Talent Rules, Effective Immediately

Talent management’s progress in recent years has been encouraging.

The function has moved into a prime spot on leadership’s agenda. Internal partners in human capital are better aligned and cooperating toward common, business-first goals. And the external talent ecosystem is providing more useful and sustainable insight and support.

Still, there are small distractions impeding our continued evolution. To remove them, the following talent rules need to be put in place, effectively immediately.

The word “engagement” is temporarily suspended from HR’s vocabulary until it has specific meaning again and does not apply to every consulting practice.

Business publications cannot recycle old topics without a five-year waiting period.

Celebrities and sports figures speaking at talent conferences should be labeled as entertainment and not as serious material for application in the business world.

The popular press can only publish stories about organizations abandoning the “evil performance appraisal process” in the years in which the cicada returns.

“Best-selling” management authors must devote the opening chapter of their newest book to reporting how their last book’s hand-selected-to-prove-my-theory organizations turned out. The updated list will use the following categories: “Now Bankrupt,” “Disgraced Executives,” “Bought Out” and “Fell Back in the Pack.”

Finally, the final chapter will admit that enduring success is quite fleeting. Business is really about hard work, risk-taking, rallying all your smarts and more than a bit of luck to win in an ever-changing marketplace.

Trendy talent ideas with spotty track records must include a disclosure: “Warning: While this idea sounds great, some users have experienced disappointing results. In fact, some CEOs hate this idea and have tossed it out.”

All e-learning and human capital systems representatives are no longer allowed to blanket companies with generic spam emails and cold calls. Each violation will register the bothersome firm’s CEO’s personal phone number on the global telemarking call-me-anytime database.

Anyone claiming their singular practice is responsible for a jump in margin, sales and profitability must stay after school and write on the chalkboard 100 times, “correlation is not causality.”

Big companies will pay the invoices of small consulting firms without delay — regardless of the CFO’s notion about using little guys as the company’s banker. Likewise, consulting firms will not tuck “administration fees” into invoices that suspiciously cover the interest costs of delayed payments — and then some.

A human capital technology vendor cannot sell its company until the CEO visits each customer and personally apologizes for abandoning them to make a pile of money. The acquiring CEO is forbidden to make shaky promises about supporting the legacy system. The acquiring CEO must also warn clients that he or she is also waiting for a buyout from an even bigger technology vendor.

All admiring articles about the current business darlings — (cough) Google (cough) — must include a “best to use before X date” freshness label. Further, each notice will include a reference to the passing fancy of Apple, GE, IBM and even General Motors as past “most admired” companies.

Professors and consultants will begin their writing and speeches by describing their personal track record of legitimate, accountable results before launching into their latest notion of getting better results.

The Conference Board Review magazine will drop the insulting “HR: You’re Doing It Wrong” column or go all in with equally shrill columns such as “CFO: You Are Going to Jail With That Accounting”  and “CEO Short-Timer, Such a Nice Paycheck!”

Henceforth, any new talent management system or initiative will not be introduced unless it reduces the number of concepts, steps or clicks for the sake of simplicity. In no case will a practice be introduced that cannot be explained in three sentences.

Finally, columnists must attribute their topic inspiration as appropriate. So, thank you Bill Bryson for your example of setting the world straight with your chapter “Rules for Living” from the book “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”

Kevin D. Wilde is the vice president and chief learning officer at General Mills and author of “Dancing With the Talent Stars.” He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.