Talent Management in the Public Sector: How to Explain Different Approaches?

education-1580143_1920 (1)[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Marian Thunnissen of Fontys University of Applied Sciences. Dr. Thunnissen recently published an article in Public Personnel Management entitled “Talent Management in Public Sector Organizations: A Study on the Impact of Contextual Factors on the TM Approach in Flemish and Dutch Public Sector Organizations,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Thunnissen recounts how her research began and developed.]

PPM_C1 template_rev.inddDorien and I were each working on a study on talent management (TM) in the public sector. While we met each other several time at academic conferences we were intrigued by the differences in the TM approached adopted by the public sector organizations under study. What could explain that the public sector organizations in the Dutch study all aimed for an exclusive and performance oriented talent approach, while the Flemish governmental entities opted for an inclusive approach? This interesting phenomenon was for us the starting point to compare our data and to explore what characteristics of the external and internal context could explain the differences.

While analyzing the data we realized that using theory on institutional mechanisms was insufficient to explain what happened and we decided to include institutional logics in our conceptual model. The data indeed shows that multiple factors in the organizational context affect the intended TM strategy. Market pressures resulting from the external labor market (and the position as an employer on that market) and budgetary constraints, as well as institutional pressures have an effect as well. Moreover, we found that ‘attributes’ of the organization filter the institutional mechanism. In our study the composition of the workforce combined with internal economy measures can be an explanation for choosing a specific TM approach. But most of all organizational culture seems to be crucial (e.g., Stahl et al., 2012; Kontoghiorghes, 2016). Yet, we have seen that the influence of organizational culture cannot be separated from the logics adopted by the actors in the dominant coalition. Moreover, the research also indicates that the origins of the key employees – being public service works or classic professionals such as the academics – has an significant impact on organizational culture and the logics dominant in the organization (Greenwood et al, 2011; Thornton et al., 2005). This is an important theoretical contribution of the paper. The impact of belief systems has been mentioned by Meyers and Van Woerkom (2014) and Nijs et al. (2013) but not yet studied in empirical TM research. Nonetheless, the data points out that the mechanisms, actors and logics are entangled and not easy to separate.

All in all, the data supports our statement that TM is not an instrumental, rational and independent process. Although key actors in the dominant coalition take notice of the contextual factors, TM also proves to be an intuitive and micro-political process. Therefore, our comparison highlights the importance of an institutional and organizational fit, but in particular the significance of a consistent ‘talent mindset’ embedded in organizational culture and leadership style (also see Stahl et al., 2012; Kontoghiorghes, 2016). We think that it is necessary for HR and managers in practice to show consideration for the potential impact of ‘tangible’ mechanisms such as labor market pressures and economy measures, but also to be more aware of the influence of personal beliefs and logics regarding talent and how to deal with those mechanisms and logics in the decision process.

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Beyond Developmental: The Decision-Making Applications of Personality Tests

5529311561_4ba9be7419_zThe use of personality assessments in organizations has often been limited to developmental applications. However, growing support for data-driven decision-making in recent years has made it apparent that personality assessments could also become a resource for talent management decisions. In a recent paper from Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Does Purpose Matter? The Stability of Personality Assessments in Organization Development and Talent Management Applications Over Time”, authors Allan H. Church, Christina R. Fleck, Garett C. Foster, Rebecca C. Levine, Felix J. Lopez, and Christopher T. Rotolo investigate the consistency of personality data over time and whether the changing application of personality assessments changes their validity. The abstract for the paper:

Personality assessment has a long history of application in the workplace. While the field of organization development has historically focused on developmental aspects of personality tools, other disciplines such as industrial-organizational psychology have emphasized its psychometric properties. The importance of data-driven insights for talent management (e.g., the identification of high potentials, succession Current Issue Coverplanning, coaching), however, is placing increasing pressure on all types of applied behavioral scientists to better understand the stability of personality tools for decision-making purposes. The current study presents research conducted with 207 senior leaders in a global consumer products organization on the use of personality assessment data over time and across two different conditions: development only and development to decision making. Results using three different tools (based on the Hogan Assessment Suite) indicate that core personality and personality derailers are generally not affected by the purpose of the assessment, though derailers do tend to moderate over time. The manifestation of values, motives, and preferences were found to change across administrations. Implications for organizational development and talent management applications are discussed.

You can read the paper, “Does Purpose Matter? The Stability of Personality Assessments in Organization Development and Talent Management Applications Over Time,” from Journal of Applied Behavioral Science free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Journal of Applied Behavioral ScienceClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to Service Design Berlin (CC)

Performance Management Systems, Part 1

What is wrong with our current performance management systems and what are the strategies for improvement?

Compensation & Benefits Review will answer this question with a collection of articles from their past issues.

Howard Risher, Pay and Performance Consultant, published “Getting Performance Management on Track” in the September/October 2011 issue.

Performance management practices have been the source of dissatisfaction and criticism for decades. New approaches and the adoption of technology have failed to quiet the critics. Despite the problems, the management of employee performance remains one of the basic responsibilities of managers and supervisors. Research by Gallup and others has highlighted the importance of managers in creating high-performance work groups. Edward Lawler summarized the ingredients for effective practices in his book Talent. More recent developments augment his conclusions. Performance management can be a valuable tool when systems are properly designed and implemented. The key is providing adequate preparation and support for managers.

Robert Morgan, Hudson Talent Management, published “Making the Most of Performance Management Systems” in the October 2006 issue.

Employers can harness technology to optimize talent. Too many companies are finding that their performance management systems are falling far short of expectations. In spite of the limited progress so far, the systems do hold the potential for greatly improving the capabilities, efficiency, and strategic value of compensation and benefits professionals and their colleagues in human resources.

Victoria Williams, Product Design, SMG, published “Making Performance Management Relevant” in the July 2001 issue.

The latest thinking on business strategy, human resource development and intellectual capital management notes that people are our most important asset. But historically, people have been entered as a cost rather than an asset on the balance sheet. No matter how much things change, two things are certain: People want to do a good job, and organizations need to help their workforce perform in a way that makes it more competitive. This can be done with a performance management system based on four principles: aligning daily activities with strategy, ensuring that managers and employees collaborate, integrating development with performance and providing continuous feedback so that the organization can ensure it has the right people in the right place at the right time.

Danielle McDonald, Hewitt Associates, and Abbie Smith, University of Chicago, published “A Proven Connection: Performance Management and Business Results” in the February 2011 issue.

A new research study shows a clear correlation between HR performance management programs and improved bottom-line results.

Allan M. Mohrman, Jr. and Susan Albers Mohrman, both of the University of Southern California, published “Performance Management is “Running the Business” in the August 1995 issue.

Laterally oriented, fast-changing organizations make traditional performance management practices obsolete. Competitive companies need to embrace effective new approaches to managing performance.

Are you interested in finding out more about performance management? Part 2 will be available tomorrow and will look at performance management from a  whole new angle.

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