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ATD Blog

Does Your Talent Pipeline Flow Without a Flaw?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In the knowledge economy, talent management is an organization’s lifeline to success and safety. It sustains competitive advantage and stems the tide of the competition. To master talent management, one must grasp the meaning of the concept.

Aside from all the activities the concept might encompass, talent management is essentially a flow problem. In most flow problems, there is a pipeline involved, math to describe the mechanics of motion, and a meaning that provides a sense of purpose.

So what goes into the talent pipeline?

People enter and exit the pipeline all the time. To keep the pipeline replenished, organizations must:

  • Recruit for business need and diversity. Business need dictates the skillsets required and diversity of backgrounds and outlook is an insurance policy against stale thinking.
  • Retain the best talent.
  • Redeploy the rest. This may involve realignment from a career perspective, retraining or, when all else fails, removing the misfits from your ranks.
  • Reach out to retirees and profit by their wealth of expertise and their intimate knowledge of your organization.
  • Reassess business need and repeat.

Next, what about the mechanics of flow? Flow is simply a function of the difference between potential and resistance. An individual experiences flow when ability (potential) matches the challenges that lie ahead (resistance) and eventually overcomes them, only to proceed to conquer the next challenge along their professional path, a journey that alternates between biking uphill and coasting downhill.


Finally, what about the meaning of flow? Experiencing flow signifies a mental state of mind when people feel fully engaged in what they do, when they continually gain functional knowledge and cross-functional perspective, and when they feel equally autonomous and accountable, motivated, and empowered to scale new heights. The opposite of flow is stagnation, or apathy in the talent pipeline—signifying a complete lack of verve and velocity. In other words, this is when employee potential goes to waste and the talent pipeline clogs up causing systemic inefficiencies and higher costs.

To optimize flow inside your talent pipeline, an organization must continually review talent management activities and ensure they are aligned with corporate strategy. What’s more, that the talent community—the employees—needs to feel a sense of control over its development and destiny. These four principals can serve as guideposts to your talent management processes:

  1. Empower people to create their own path within their own position.
  2. Invest in reskilling and upskilling of your workforce.
  3. Create opportunities for experiential learning.
  4. Keep the conversation with your people flowing.

Bottom line: organizations prosper when people live up to their potential. To unlock people’s potential, organizations must ensure their talent pipelines are plumbed correctly to achieve flow without flaws.

About the Author

Ali Agha is the president of Think-Cycle Consulting. He specializes in leadership development and strategy and risk management. He has delivered learning solutions for organizations including Memphis, Light, Gas and Water (MLG&W), the nation’s largest three service public utility, Al-Jazeera Network, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and others. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester and Lehigh University, respectively. Contact him at [email protected].

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