Examining the Link Between Talent Management and Innovation

Oct. 2, 2009
Survey says the tie is undeniable. The best strategy to obtain talent remains elusive.

That innovation is key to a company's success has been stated so frequently that it should go without saying. Less discussed is how and where talent management fits into innovation.

Recent survey results from the Economist Intelligence Unit shed some light on those questions, and the quick answer appears to be that the two are inextricably linked. For example, fully three quarters of the executives surveyed report that good talent management is very important to their organizations' ability to innovate. That level of importance goes far to explain why 65% say the responsibility for formulating their organizations' talent strategy starts at the C-level (although that percentage drops to 30% for C-level executives when it comes to executing that talent strategy). And why 51% say C-level executives are more involved in defining the talent strategy today than they were five years ago.

In terms of skills required for successful innovation, creativity was identified as No. 1 among respondents, with just over half (51%) listing it among their top three. The ability to collaborate (40%) as well as the ability to learn quickly (35%) were No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

Interestingly, given how important collaboration is among successful innovation skills, fully 53% of survey respondents said the main internal barrier to successful talent management for innovation is a lack of enough collaboration and resource-sharing among different parts of the organization. Externally, greater competition from the global marketplace in the primary challenge 45% of organizations face in recruiting and retaining talented staff.

It seems clear that no singular strategy has emerged for attracting and retaining the most talented staff. None of the three most highly cited strategies (rewards and incentives, individual coaching and mentoring, and flexible work opportunities) was noted by a majority of respondents.

The complete survey results and accompanying white paper are available online at Talent Strategies for Innovation in pdf format.

A total of 179 senior executives from across the globe participated in the study.

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