In recent years Talent Management has become a “must have” function in most big organisations – and why not. It seems logical and commendable that special attention is given to the “rising stars” – after all we’re always told, they are the future.

And then I heard, over breakfast this morning, that a major organisation had put its talent management programme on hold because it had “run out of talent”! I had to smile although I’m not sure why.

Seriously there are a few myths around talent management that I’d like to challenge…

1. It’s good to invest heavily our most talented people

Fair enough but be careful – too often over investing in the top 5% means the other 95% are starved of any formal development opportunity. “You’ve no chance” I was told when trying to see the Head of L&D for an 80,000 people global company – “he spends all of his time focused on the top 150 people”. I’m sure he does but that worries me.

2. Organisational performance is driven by the actions of a talented few

Where is the evidence for this? Is it more important than having an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable general workforce? You need both is the obvious answer but I bet I know who suffers the pain when development budgets are being cut. And that worries me.

3. We are good at spotting talent early on

Given the subjectivity of most performance appraisal systems, I remain to be convinced that we get the Talent list right. Some organisations define their talent pool as those people who are capable of being promoted at least 2 levels in the organisation.  It’s a tidy definition but does it actually help. Who decides that they are capable of being promoted? And how do we decide what makes them capable of being promoted to these levels? Often the answers revolve around drive, ambition and commitment.  If we adopt that approach then we end up simply promoting those who are most competitive and ambitious. That worries me.

4. We get a good ROI on or Talent Investment

I’ve got my doubts. One talent management leader for one of our biggest banks told me recently that every year he spends days agreeing the talent list with the Chairman and CEO but next year the names are all new. Have last years “rock stars” become less talented or left because their raised expectations have not been met? Yep, that also worries me.

It’s clearly not wrong to try and spot, develop and retain talent for the future but there is a danger of putting all your development eggs in one talent basket.

You never know but perhaps, the future of our organisation lies more in the motivation and performance of our overall workforce not just in the hands of a few key people.  There is no perfect answer but it’s always worth asking have we got the balance right?