Why Talent Management no longer matters

Since McKinsey in 1998 published their article on “The War For Talents” it has been widely accepted that Talent Management should be a key priority for any HR department. Actually, make that for any top management team in the world. Indeed when surveyed “Talent Management” or “Attracting the right talent” always come up as one of the top three priorities for US and European CEO’s.

So, is that how it should be? Well, I think it is. But let’s look at the convincing case there actually is for why talent management is not that important. It goes something like this:

Between 1980-2000 the use of big Talent Management programs declined rapidly. This was mostly evident in companies well-known for their extensive programs such as AT&T, IBM, Citi Group etc. Why? There are many reasons for that. A few are:

  1. Loyalty fell and therefore the turnover of key employees rose. When they leave they take the investment with them.
  2. Companies went through so many restructurings that talents were not so much in demand.
  3. Global competition made talent forecast very uncertain and long development programs either yielded too few or too many talents.
  4. The high unemployment rate in the 80’s meant that it was easy to buy cheap young talent – there were so many available talents around and it was therefore cheaper to buy than to make.

The first three points are still relevant now – perhaps more than ever. So consider the fourth. Look at the chart below. Unemployment rate in US is now at 9%-10% but the youth unemployment rates are sky high- almost at 20%! And many of these are well-educated. The same is true in Europe – in Spain the rate is above 40%!

Perhaps companies do not need to invest in expensive Talent Management programs. There is plenty of well-educated young people around who can be hired for less.


  1. Wow – We disagree totally. GE figures it takes three years to evaluate an employee to decide if they have high potential. Then it takes ten years to develop the leadership skills to get them ready for more senior role.

    We would like to have an ongoing dialog, but first, I suggest you check out two blogs:

    Our most recent one on GE and one of the Chief Learning Officer’s ideas on Long Term Strategic Leadership Advantage (LTSLA) http://www.mentorresources.com/blog/bid/104810/Mentoring-and-Coaching-at-GE-Healthcare
    and an older one on “The War for Talent” and IBM

    But we are biased, as mentoring experts we believe that ALL talent development, leadership training, or change management programs should have a mentoring component to improve their efficiency. On our website, we have a variety of free tools to help managers develop and manage mentoring programs.

    Elizabeth Pearce & Kim Wise

  2. Hi Elizabeth and Kim
    Appreciate your comment – great to hear from you.
    I hope I also made it clear in the post that I also disagree with the ‘case against talent management’. I just felt it was interesting to try to look at things from the other side.
    Would like to enter a dialog
    Best Morten

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s