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Iain McAdam

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What do we call it now?


Iain McAdam tackles the tricky world of organisational development.

Towards the end of an OD lunch Digby Morgan was hosting a few years ago I made the mistake of asking our guests 'What is OD?' to gauge how diverse the function was. Two hours later I then had to call a very interesting debate to a close!

It seems we have now reached that point with ‘talent,’ which is increasingly taking over the OD moniker. When being briefed on a ‘talent’ role, we have to ask every client how they define ‘talent,’ invariably with a slightly different answer to other roles we are handling. Recruitment has, for some time, been subtly (or not) rebranding itself ‘Talent Acquisition’ but I now find a wide range of other responsibilities sitting under the ‘head of talent’ role including executive and management development, learning, engagement, internal communications, change, organisation design, executive resourcing – the list goes on.

There is also an increasing trend for organisations to rebrand their HR functions with ‘Talent’ in the title. Is this because HR has finally identified something that it does that the business can see as a tangible benefit? If so, expect more companies to follow suit! We’re already seeing a steady flow of traditional OD/development professionals moving into HRBP roles as these positions focus more on the talent agenda.

What’s happening in L&D recruitment?

In common with much of the HR market, I experienced a significant reduction in requirements between June and September last year. However, this has been offset with another surge in demand since then with as many roles coming in since the beginning of October as during the six months between April and the end of September. And 2015 shows no sign of slowing down with a constant flow of talent and development roles coming through – predominantly into the permanent team.

It is not all good news, though. The market is mostly being driven by organisations looking to boost their junior-to-mid level capability in the talent and development space with very little movement still at the senior end of the market. Much of this is being driven by organisations under-valuing their L&D/OD function and expecting to get broad OD/talent specialists at low salary rates.

On the plus side, as organisations struggle to hire candidates at the levels they initially planned, I am seeing an increase in the level of salary actually being secured by successful candidates. It should follow with a general increase in salaries for those candidates who have strong skills in the key, high demand areas being sought at the moment. The challenge is to persuade clients they need to be paying more.

In demand

Two specialist areas of demand for L&D and OD professionals have remained consistent across this period. As mentioned, and as would be expected with it being so high on the HR agenda, ‘talent’ is a key theme for most organisations. The other area of increasing demand is for candidates who can define and deliver practical learning solutions through some form of (mostly virtual) academy or university model. The ‘70’ of the 70/20/10 principle is the main focus for these professionals – using technology to allow instant access to courses and mini on-the-job learning interventions. Most important is to understand the commercial rationale for the courses and linking them to business benefits to ensure maximum take-up across organisations. This will cover both technical and soft skills training and often includes executive and management development.

My prediction for the next six months? Consistent needs for strong ‘talent’ and development candidates will continue and hopefully, at some stage, we’ll start seeing some of the big ‘heads of...’ roles coming back as organisations move into positive growth territory. No doubt the election will have some impact in slowing things somewhat but, hopefully again, there is enough impetus in the market now to keep it moving throughout the year.

Iain McAdam is associate director at Digby Morgan


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