In a previous article, I argued that Google’s list of “best manager” qualities didn’t go far enough. It focused on promoting internal company activities rather than engaging with a worker’s wider career agenda. To put it simply, the conversation seemed one-sided. However, the recent shift toward cloud-based talent management solutions provides a new opportunity.
Traditional large organization talent management systems were built by a company’s own computer division, and very much tailored to the company’s own needs. McKinsey management consultants urged that each organization develop a “talent profile” that met its own circumstances, and set out to “attract, develop, excite and retain highly talented managers.“ Yet, cost pressures on those prescriptive talent management systems have driven a migration toward cloud-based solutions. These begin with a generic talent management model, and raise a new question. Can the customization of those generic models make them more amenable to your own career agenda? Are you invited to represent your career in the new systems, or will there still be a one-way conversation?
Software giant Oracle is now marketing such a generic system, and its website offers three “white papers” on their approach. Those papers provide a series of clues about what you can expect.
The Business Proposition: The first white paper makes a very clear acknowledgment of your importance, stating that talent management has “changed dramatically” in recent years. Not long ago, employers “had the upper hand” and could attract “highly qualified candidates.” In contrast, today “the reverse is true” so that candidates, not employers, are “in charge of the hiring process.” When Oracle reaches out to customers, it has you, the career owner, in mind.
A Red Flag: What comes later is something of a red flag, and echoes the McKinsey language of seventeen years ago. Oracle argues “forward thinking businesses will select a talent acquisition solution that allows them to fight and win the talent war with enterprise companies and still maintain a reasonable total cost of ownership.” Fair enough, companies need to compete with one another. However, the “talent war” metaphor suggests company strategies, positions and career ladders are already mapped out. Your obligation, if hired, will be to find your way around that company map.
Getting You Going: The second white paper echoes the introduction of the first one. There has been a shift to “a candidate-centric approach, with candidates searching for employers like they would for consumer goods.” Once more, there’s a clear acknowledgment of your individual career agenda. However, once you are recruited, the focus turns to helping you “hit the ground running.” That is to be achieved through “effective onboarding” designed to accelerate your productivity. The program lists a series of company-centric goals, which include ensuring you “have access to the right knowledge and training.” The anticipation is that you will feel “valued, satisfied, and confident on the job,” but there’s no further interest in your own career agenda right now.
A Company Career: The final white paper carries the evocative title “Turning top talent into top performers.” Again, this begins well for your own agenda. “Even the best job in the world will eventually lose its luster if there’s no room to grow. Likewise, a job that ceases to be challenging will also likely cease to be engaging. When that happens, your employee is already halfway out the door.” The solution is to provide: training as you demand it (but from a centralized company platform); learning (from both internal and third-party providers); insight (about your own learning and wider company procedures); and filling of skills gaps (that can be tailored to your individual career path, but must also be aligned with the organization’s goals.)
Your Next Career Move: Oracle’s business lies with your prospective employer, and it makes sense that the value proposition is largely focused on that employer. Moreover, there are regular reminders that you are likely to have outside opportunities which employers need to anticipate if they wish to keep you. Yet, it’s troubling that your individual career path only gets mentioned at the end, and even then it needs to be “aligned with organizational goals.” What’s missing from the Oracle approach is any systematic way to bring together your own and the organization’s future agendas, and for each party to communicate effectively with the other, as time passes and employment circumstances change.
The result of the above is that you will still need to manage your own career agenda, in parallel with your employer’s talent management system. However, the Oracle approach points toward a different model. It would be a model that captured your own career interests at the time of recruitment, and insisted that those were updated annually through conversation with your line manager. The model would also call for further conversation to address the future fit between the company’s interests and your own. How about it Oracle?