Bridging talent management and culture change to see results


I was reading some amazing statistics from a Right Management report on talent management that covered global trends, challenges, and priorities. Much has been written about the reduced investment in talent during challenging financial times and the recent re-emergence of interest in effective talent management practices. Unfortunately the culture that currently exists in many organizations will be the single greatest impediment to sustainable talent strategies.

The statistics from a Manpower Group Global Survey of 38,000 employers

  • 54% reported that talent shortages are impacting their ability to serve clients to a high or medium degree (it was 36% in 2012).
  • Leadership development was identified as the primary focus of talent management investments with 46% planning to invest in that area (it may be part of the formula but will only be optimized if any cultural issues are addressed).
  • 48% reported that the senior management team “sometimes sees the connection” between investing in talent management and business impact (what a disappointing statistic).
  • Only 30% believe their senior management team is very confident that our talent management efforts pay off (an even more demoralizing statistic).
  • 37% seek to develop the skills of every employee (these leaders may “get it” when they talk about “our people being our greatest asset” but why only 37%?).

Turn the talent management light switch on

I wish it was that easy and the statistics above show we have a very long way to go to overcome the culture and leadership issues that exist in most organizations. The lack of effective talent management practices did not emerge during the financial crisis but the recovery has fortunately led to many organizations re-examining how they attract, develop, and engage employees.

The advice from Right Management
They recommend a “three-pronged approach” to talent management:


  • Strategically assess the talent you have and the talent you need to meet and exceed organizational goals. This assessment is necessary so you can “build a bridge between your talent strategy and your business strategy.”
  • Assessing talent should involve a number of steps including competency modeling, organizational assessments, team assessments, and individual assessments.


  • “Identify, develop, nurture and retain leaders as part of an ongoing talent development strategy.”
  • They recommend a “targeted approach to development that builds capabilities in a variety of ways across all leadership levels.” Combine broad-based programs that support career development and employee engagement with “specific programs and coaching on the advancement of key talent.”
  • They emphasize how the coaching can accelerate leader development and “deliver performance improvements that lifts the entire organization.”


  • Companies need to recognize talent as “their main competitive advantage” and employee development and engagement should have a strategic focus. Engagement should include the define, listen, and engage elements.
  • Define: Identify the right engagement metrics within the framework of business needs.
  • Listen: Open up the communication channels and actively listen to gain the insights necessary to “tackle pressing needs and challenges.”
  • Engage: Involve leaders and employees, especially key talent, in the process to build understanding with how employees impact the business and take action to implement improvements.
  • They highlighted that effective engagement is about “creating a culture of high performance” that covers a clear vision and goals from leaders and the systems, processes, and tools necessary to succeed.

This is sound advice regarding an effective talent management strategy but how do you overcome the cultural dynamics that contributed to some of the dismal talent management numbers highlighted in the survey?

Sustainably effective talent management is a culture issue
Are talent management and maximizing the contribution of every team member absolutely critical parts of how your organization operates? My guess, in light of the survey results, is that effective talent management is not a deeply ingrained aspect of the cultural DNA in most organizations.

So what do you need to do to not only implement an effective talent management strategy but to do it in a way that starts the process to form a new cultural attribute? I can’t begin to adequately address that topic in one blog post but I will highlight one critical aspect. It’s the same culture fundamental that’s necessary for any new cultural attribute to form.

The key is undisputed results
Results provide the reinforcement loop necessary for any new cultural attribute to form. In this case, it’s positive results from your initial talent management efforts. Unfortunately, broad based action in many organizations leads to lack of clarity about whether the talent management efforts are truly effective (as indicated by only 30% believing senior management is very confident talent management efforts pay off).

Clearly connect some of your initial efforts to a top priority of your organization (growth, customer satisfaction, new products / services, etc.). Even if you have a broad-based plan, focus a substantial amount of energy on the one performance area you highlighted. Understand how your culture and talent management practices are supporting results in that one area and holding back performance.  Communicate extensively about your talent management plans in that one specific area and engage the broader organization in feedback and prioritization to repeatedly refine the approach so they feel a clear connection to the work. If you succeed in the one area then the entire organization will learn from the process and begin to see the value of your improved talent management focus as you expand the approach.  The key is undisputed results and building ownership as you repeatedly engage your team in refining the approach.

Your choices shape your life forever
I started this article with the quote from the movie The Bronx Tale.  The quote actually continues: The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever. Leaders need to make the choice to go at talent management in a sustainable way by applying the insights of talent management experts like Right Management and others.  Don’t allow the work to get spread out to the point where you lose a very clear connection to results and your entire organization will begin to learn the choices they need to make that will shape their lives forever.

How have you applied talent management approaches that built ownership and produced “undisputable results” in the initial stages? What can you add to the insights from Right Management and the need to deliver results? Please comment below.

Editor’s Note: read Tim’s most popular CultureU post: 8 Culture Change Secrets Most Leaders Don’t Understand

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Tim Kuppler is the founder of and Director of Culture and Organization Development for Human Synergistics, a 40+ year pioneer in the workplace culture field with the mission of Changing the World—One Organization at a Time®. He leads collaboration and partnering efforts with culture experts, consulting firms, industry organizations and other groups interested in making a meaningful difference in their organization, those they support, and, ultimately, society.

