. The noticeable thing is that most workers don’t seem too happy in their jobs. Bersin points out, for example, to a series of Deloitte studies, according to which, only 13% of the world’s workers are passionate about their work.


With the above challenges in mind, it’s time to turn our attention to the trends experts are expecting to see in the industry.

Trend #1: Better understanding of workforce demographics

Organizations are looking for better return on their investment and improving talent management can help cut these costs. The way organizations are going about it is through a better understanding of workforce demographics.

Focus on demographics and the better understanding of organization’s employees is crucial as workforce fluidity and scarceness are increasing. With better monitoring of the workforce demographics, the organization can identify gaps in talent for critical positions. It’s also helps determine the number of people required to fill these positions. Finally, it can help understand the right type of hire for each position.

The talent management team should use data tools to stay on top of issues such as gender, age, position, talents and so on. This gives a better understanding of the current and the future issues. For example, enhanced focus on workforce demographics will help prepare for succession, as the older generations are retiring.

Trend #2: Clearly defined job specifications

As candidates are becoming more aware of what they are looking for from the employer, clarity in job specifications is increasingly important. Both candidates and the organizations are interested in finding the right match and detailed job specifications will make this matchmaking much easier.

Well-defined roles can guarantee better job satisfaction and improve productivity. By defining the roles you don’t only enhance the productivity and collaboration within a team, but also ensure you attract the right talent to those roles. When job specifications give a clear indication of the requirements, it makes the recruitment process more straightforward. This is especially important, as different data analytic tools are becoming the norm.

Job search is likely to continue focusing on aligning the job roles with the organization’s objectives. This means companies need to focus on understanding their unique work culture and values better, in order to attract candidates who are in line with these values.

Trend #3: Strategic uses of engagement and recognition

In order to attract and retain future talent, management must focus on finding the right strategies for engaging and rewarding employees. As mentioned above, talent management is moving towards a more personalized focus, which means the strategies to engage and reward must also follow this approach.

A shift from a generic employee benefit package to a more personalized reward structure is inevitable. While competitive pay is likely going to remain an important part of the decision-making process when it comes to choosing an employer, certain other aspects might increase in importance.

The two most likely aspects to feature high on the engagement and recognition agenda are career advancement opportunities and work-life balance. Work-life balance is certainly not as good as many would hope. A study by Ernst & Young examined work-life balance in a number of global economies and found one in three full-time employed feeling the balance has become harder to achieve.

This has the potential of becoming a key competitive point for employers. In a separate study by Ernst & Young, the majority of employees wanted more flexibility without losing track on things such as promotions. Indeed, job progression is the other key strategy companies must use for future talent management. Robert Walters researched Millennials and found over 90% of them considered career progression opportunities the most important aspect of their job.

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Trend #4: Tailored training and development strategies

Relating to the point made above, future talent management will rely on tailored training and development strategies. Career progression is high on the agenda for Millennials, and it seems the training and development opportunities are what help employers with employee retention. In the Robert Walters study, 53% of Millennials complained about the lack of training and development opportunities. Furthermore, the study also found only 15% of employers focusing on tailored training programs. It’s obvious the number must increase in the future.

In addition, training and development programs are required for reducing deficiencies with current talent and prepare employees better for future roles. Development and training strategies must ensure employees are on top of the current skill peak to maintain company competitiveness and satisfy employee’s thirst for progression.

The approaches employers can implement include things such as job experience programs, mentoring and the use of peer advisors, and numerous other educational opportunities.

Trend #5: More focus on succession planning

Overall, the future talent management scene is likely going to emphasize succession planning. The ILM survey saw almost 50% of employers saying a lack of internal staff capability hinder an effective supply of leaders and managers. Organizations’ managerial vacancies are split between internal hires and external hires.

More alarmingly, in the ILM survey, over 40% of UK organizations surveyed said they didn’t have a talent plan in place. Yet, executive turnover is increasing, as organizations are looking for quicker returns. For organizations to succeed in keeping employees happy, talent management is going to have to focus more on succession planning.

The problems of bad hires are well documented. The cost is not only financial, but also affects the morale, turnover and organization reputation. By ensuring better internal hiring rates, the organization can avoid some of these drawbacks.


Future talent management is driven by the changes in the nature of work, the work environment and the needs of employers. For HR departments to attract, engage and retain highly skilled individuals, they must focus on providing a more defined and tailored experience. Talent management will move away from generic approach and instead speak to individuals as people.

Organizations should take a more pro-active rather than reactive role. Instead of trying to simply lure in the talented individuals when there is need, the future talent management will be part of identifying future requirements and helping employees train and develop their skills around these needs. This not only helps the company in succession planning and productivity, it provides the employees the benefits they are increasingly looking for: flexibility and solid career progression opportunities.

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