Talent Mapping – not always worth the money!

If you’re a specialist in executive search (ie. you focus purely on senior level appointments, using a search methodology), there is limited scope for ‘product innovation’ and Talent Mapping. One could do the process faster, and/ or at a reduced cost, but these options typically just compromise the process, and so I do not consider this innovative at all.

However, because the initial phases of our process are very research intensive, during which time we uncover substantial insights about the competitor landscape (including how organizations are structured, as well as the identity of the individuals in various roles and functions), we – and many other search firms – have commoditized this research into an offering called ‘Talent Mapping’ (or ‘market mapping’).

What is interesting to note is the increasing demand for this offering from corporates, who are hoping that by having a ‘map’ of the competitor landscape, they will gain an advantage on their next recruitment initiative.

While this may be true in some cases, my experience with market mapping is that unless the objective of the exercise is clearly defined, and the information in the document itself used within a 6 month period, it is more often than not a waste of money.

And the reason for this is that the map consists of information gathered by way of ‘desk’ based research, most of the time. In other words, the structure of organisations and the profiles of individuals will likely have been sourced online, or through knowledge libraries and databases – and not through real live human conversations with prospective candidates. After all, there is no real job to promote, and unless there is a strong ‘what’s in it for me’ incentive, most professionals will not easily hand over their personal information and details.

As a result, the data is not ‘live’, and therein lies the limitations of the mapping process. Whilst it’s perfectly possible to gain profile information about individuals from a range of (usually) online sources, none of these sources will provide critical insights such as: Is this person open to considering a new role? What is he/ she earning and can we afford the package? Will he/she relocate? Will he/she be a suitable fit? Does he/she in fact have the skills and experience required for the role (after all, public information is mostly self-promotion)….and more.

Now, let me not entirely destroy the demand for this market intelligence product! A well-executed market map can indeed be a valuable tool for organisations wanting to make some key resourcing decisions. Our clients have used talent maps to assess whether there is a sufficient pool of a certain type of individuals worthy of approaching for a critical role, to motivate for an internal hire, to make decisions around designated employment equity positions, to decide whether to recruit or to outsource, etc.

These are all great reasons for market mapping. However, it is vital that the objectives (and limitations) of this type of project be understood at the outset so that the offering can deliver real value.

As opposed to gather dust and ultimately hit the trash.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat


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