HR Does Not Own Talent


March 22, 2013

Do you ever have those moments where someone says something and immediately you KNOW it is important and will stick with you forever?  It doesn’t happen often, but I had one of those moments during a presentation by John P. McMahon from Aarow Electronics.  He said:

“HR does not own talent.   HR only owns HR talent.  Leaders need to understand that they own the care, feeding, incenting, and development of talent.”

While this seems so simple and obvious, if I look back at my approach to HR, there are many times where I have felt like the owner of talent during my career.  I know if I were to ask many of my current and former colleagues, they would say they have had the same experience in their careers.  What is exciting to me about hearing this statement is that in the business environment today, we are seeing more and more HR departments take this stance of HR not owning talent. HR needs to wave goodbye to the idea of us owning talent.  (yes, I know it’s a stretch, but this isn’t Fantasy Island) 

What are three ways to empower your leaders?

  1. Support leaders by encouraging them to lead- This means that we have to let go.  We have to act as advisors and coaches to our leaders, but be willing to let them go lead, even if it’s not the exact way we may handle a situation.  This also means that HR and recruiting pros need to support any efforts that leadership makes with regard to encouraging their staff to be more engaged.
  2. Encourage leadership contributions- Depending on your organizational culture, you may have to dig deep on this one.  Find ways to creatively coach your leaders to contribute ideas that will incent employees to work harder, more efficiently, and more proactively.  By asking leaders to roll up their sleeves and get involved in issues, you will get their buy in.  Once you have that, they are in the perfect position to truly incent their staff.  It’s fine as HR to make suggestions, but the leader really needs to take the ownership.
  3. Showcase leader driven talent development–  Leaders need to get beyond thinking “hey, my employee needs training, call HR.”  We can educate our leaders on training opportunities that exist and work with them to evaluate the training and development needs of their staff.  Once they begin this habit, it will come much easier.

It’s all about empowering your leaders to manage the employees in their departments.  It’s also about elevating the role of the HR professional away from being the policy and fashion police to a more strategic role.  So, what are other ways you are empowering your leaders?  Share in the comments….

*Sharing from the archives


  • So who does own the talent? It’s not HR, I agree. But it’s not the manager, either. I’ve had numerous conversations with managers where I explain that we are developing people for jobs that may not be on their team, and we may move that high-potential somewhere else. We need them on board to help us improve as an organization, and realize that the talent belongs to the overall team, not just that manager’s team.

    It’s a tough question. The worst, I think, is ending up in a place where NO ONE owns the talent.

  • I think the most difficult part of talent management is the fact that many executive and business leaders do not see the value in training. It seems training is viewed as more of a cost sucker than providing value.

    Perhaps, HR can join forces with business leaders to help them to see the value in training and development. I think the real issue is in demonstrating that value. If leaders see that then the rest of the actions will follow.

Comments are closed.

Screen Shot 2019-12-01 at 17.20.39

About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


Play Video


Play Video

Related posts

Fear and Chaos: Taking Action at Work

Ten years ago, I wrote an article called Nothing Should Trump Personal Accountability. Back then, I was thinking about ways to reduce […]

Read More

Embracing Positive Friction in the Workplace

Ready for some HR buzzword analysis? For the past couple years, phrases like frictionless HR, frictionless candidate experience, friction in the […]

Read More

Partner with me


Get in touch today to find out more about how I can help your organization leverage HR and HCM technology to attract, onboard, retain and manage top talent.