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The Impact of Detailed, Specific Talent Architecture

Talent Architecture is a critical component of Talent Management . Talent Architecture is the depth and scope of the parameters that clarify talents. It includes details for each talent such as:

Talent Type (e.g. Competency/Skill, Certification/License, Accomplishment/Experience, Education, or Work Style/Trait)

Associated tasks which utilize each talent

JPA’s (Job Performance Aids) necessary to accomplish the tasks using the talents

Expected results or objectives to be accomplished through talent application

Regulations and standards that apply

Processes used to verify that people possess the talent and identify their proficiency level

Is the talent critical, standard or crucial at-risk?

Talent Architecture is at the foundation of talegence. The talent parameters that are identified in Talent Architecture are woven throughout all the other components, building Talent Management elements such as:

Job Descriptions

People Profiles

Talent Acquisition Tools

Learning Activities and Learning Maps

Performance Assessment Tools

“So the immediate problem is not the number of potential candidates. Rather, it is a talent mismatch: There are not enough sufficiently skilled people in the right places at the right times.”


Experts in the Talent Management field repeatedly discover that organizations do not place the necessary level of emphasis on identifying, maintaining and entering these details of Talent Architecture. In addition, few Talent Management software applications are designed to facilitate the depth and scope of these parameters. And yet, this failure has dramatic influence on Talent Management decisions which impact:

Employee Engagement

Employee Retention


Product Delivery and Product Performance

Financial Performance

The following scenarios with brief analyses help to provide tiny glimpses of the adverse impact that insufficient Talent Architecture can have on Talent Management Decisions and subsequently have on business performance.

A Chief Operating Officer meets with his/her leadership team and says,

1. “Listen; if we’re going to compete for the best talent, we need leadership! Each one of you need to find a successor who has demonstrated leadership”

2. “We need better communications if we’re going to survive this situation. I want to create an emergency communication team of ten. I need recommendations from you no later than EOB tomorrow!”

3. “Customer service is killing us. Training needs to train everyone on customer service.”

4. “Our US Controller has just requested ten weeks of FMLA, beginning a week from Monday. He told me he doesn’t have a back up. I know the Controller in our London office has back-ups and I heard she’s pretty sharp. Make arrangements to have her in New York by this Thursday.”

Imagine each of the above scenarios occurring in your organization. What do you foresee as some of the problems that will occur?

1. Different Perceptions of the Same Talent Request

How many of you believe that everyone in scenario 1 above has a different vision of what “leadership” is? Examples of possible different thoughts are:

They need to be an excellent visionary; see what is happening in our industry and how to get ahead.

They should be just like me; I’m good, they’ll be good! We are like “two peas in a pod; like we had the same parents.” (What percentage of your management team would you rather replace? With this concept, bad begets bad!)

They need to be a “go-getter”; be accomplished; get things done; have a lot of self control; hold others accountable…

They should know this job function better than anyone else, including all of the associated technology.

They need to achieve through a team of people. Need to know what inspires others; assess the strengths of everyone; get everyone to see the same goals in the same way…

The same holds true for scenario 2 above; just for different subject matter, communications v. leadership in situation 1.

Issues: If the talent architecture is not clearly defined, the talent acquisition process will yield people that will not be able to meet the objectives of either situation. Through a cascading or domino effect, this problem then results in a myriad of other problems such as poor leadership adversely impacts employee engagement, which adversely impacts performance.

2. If You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist or What You See Is All That’s Available

In the end, scenarios 1 and 2 are about looking for talent. There are three different categories of “See”:

Someone you come into contact with “physically” during business interactions

Someone that is referred to you

Someone you can find in a data system such as a Talent Management system

Most often, when management is looking for talent they rely on identifying those with whom they frequently come into contact. This not only includes the person, but also products or results of the person. Bottom line, they may not be the best that is available within the organization, you don’t see all that’s out there. But often, if you can see it and it’s good for you, then it’s the best you know.

Someone referring talent to you is in essence the same problem as “Different Perceptions of the Same Talent Request” above.

But imagine that you have a data base of all the talent that exists within your organization. Would you explore it? Of course you would; and you’d find talent that you didn’t know existed. But, what if the details and the scope of the parameters that are used in the Talent Architecture are insufficient to clearly distinguish what that talent is or does or distinguish one talent from another?

