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Is Workforce Management really Talent Management?

Posted by Amy Wilson on August 14, 2008


Bill Kutik asked me this question recently. I fumbled with an answer and then (naturally) went straight for my cocktail napkin and hid in a corner. I do have the rather unique background of *strategizing* in not only talent management and workforce management, but also project resource management. As a result, I have benefited from seeing firsthand the startling similarities in these major (and usually considered distinct) business processes. I need to figure this out!

Here’s my sketch. What do you think?

5 Responses to “Is Workforce Management really Talent Management?”

  1. Meg Bear said

    once again you are attempting to make me think. I do like the idea of thinking of these things as a continuum vs. unique since they are all about people and how they strategically impact the business. Not sure I want to consider Talent as a yearly outlook though (although I recognize that for most that is a stretch already).

  2. Sherri Bartels said

    It’s a good start, but I do believe that they are distinct processes. I think we need to show that the two concepts differ in the business processes they encompass as well as the end goal of those business processes. If I look at the graph above, I can reasonably say that it could be either a WFM or a TM graph for all of those types of employees. One could argue that Talent Management also applies to organizations who’s objective is to build up and create efficiency in skills of their hourly workforce. And likewise, Workforce Management can help productivity in an exempt organization or even in professional services. It’s not just for the hourly workforce.

    What I believe needs to be conveyed is the importance that the two have to each other. That the Talent Management strategy impacts how well an organization will be able to execute on it’s objectives and utilize it’s workforce (kind of like “garbage in/garbage out”)and that by monitoring how you are deploying your workforce and trying to execute to your plans provides critical data that can better align your Talent Management strategy.

    I’ve always seen Talent Management about enabling organizations to better acquire, develop, and retain their people whether those people are hourly, salaried, projects based, it doesn’t matter.

    Workforce Management is about how to use and deploy the people you already have and how you get the most out of what you’ve got and identify where your meeting or not meeting your objectives, demand, customer service levels, quality, sales, project deadlines, billable hours, work orders, patient’s needs, etc.

    And my vision is that eventually with Workforce Planning, Analytics and Predictive, we’ll be able to use the wealth of data that Time and Labor, Absences, and/or Scheduing provide in order to link WFM back to TM and close the loop by identifying the root causes of problems and prescribe recommendations that impact an organization’s talent management strategy of just what requisitions they should be opening in the first place, and what availability or skills they should be hiring, or what training should be prescribed to which people, or dare I say, who should be layed off.

    Thanks for starting the thought process on this. It’s good stuff.

  3. Amy Wilson said

    Meg/Sherri – thanks for your thoughts! You have both pointed out the first major error in this sketch and that is the reference to “hourly/yearly.” The “ly” brings a certain connotation that I did not intend. Instead, it should say the outlook for talent management is “years” versus the outlook for WFM is “hours.” In other words, though the objectives are all people placement, the horizon for that placement differs. Thus, an hourly worker could be placed on a task for the next couple hours, but also be up for a rotational assignment that lasts a couple years.

  4. Howard Shaw said

    Interesting concept Amy, and certainly puts focus on an issue we (meaning those of us on the project resource management side) have been trying to grapple with as well. Specifically, the issue that although these are distinct processes to some extent, in many ways they share functional and process similarities. We should be able to better integrate these similarities so that a more seamless productized solution can be possible.

    Could be daunting to go through the process of picking and choosing which specific features can be shared, but by doing so one could design in flexibility ahead of time so that it could support all processes without seeming too generic. And the time savings alone from having to re-create overlapping processes could justify such an exercise.

    For example, in professional services, we are concerned with having the “right team”, whereas in staffing we’re thinking “right task”. Even though our focus on their skillsets and knowledge differ, the ability to share that info is needed by all, as invariably that info could be needed in multiple situations.

  5. Amy Wilson said

    Thanks for the comments, Howard! I agree that there are lots of underlying similarities to tackle, but here are a few to consider:

    – Experience & Qualifications – The individual’s past performance as an indicator of getting the job done in the future.
    – Interests & Preferences – The individual’s desire to perform that task, work on that day, work on that team, move to that location. With talent management, we combine these things and take them a step further, considering potential or future value to an organization. I don’t think that same concept is in PRM or WFM, but I could be wrong.
    – Workforce Planning – The organization’s future needs both macro and micro. As Sherri mentions above, this is what really ties these things together from a business management perspective.

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