Assumption—that’s often the name of the game for human resources decisions. After all, HR professionals are employees too, right? They went through the hiring process themselves, they use the benefits, they want career paths—they’re just like the rest of the employees. Except they’re not. And neither are leaders.
Too often we sit around conference room tables making decisions based on our assumptions about employees—what we think they want, what we think they need and where we think they should be placed. And that often leads to misplacement.
Enter Dr. Joe Ungemah’s new book, Misplaced Talent. A balanced approach to people decisions, it provides a way to consider both science and practice without relying solely on assumptions. And, when Dr. Ungemah asked me to reflect on the importance of making decisions this way in his new book, I gladly agreed. My job is focused on helping my clients find the balance and my career has been a long search for that balance.
“I wanted to write a book with the practitioner in mind,” Dr. Ungemah said, “to have an honest conversation about the field and start considering how best to progress the work that we do.”
And that’s what Misplaced Talent does. It helps translate need to act into action. There’s no shortage of books with great theories on talent or examples of how talent strategies happened. But where HR leaders often struggle is to find a way to connect the tools. I regularly hear from clients things like:
- “It’s so cool what Alpha Company did, how can I (and should I) do the same thing in my company?”
- “I love the idea of using the Alpha theory but how do I actually use it in my organization’s unique environment?”
“New tools continually appear on the market that scoop up interesting insight into how people work, however there is a lack of conversation around how these tools should be used, whether the content actually delivers on its promises, and the implications that the data could have on the employment relationship,” says Dr. Ungemah.
And he’s right. HR leaders are often so hung up on the way things are always done, it’s hard to talk about being flexible, innovative and change oriented. So we read books, and then continue to do the same thing.
Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify Talent agrees. Featured in the book for his keen ability to translate tools into action, Schmidt says we’re stuck.
“I think many HR leaders are still very hung up on rigid job description-driven expectation of what talent should look like. We focus on specific requirements that cost at the ability to hire on intangibles and potential. The mindset costs us the ability to bring in and develop high-potential talent that might not look like it on paper.”
Schmidt shares a perfect example of why assumptions get in the way. We assume we’re doing it right or doing it the way we have to and so our mindset is, why change? Yet sometimes we’re forced to.
“Several years ago when I was leading Recruiting and Innovation at NPR, we were poised with some real challenges as we competed for talent against for-profit organizations on two fronts: journalism and technology,” says Schmidt.
His contributions to Misplaced Talent shared some of his approaches to re-thinking our talent acquisition process, ultimately transforming from a traditional transactional model to one that heavily leveraged modern recruiting approaches.
Similarly, I shared my perspective in Ungemah’s new book too: the old adage ‘if we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always got.’ In particular, I referenced my passion for data—qualitative and quantitative—that gives us a realistic picture of our workforces rather than an assumptive one.
For example, if we continue to make talent decisions based on the culture we think we have or the employer brand we want to sell, we’re selling a false bag of goods and the talent we hire will be misplaced.
Sound like struggles you’ve been facing? Misplaced Talent may be just what you need to inspire real decision-making.
Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps companies build cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.