director of talent

Your Director of Talent is not the head of human resources.

Director of Talent means different things to different people. In some organizations, it’s the chief recruiter who also does a little HR stuff on the side. She’s good, but much of HR is outsourced. She mostly recruits. In other organizations, the Director of Talent has big-time responsibilities for talent acquisition, talent management and all aspects of the “people agenda.” She’s just not senior enough to be a VP, nor is she a founder who has partnership rights and responsibilities.

Being a Director of Talent is pretty awesome, though. It’s a fun job that tests your skills and offers a lot of flexibility. Things are great until everyone thinks you’re the head of human resources. They come to you with complex benefits issues, or they expect you to have insight into the executive compensation planning process. That’s when you have to admit that being a Director of Talent means that you’re responsible for the talent lifecycle of all employees except those that report into the CEO, which is a bummer. That’s when it gets interesting.

I’ve participated in four offsite meetings, this year, where a founder/CEO had to have an awkward conversation with his Director of Talent. In those circumstances, the Director of Talent was always surprised to learn that she’s not the head of HR. Either the CEO considered himself to be the head of human resources or that job was assigned to the COO.


So if you’re a Director of Talent, I have one challenge for you: get promoted to VP of HR. You know that I know that you know that you’re already doing that job. Fight like hell to make it official, and showcase your awesome talent acquisition and talent management skills. Elevate the profession and promote great ideas around you.

Confidence is the killer app in HR. Don’t be satisfied with a director title. If you run something, put everything you have into your career and really run it. It’s the only way to make a change and improve the questionable reputation of most HR and recruiting departments.

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