Since I started my career in the HR field, it was hard not to be captured by the seductive power of Talent Management. I went through whatever book, news article and research paper I could get my hands on… I studied everything that was out there! Years went by and as my knowledge built up so did my frustration! I wasn’t able to put into practice all the theoretic knowledge I had acquired.

Having chosen a consultancy job, confirmed my suspicions and brought about clarity and strong certainty. The tools of the Talent Manager are fine-tuned to the expectation that the best resources join our company, have a linear career path and climb the ladder to the highest level, and eventually retire around the age of 60-65. However, in the last decade or so things have changed radically and the points listed below are the facts everyone acknowledges nowadays.

1. The uncertainties of our professional lives have gone far beyond the simple recognition of the person, and the professional. The world we live in is a business community – using an acronym originally used in the military jargon – which many people define as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous): a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity as we’ve never seen before.

2. From a demographic point of view, life expectancy has increased and human beings entrust much more than their financial security to their jobs: employment plays its part in giving one’s life a meaning. As a result, people don’t necessarily see their professional life ending at 60-65. Besides, the new generation – and millennials teach us – doesn’t really want to stick to the same job till their retirement age.

3. In the last 25 years organizational structures have become flatter, levelling down by 25%, while matrix organizations are on the rise. In other words, the old and well-structured hierarchies have now become outdated and careers are less vertical, allowing professional development to maneuver within a less defined grid.

4. Over 50% of the companies from the Fortune 500 list of the year 2000 are long gone. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of start-ups populating not just Silicon Valley. Many professional roles have been dismissed, while many others have emerged – jobs that were unthinkable 10 years ago. The way we work has also changed: freelancing is increasing and year after year the number of people working elsewhere from their offices is growing.

5. Not to mention A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), perhaps the real game changer in our lives: Jerry Kaplan, an American IT researcher, forecasts that in the next 20 years, 47% of the jobs will be automatized, and about 40-75 million workers will be replaced with computers or robots.

In view of these facts, I strongly believe that traditional “Talent Management” – based on developing linear career structures within organizations – should be strongly reviewed. Moreover, also our HR attitude, linked to the concept that career development depends on us, should be reviewed.

Clearly HR plays its role in the future of Talent Management, but this doesn’t mean drawing “top-down” linear paths that provide a secure and long-lasting future for special people. No, in this new role HR is not the “parent” treating talents and managers like “children” – sometimes like spoiled brats – this time it plays the adult. And as an adult, it also considers the individual’s growth and personal development within the company, helps the resource understand the environment and its awareness and supports a feasible and sustainable path along with any related responsibility.

The evolution of Talent Management is rooted in the knowledge that “talent” – in a VUCA world – also means to take control of one’s own life, without any kind of map or instruction. It means that HR is no longer expected to draw up road maps, but rather create an environment in which people can learn about their strong points and discuss freely with their managers about their ambitions.

I’d like to believe that HR can foster the transformation of the concept of “talent” into a new model: the “traveler”.

Acknowledging and accepting that employees are not property of the company, but travelers, – not so much as passengers on a journey for a specific destination but as individuals ready to stuff their bags with new experience and skills – is crucial for the creation of a fair environment where none of the parties make false promises.

If HR plays its cards right, it will provide support to eliminate deceptive conversations: the company won’t be able to hide behind the false hope that employment lasts forever, it won’t be able to give any sort of guarantees (in terms of employment and career) and, what’s more, workers won’t need to come up with the same old excuse of the “medical checkup” to go for a job interview.
We will create a new culture, a culture of feasible and sustainable prospective, shared by the “traveler”, the Manager and HR, in which the professional journey doesn’t necessarily end within one single organization.

What about you… are you ready for this journey?