Senior Executives, Not HR, Are Key to the Selection of Talent

by Michael Haberman on February 10, 2012 · 1 comment

In their book, The Talent Advantage, Alan Weiss and Nancy MacKay make the comment “…winning the war for talent starts at the top with the CEO; CEO is the brand for attracting, recruiting, retaining world-class talent in your industry; CEO is the exemplar for striving for extraordinary leadership; CEO must play a lead role in building a leadership talent pool for competitive advantage; CEO is key to holding senior executives accountable for attracting, recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent; CEO must partner with HR to align talent management strategically….” Obviously they think that senior executives are key in the selection of talent.

I am sure Weiss and MacKay are happy with the recent results of a January 2012 survey of 562 senior managers and executives by AMA Enterprise. That survey found that fifty-five percent of survey respondents named senior executives as most responsible for identifying high-potential employees. In addition to senior executives the survey also found “…others identified in the survey as responsible for identifying high-potential employees were managers (52 percent) and directors (44 percent). HR staffs were identified by 33 percent of respondents as playing a role in spotting high-potential employees. Training and development (T&D) staffs (11 percent) play a relatively minor role.”

The small percent of respondents identifying HR as a necessary component in identifying talent is also anticipated by Weiss and MacKay. Their first chapter is subtitled “Human Resources is to Talent Search as Airplane Food is to Fine Dining.” They go onto list 10 reasons that talent selection should not be delegated to HR. These include:

  1.    Lack of business acumen and financial literacy.
  2.     Lack of understanding of strategic plan and business priorities.
  3.     Lack of understanding of the skills, behaviors, and experience required for each role.
  4.     Lack of relationships with internal top talent.
  5.     Lack of relationships with external top talent.
  6.     Lack of accountability for business results.
  7.     Lack of decision making authority.
  8.     Lack of industry knowledge and key recruiting trends.
  9.     Lack of sales and marketing expertise.
  10.     HR as a staff function.

The survey also showed that only a minority of organizations place the whole responsibility for talent selection in the hands of human resources. This list and this survey are a clarion call to HR and echoes frequent complaints about HR.

There are however companies in which HR is heavily involved with talent selection. We would like to hear from you. How have your overcome this damning list? Or have you?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lyn H February 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

The tweet about “Hey, HR is senior leadership.” was an interesting take. But, while this post provokes a good bullet list for HR to understand how to be more involved with talent search on a senior level, I still see it as an organizations overall responsibility to loop HR into talent needs beyond paperwork and resume filtering. If an organization does not educate their HR department on the strategic plan and business priorities then shame on them. Silos won’t help talent identification.

On the flip side. I want a Senor Art Director to hire a designer by resume and portfolio evaluation – not the HR department. It is a cooperative process where expertise has to be a component. And HR should not be offended by that.

Besides, IMHO HR will most always be left out of the most senior recruiting. It is done socially, word of mouth, at country clubs, golf courses and the latest philanthropic gala.

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