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Defining talent management

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Fri May 15 2009

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I'm reviewing Larry Israelite's manuscript for his forthcoming book Talent Management: Best Practices and Strategies for Success from Six Leading Companies, and "at the risk of biting the hand that feeds" him says that he feels that ASTD's definition of talent management is too complex:

ASTD's definition (as published in the "ASTD Talent Management Practices and Opportunities" research report): "A holistic approach to optimizing human capital, which enables an organization to drive short- and long-term results by building culture, engagement, capability, and capacity through integrated talent acquisition, development, and deployment processes that are aligned to business goals."

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Larry's definition: "The collection of things companies do that help employees do the best they can each and every day in support of their own and the company's goals and objectives."

Now these are very different definitions. One has 38 words, the other has 29. One uses terms like "holistic approach," "optimizing human capital," and "integrated talent acquisition"; while the other talks about helping people "do the best they can." They obviously have different audiences: The ASTD definition is geared toward specialized professionals who use specialized language, while Larry's definition is geared toward anyone who works. And that last difference is part of Larry's point: talent management is not the sole domain of human resources professionals, but really belongs to everyone.

So what is talent management? Does it belong to everyone, or should it mainly concern human resources professionals? What other definitions are out there? When people talk about talent management, are they talking about the same things? It's a hot topic these days, but why does it matter? Does it matter more or less now given the difficult state of the economy? Any thoughts?

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