Issues: If the details and the scope of the parameters that are used in the Talent Architecture to identify talents that are then integrated into job descriptions and attached to people as capabilities are insufficient to clearly distinguish what that talent is or does or distinguish one talent from another, whether that is because the system lacks the capabilities or the organization does not place priority on spending the time to identify and enter the clarifying data, then the results of TM searches based on that talent will be inconclusive; perhaps not related at all to what the user is searching.

This means that if management who is searching for people who have a talent use this system, the results of each search may list some people who really don’t have the talent (as they think of it) and won’t list some who actually do have the talent.

If this becomes known to people using the system, which it will in short time, then whether one is searching for talent to fill a job or a special assignment, they will rely on their own capability to handpick talent from those with whom they most frequently come into contact. This means there may be many people across the organization with whom management has not come into contact, who may also have this talent and have it at a higher proficiency level than those identified and selected.

It also means that management has no accurate idea as to the bench strength for the talent searched.

3. Learning not Aligned with Talent, not Aligned with Job Tasks, not Aligned with Job Objectives

How often have companies paid for training that was not aligned to talent performing specific tasks tied to specific performance expectations, results or objectives? What exactly are the Customer Service goals and objectives and what are the various tasks to be performed under what conditions to achieve these goals and objectives? In scenario 3, what are the specific objectives to accomplish, what are the tasks that are performed to achieve the objectives, and what are the talents necessary to perform the tasks?

Issues: If the talent architecture is not clearly defined, the process of designing learning objectives and learning curriculum will be vague and ineffective. Frequently money spent on training is often wasted because it is not accurately aligned with objectives, talents and tasks, which should be identified as part of talent architecture.

4. Same or Similar Job Titles, Different Talent Requirements

How often have you run into the situation in which two jobs with the same titles have different talent requirements? Positions related to legal compliance and financial management in different countries, because of different regulations, may have the same basic operations but require dramatically different competencies, skills, educations, licenses and certifications. This is illustrated by scenario 4.

Issues: If the talent architecture is not clearly defined to distinguish all the differences of one job from another, especially jobs with the same titles, the talent acquisition process for temporary or back-up situations, will yield people that will not be able to meet the objectives either of these situations. Management will believe they have the same talents. Through a cascading or domino effect, this problem then results in a myriad of other problems such as an adverse impact on employee engagement.

Further Illustration of the Adverse Impact of Insufficient Talent Architecture Data

Recent specific example:

In 2010 a US Federal government agency published a Human capital & Organizational Readiness Strategy. Below is one of many elements they identified in their plan. I particularly found interesting the use of the term “Specific” under Strategy Highlights.

Every single “critical skill” identified is vague. And, Goals & Objectives, which should be more descriptive, is just as vague or more so. Upon further investigation I found that this list was the full extent of their talent definition.

If Talent Architecture lacks the specific details, below are just a few questions organizations should ask:

How do employees ensure their Career Management plans for Talents development are aligned with the talent requirements for current job and for future jobs?

How do managers determine the accurate bench strength for each job; capabilities and actual performance?

How do managers ensure their recruiting efforts and candidate assessment tools in Talent Acquisition are aligned with the talents needed to perform the tasks needed to accomplish the job mission, goals and objectives?

How are curriculum and learning maps designed to meet specific talent needs?

How does management recognize/reward employees’ talent growth?

How is actual performance measured and analyzed?

For every one of the “critical skills (talents)” they should identify the following to be most effective:

The different critical scenarios, under which conditions, these talents are expected to be used

The critical processes/tasks they would be expected to carry out

The critical JPA’s (tools) they would be expected to use

Any regulations that relate to these situations and processes/tasks

The expected outcomes/results of the tasks in different situations

The performance standards by which the critical processes/tasks and outcomes/results would be measured

Performance measures to be conducted (e.g. at what points in process and performance observations v. results)

The detailed specifics of Talent Architecture provide the essential components of job descriptions which identify how the mission, goals and objectives of a job are to be accomplished through the various tasks of the job. People possess a variety of talents and organizations need to ensure they are aligned and track growth. When talent requirements change for jobs the following Talent Management functions are impacted:

Talents Management

Talent Acquisition


Learning Management

Performance Management

Succession Management

In talegence, Talent Architecture covers parameters such as:

Types (e.g. competencies & skills, education, certifications & licenses, accomplishments, and work styles/traits)

Categories (standard, critical, and crucial at-risk)

Groupings (e.g. competency families and job families)

Descriptors (e.g. competency models, applications/tasks performed, and expected results)

Job Performance Aids (job tools to be used in the applications/tasks performed)

Controls (e.g. regulations, standards, performance measures and verification methodology, expiration, and evaluators)

The Talent (Architecture) sub-module is at the foot or foundation of the talegence model. It is that from which all others are built or based. The data from Talent Architecture is integrated throughout all of the other talegence sub-modules facilitating accurate analytics, reporting and performance of all the primary Talent Management functions.

