The responsibilities and drivers of talent management teams have certainly evolved. How a business invests in its people has drastically changed throughout most of our lifetimes. So how and why has this function developed and what further evolution can we expect to see in the near future?

The evolution of talent management

If we take a look back 15 years or so, the talent management and engagement space looked remarkably different to what we recognise today. A company’s employee value proposition (EVP) was very much focused on two things: office space and benefits.

Businesses believed – perhaps rightly so – that the top drivers of talent were to work in a good, and sometimes slightly futuristic, office space and have access to additional benefits such as gym memberships or discount schemes. It was very common, therefore, to see talent management practitioners dedicating resources to identifying the best benefit packages and creating a physical work space that stood out from the competition.

The benefits offering evolved slightly when organisations introduced wellness initiatives. This was, however, very much driven by the perceived impact on bottom line figures. As companies recognised the cost saving that could be made if every employee had one less sick day, ensuring the workforce remained healthy became a priority.

What is clear looking back at the talent management and engagement landscape during this period, is that it was very much driven by the benefit to the business and the brand’s profile. Very little emphasis was put on what the end user wanted.

The landscape today

What talent management and engagement looks like today, though, is very different. There has been a rapid change in corporate culture and employee demands that mean the traditional approaches are no longer relevant.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the creation of flexible working practices. Not only have legislative changes made it easier for employees to request the option to work part-time or away from the office, for example, but current and potential employees have also demanded it. Given the increased cost of living, many individuals are finding that they are much better off working flexibly. And as digital developments such as the Cloud have made it easier to work away from the office, talent management practitioners have increasingly had to adapt employment structures.

The result is that the age-old focus on creating a top-class office environment is less relevant. As fewer employees find themselves permanently based in the company building, there is no longer such a need to improve the work space.

The needs of the emerging generation have also impacted how organisations engage with talent. The employer of choice proposition has shifted from materialistic needs to lifestyle wants. Generation Z – those that follow on from the Millenials – wants much more from an employer than ever before, but what they are after is now increasingly difficult to provide.

These individuals want to work for a business that appeals to their personality; one that has a sense of corporate social responsibility, allows a balance of work and home life, provides greater development opportunities and fits in with their lifestyle.

As a result, talent management practitioners now have to create an EVP that is agile enough to appeal to the individual personalities of the masses and evolve with changing demands. While flexible working options are now commonplace, there is still an element of a one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t sustainable in today’s environment.

What has certainly developed, though, is the recognition that organisations need to really listen to what employees want and be prepared to adapt engagement strategies and the company EVP to suit this feedback. But what does the future of talent management look like?

The future

While it’s impossible to predict exactly what is waiting around the corner in such a volatile environment, there are a few indicators as to how talent management and engagement will evolve over the coming years. In the first instance, businesses will increasingly find that individuals will drive initiatives, rather than the company. As the end-user continues to demand more, organisations will need to allow candidates and employees to decide for themselves what a good experience looks like for them. In essence, talent management practitioners will need to become better communicators, including the ability to ask for, and listen to, feedback from staff.

Secondly, it will become increasingly important to let employees communicate the EVP, rather than having this message come from the brand. Given that individuals now want a more personal approach, it perhaps makes sense to let staff engage with potential talent – after all, they are the individuals that are best placed to paint a realistic picture of the company.

The future of talent management, then, lies in handing greater control over to the talent itself – a tricky move for any professional to make. But it simply can’t be ignored that staff and candidates want a much more tailored approach to engagement strategies. Putting the power in their hands will not only satisfy the needs of the end-user, but is also likely to deliver greater success.

Iain Blair heads up Rethink Group's Talent Management offering which provides people solutions on a global basis. The team helps HR professionals, procurement and business leaders to improve performance across the entire spectrum of talent management.