“The Mistake of Mixing and Matching Talent Management Tools”, or,

“It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist to do Talent Management “


In my last post I proposed that talent management has an identity crisis. Much of the blame for this situation can be placed on a lack of communication & collaboration between HR practitioners and researchers. Human resource and organizational development researchers have known for over 30 years that mixing and matching HR tools does not lead to company success. Research has consistently shown that integrated, or strategic, human resource management approaches transform HR into a profit center for businesses through reduced workforce costs and substantial gains in company performance. For example, in 1980, McKinsey reported that for fifty of the largest US corporations, nine were most successful because of strategic human resource practices. This research showed that success was not driven just by using good HR processes and tools; the difference was if the tools were used in a strategic (i.e., aligned) manner.

However, 30 years later, the vast majority of organizations that use research-based talent management are mixing and matching tools that were not aligned or integrated in any way. The tools that they purchase are supposed to fit together–they appear to be similar in many ways–but operationally, the organization is left with something that looks more like a pile of rocks than a foundation for a high performing workforce.

Typically, job analyses are conducted using the favorite model of a consulting group; the predictive assessments are usually purchased from a separate vendor–based on a different favorite model; the performance appraisals are procured through a third source–who often have no guiding model; and learning management comes from the lowest bidder! This leaves internal staff and management with the monumental task of mixing and matching pieces that appear to have come from different puzzles. In nearly all cases, if and when the results across tools are actually subjected to an evaluation, the overall return on investment is much less than expected, because there were no reliable parameters between the job, the person in the job, and job performance. The leaders are left with the choices of: a) hiring another consultant to sort out the mess, b) deciding that the tools do not work, or, c) hiding their heads in the sand.

My point here is that nearly everyone who has developed, researched, or used talent management tools has made multiple mistakes regarding alignment. In the words of Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Now we need to learn from our mistakes, refuse to jump on the bandwagon of ignorant technology solutions that cannot be aligned–or misaligned for that matter–and try something new that will actually provide value to our work…it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

2 Responses to “Mixing and Matching Human Resource Tools”, or, “It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist to Know Better…”

  • Andy
    I've seen practically nothing in the literature regarding this. More people need to consider alignment!
  • Ashley Cooke, Ph.D
    I miss this kind of work. I was always interested in conducting further applied research on the impact of the external environment (globalzation, knowledge management, and increased rate of and changes in technology) on changes in jobs and worker competencies, skills, knowledge, and tools necessary within various types of work functions and organizational functions. If you are interested in how I measured this across a very large organization please contact me. It has implications across the board for various HR functions.