Division of roles in talent management within the organization.

Whose responsibility is it?

William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., 

About 70% of talent management programs fail within the first three years. There are common reasons why these programs fail. One reason is the lack of clear program goals, another reason is the lack of clear roles, and a third reason is the lack of a clear approach to evaluating results. This article focuses on the lack of clear roles. What are roles? Why are they important? Who should perform certain tasks in talent management programs? How are roles significant in talent management? The article addresses these important questions.

What are roles and why are they important?

A role is a performance that needs to be played. Just as actors and actresses take on roles in a TV show, movie, or theatrical production, people in everyday life also take on roles. Everyone plays many roles.

If you are married, your spouse expects you to play the role of a spouse. If you are a student in school, the teacher expects you to play that role. If you are a manager, employees expect you to perform that role.

Roles come with expectations of behavior. We expect spouses, students, or managers to perform certain actions and not others. In most cultures, for example, it is assumed that a spouse will not have affairs. This is an example of an expectation of behavior.

Roles are important because they guide behavior. Without roles, we would have to consider from scratch what we should do each time we need to play our role. This would be difficult.

Who and what should be involved in talent management programs?

Different people play different roles in talent management programs. Therefore, it is important to clarify what roles will be played by the board of directors, the CEO, the HR team, middle managers, lower-level managers, and employees. The key question is: who and what should be done in talent management programs? The answer may be problematic because in an organization that has not had a talent management program before, people may not know what they should do and how to precisely perform their roles.

If roles are not explained, mutual blaming may occur at the end of the year. HR department leaders blame the CEO and managers for not doing what they were supposed to do to make the talent program successful. The CEO, board of directors, and managers blame the HR department for its inability to independently recruit, select, develop, reward, evaluate, and retain the best employees.

Mutual blaming does not bring results.

A better approach is to clarify who should do what at the beginning of the program.

How to define roles?

It is one thing to say that roles need to be clarified, but it is quite another to do it.

So, how exactly is this done?

There are many ways. One approach is to hold a meeting of the management team. The moderator introduces the concept of roles, and then asks representatives from each key group – the board of directors and CEO, HR department, and middle managers – to write down on flipcharts what they should do in the organization’s talent management program. Each role description is similar to a list of duties or responsibilities contained in a job description. After spending an hour on this, each group is asked to describe the role it believes it should play to the other groups. The moderator encourages discussion. This approach can help avoid conflicts and confusion related to roles.

Of course, there are other ways to clarify roles. Often, the CEO and the board of directors work together to determine what they should do in this process. In general, the more engaged the CEO is, the better, but above all, the key message is that the HR department is not responsible for everything.

William J. Rothwell

William J. Rothwell, Ph.D.