Talent Management in the Humanitarian Aid Context

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Other units and institutes | D4 Julkaistu kehittämis- tai tutkimusraportti tai -selvitys
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193 + app. 12
Aalto University publication series BUSINESS + ECONOMY, 1/2017
Talent management is currently seen as a high-priority issue in organizations worldwide, and a critical determinant of organizational success. Organizations spend a great deal of resources on identifying and developing talent necessary for strategy implementation and to achieve strategic targets. When looking at critical factors for competitive advantage and business success, ‘talent’ is gaining status as an important element, almost equal to financial resources. Furthermore, both management researchers and practitioners have found the identification and development of high potential employees to be one of the major challenges of the current human resource function. Even if talent management has in recent years received much attention in academia, research on different contexts, such as that of non-profit organizations, is limited. This dissertation explores talent management in the context of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), and more precisely in humanitarian aid organizations. The focal organization of this study is the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The main question of my study is: “Do the managerial or business approaches to talent management and the principal assumption of organizations as money-making entities make talent management frameworks and theories non-applicable in the context of e.g. non-profit organizations?” I studied this question by beginning with the pivotal matter of ‘what is talent’, and how it is defined both in academia and by practitioners. The notion of potential is of essence in talent definition, and is thus included in the way I advocate that ‘talent’ should be defined: it is a formula multiplying competence by commitment and contribution. Furthermore, each of these components is divided into two distinctive time dimensions: the present and future. Particularly the future dimension of ‘contribution’ involves factors that epitomize potential; insight, curiosity, and determination, to name a few. Talent management, i.e. attracting, identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining people, is a strategic process that should contribute to competitive advantage by first identifying the strategically pivotal positions in the organization and then making sure that these positions are filled with talent: right people at the right time in the right job. Talent management at its most mature stage should both inform the overall strategy of the organization and be informed by it. Overall, the results indicated that talent management frameworks and related activities are applicable to non-profit organizations, and can contribute to better attraction, identification, and retention of talent in humanitarian aid organizations. Traditionally, particularly in humanitarian aid organizations, the determining factors in recruitment and retention have been experience in similar organizations and a significant number of required competencies. The results suggest that these so-called competency frameworks are not ideal in the current VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, since they do not take e.g. meta-competencies into account, and tend to be rather mechanical in their approach. Furthermore, the development approach of humanitarian aid organizations can arguably be beneficial for corporations as well. This is particularly the case when developing high potentials or talent at the early stages of their careers. Namely, the way these organizations use mentoring – equaling to strong involvement of one’s supervisor in the corporate world – and deployments to emergency operations – i.e. not simulations or experiments in ‘safe’ environments – are among development activities corporations could benefit from. The ability to identify potential remains to be one of the priorities of any manager, be it in non- or for-profit organizations. The competencies that guaranteed success in the past will most probably not be adequate, and managers need to learn to detect potential, with its components of curiosity and learning agility seeming crucial.
talent, talent management, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian aid, potential
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