Human Synergistics is home of the Organizational Culture Inventory, the most widely used and thoroughly researched culture assessment in the world, the 90 Day Ultimate Culture and Performance Quick Start Program, and the Annual Ultimate Culture Conference, the premier organizational culture event.

He authored Build the Culture Advantage, Deliver Sustainable Performance with Clarity and Speed which was endorsed as the "go-to" resource for building a performance culture. He previously led major culture transformations as a senior executive with case studies featured as part of the 2012 best-selling book – Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations. He was also President of Denison Consulting, a culture assessment and consulting firm. He is an accomplished speaker and recognized as a Top 100 leadership conferences speaker on

His 20 years of culture and performance improvement experience includes the rare mix of executive leadership, coaching, and consulting knowledge necessary to help leaders quickly improve team effectiveness and results as they focus on their top performance priorities, challenges, and/or goals. He networks extensively in the workplace culture field in order to learn and apply the latest insights from many experts. Email him to learn more about options to help you understand and evolve your culture with a direct and sustainable impact on performance.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Steve

    Hi … having read the article – it was two of your subtitles that flickered like a neon sign. They were “Turn the talent management light switch on” and “Sustainably effective talent management is a culture issue”. I’ve read the Right Management reports – hinting at a worsening situation. From my current experience I see disheartening situations voiced by staff and clients.

    That written … your two statements give rise to an appreciative perspective – one that breathes renewed life into organizational culture work – people are the heart of the matter! Why I so enjoy this work!

    Look forward to what others have to write …

    • Tim Kuppler

      Thank you for the feedback Steve! People are at the heart of the matter and I love this work too!

  • Tim Kuppler

    Thank you Steve for the feedback. People are the heart of the matter and there needs to be some renewed life in organizational culture work. Culture has become such a popular topic that it now has lost meaning. Most don’t understand how cultures evolve and go after the latest best practice or broad-based plan. Progress may be made but it’s a far more direct route to results if work is refined based on a greater understanding of the subject of culture. is hopefully helping on that front. I am glad you enjoy this work and thank you for the comment!

  • Greg Jones

    I have been a big fan of Senn Delaney’s culture work for the past several years. It seems pretty clear to me of the positive impact a strong culture can have on an organization and its operating performance. I lived through a fairly toxic culture before being let go in a corporate restructuring a few years ago, and I know many of the things I’ve learned in my recent studies on this issue could have produced a different outcome for both myself and the company.
    I now find myself on the outside looking in. So your first bullet point on the survey results that mentions ‘talent shortages’ cuts deeply. I have a fairly lengthy and somewhat distinguished career that has afforded me opportunities to develop a broad range of skills, skills that have highlighted my talents for the world (or anyone who cares to look) to see. And yet despite my tremendous networking and interviewing efforts, I remain way underemployed, a large repository of talent and creativity that could measurably benefit a number of organizations seemingly overlooked.
    There is an abundance of talent out there waiting for opportunity. Any talent shortage is being caused in large part by an impersonal hiring process that heavily discounts those who have developed and honed their talents over a long period of time (perhaps implicit but unprovable age discrimination). Here’s hoping one of those 54% of respondents reads this and takes a closer look at their organization’s hiring process. I, for one, am shovel-ready and armed to the gills with Senn Delaney’s culture crafting ideas.

  • Tim Kuppler

    Greg – thank you for your comments. I am sure it’s difficult to remain persistent and positive. I trust your using your talents to help others in some form even if it’s not with the ultimate organization you will end up with. Your culture crafting ideas will serve you well and I agree with the need for organizations to re-examine their hiring process but the problems are likely further upstream. Most organizations don’t fully understand the power of culture and emphasize management and execution.

    All the studies show that cultural fit is the key for success with 89% of employees that fail being due to cultural fit issues (with boss, peers, organization) versus skills and abilities. Most hiring processes still emphasize skills and abilities far more than behavior and that doesn’t help someone like you that’s probably astute about how to navigate that cultural landscape successfully. All the best with your search and finding the right fit for you to make a meaningful difference. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  • Greg Jones

    Tim, thanks for the kind words and well wishes. I recently began attending a speed networking event that I have found to produce a large number of actionable items. You mention to the group your skills and target companies and names starting flying around about connections many attendees have with the target companies. I’m in the process of following up on several new leads and I’ve been able to successfully connect several people with some of my connections at their target companies. It’s a very uplifting process and generates a desire to remain positive and persistent. Maybe I missed my calling and should be on the other side of recruiting!
    I’ve thought a bit more about my earlier comments, and I think a big factor at play is that many HR or hiring managers today are relatively young and have grown up with the heavy influence of technology. They simply don’t have a relevant appreciation of understanding the building blocks laid back in the 70s and 80s and 90s that have led to how things work today. And there’s a perception that more seasoned employees don’t understand all of this new technology, when in fact we played a key role in its arrival today. Wish more of these younger folks understood that.
    I really appreciate your interest in helping me. I’m open to new ideas and am pondering moving away from the banking industry, one that has undergone radical change here in Georgia over the past few years (Georgia led the nation in bank failures over the past five years). Having lived through a bad culture once, finding (or being able to help create) a genuinely good one is my number one priority in the current search.