The Talent Agenda for the Digital Age

Still in an early stage of development, the Strategic Talent Experience is moving the discussion substantially beyond the prior Integrated Talent Management (ITM) concept, which was primarily about process improvement and system integration – in other words, about operational excellence or efficiency (and therefore cost), not strategic capability that provides a basis for competitive advantage and digital innovation. Current industry thinking is tending to focus on strategic program alignment (a good thing, if stakeholder focused) – this is business design.

However, this thinking often misses a crucial dimension: the employee-facing one that addresses directly the people companies most want to influence. For employees, a meaningful talent experience involves tangible and practical aspects of development and career management presented holistically in the context of one’s current job and future career path. Notions of individual development should be aligned to business strategy and career mobility across an organization.

Thus, current talent experiences often fail to address strategic and common talent-related pain points.

Talent Pain Points

While it is often difficult to envision a digital future and argue the case for building it, business leaders can see the pain points – many of which are apparent to employees as well.

  • Performance management programs are not driving desired outcomes – They are siloed, process-centric, and procedural. How to make performance feedback productive, strategic, outcomes-based, and regular?
  • Employees don’t have the mentorship and guidance they need – Managers are not filling this traditional role as organizational hierarchy is being replaced by team-based and networked models. How to enable employees in understanding how to own their development and career? How to connect employees with others who can guide them?
  • Investments in talent development are not paying off – Programs are episodic and siloed and don’t clearly support business strategy; employees don’t know how to think about career and act. For example, how to make learning directly relevant to business goals and the individual and to facilitate its availability at the point of need (a culture of learning)?
  • Organizational silos (including those in HR) are anti-patterns to the organization of the future – People look locally for leadership, change, and innovation; this runs against key tenets of digitalization in organizations. The same problems get solved again and again. How can knowledge sharing and collaboration occur across the organization and with outside partners?
  • Mechanisms to influence employee behavior are vague and insufficient to serve business strategy – Shaping behavior is viewed as essential to creating nimble, innovative companies (i.e., the role of culture). How to realize rigorous techniques for defining specific, aligned behaviors and systematically influencing them?
  • Online solutions solve process-centric problems but don’t serve the business – They realize cost and operational efficiency goals, but don’t address the need for connectivity and for shaping behaviors. How to create “talent experiences” that guide behaviors in line with business strategy?


Talent strategies often do not offer specifics on thinking through the “how” for realizing digital strategy in the organization and creating the tangible aspects of what employees discretely see, hear, touch, or interact with – the physical, social, and online dimensions of what is known increasingly as the employee experience. Also in play is the idea of “cultural shaping” to drive new mindsets (and thus employee behaviors), as is experiential and traditional learning to establish required new knowledge and skills.

In contrast, a digital-first approach provides a foundation for addressing these talent pain points by identifying the specific practices needed to realize digital business strategy and evaluating these practices in the context of both employee behaviors and digitally-enabled work design.

The talent experience should weave seamlessly together all tangible and practical aspects of employee development and career management.

Business transformations driven by digital market forces demand a contemporary approach to organizational, people, and talent strategies that is grounded in modern business design methods.  Talent-related capabilities are a smart place to look for enterprise-level digital value because they span core business operations and competencies. These capabilities are complementary and fundamentally supportive of all business-specific needs.

Finding, developing, and enabling talent to achieve digital business goals requires a focus on engendering and leveraging the right digital skills and behaviors, structured in new digitally-influenced work practices, and anchored deeply in digital tools.