“Skills Gap – Around the world, we face an imbalance between needed and available skills…”

Bersin & Associates

“New Factors Compound the Growing Skills Shortage”


“So the immediate problem is not the number of potential candidates. Rather, it is a talent mismatch: There are not enough sufficiently skilled people in the right places at the right times.”


Based on these assessments and predictions, there are questions that should come to mind immediately such as:

1. How is it that organizations haven’t seen this coming; haven’t made Talent Management decisions to resolve this; and aren’t in better talent positions?

2. Do organizations have accurate inventories of all the talent they have?

3. Do organizations have talent retention strategies that are aligned with what they have and what they will need?

4. Do organizations have an accurate gap analysis of the talent that they will need to meet Operational and Strategic plans?

5. Do organizations have talent acquisition and development strategies that are aligned with the projected talent gap analysis?

Finally and most importantly, if organizations do not:

Have Talent Management systems that include the details and scope of the parameters that are used in Talent Architecture that is necessary to clearly distinguish what each talent is or does or distinguish one talent from another; or

Place priority on spending the time to identify and enter the clarifying data of the Talent Architecture parameters such that the data and the analytics of that data can be used across organizations from one department to another, from one division to another, and from one geographical location to any other in the world

Then how can they answer with authority questions one through five above to address talent shortages and misalignments? Furthermore, for other than specific college degrees and regulated licenses and certifications (e.g. nursing) talents, how can Talent Management consulting firms make these assessments and predictions?

Bottom line, the details and scope of the parameters of Talent Architecture are necessary to:

Ensure the entire organization has an accurate view of all the talent that exists within the organization globally

Assess how the possession of each talent is growing or shrinking (turnover) globally

Forecast future talent gaps utilizing strategic plans, succession trending data, talent growth data, and career management data

Accurately identify which talents are “Crucial At-Risk”

Accurately identify how each talent can be applied from one job or special assignment to another

Accurately conduct Talent Retention and Talent Acquisition strategies and tactics globally

Accurately identify whether each talent is best obtained through acquisition or development

Make talent needs transparent to employees and engage them in self development processes such that they are confident that what the organization identifies as specific talent needs is accurate so that when they achieve the talents, the organization recognizes and rewards them for talent growth

Accurately identify curriculum and learning maps to develop each talent such that specific tasks can be performed and objectives met

Accurately identify talent SME’s and Mentors

Accurately verify possession of each talent

Accurately measure performance and provide feedback and analysis

Below are questions that you and your management team should ask when assessing the depth and scope of the parameters of your Talent Architecture:

1. Do we have Talent Architecture that clarifies parameters such as type of talent; legal requirements; applications of each talent; tasks to be performed and outcomes to be achieved; whether each talent is job critical, crucial at-risk, or standard; expiration; and talent possession verification process?

2. Have we defined clearly enough the talents by which we base selections, training curriculum, performance assessments… such that when we are discussing who has that talent, we are all comparing the same qualities?

3. Do we have talents for which different people have different definitions such as Leadership? Are they talking about thought leaders, performance leaders, people leaders…? Do we need a way to clarify which talents we need for each job positions and each special assignment position?

4. Do we have talents that are critical when needed, but are seldom used, and we need a way to ensure periodic verification of possession?

5. Do we have processes in place to accurately and objectively identify or verify all the talent every employee brings to the table?

6. How would it impact us if we had an accurate, reliable and consistent process across the organization of verifying the talent capabilities of our employees?

7. How would we benefit by an automated process that results in a scheduled periodic review of talent architecture such as is it critical to job mission, has the description of the talent changed, have the applications of the talent and the standards changed, and is it required by regulations and have the regulations changed?

8. What would it mean to us if we identified SME’s, using established criteria, for all talents and talent groupings (certifications)?