McKinsey Quarterly has a really interesting article about talent challenges in China.  It has some great environmental information, then makes some great points about workforce planning.  It even says:

Top companies segment their talent base with the same effort and care that a top marketing department employs to segment its customer base

Exciting, and by now I'm thinking I couldn't agree more....until I read on, and realize the article is talking about segmenting based on capabilities, corporate strategy, tenure group, etc.  In other words, segmenting based on what the company needs from the market.

Um, that's NOT what top marketing departments do.

Top marketing departments segment based on what the market aspires to, wants, or needs (supply), and then they construct offerings to appeal to these segments.  What McKinsey is advocating is segmenting on attributes of what the organization wants from the market (organizational demand).  Not the same thing by any stretch!

It really is time we stopped confusing the two when we talk about Strategic Workforce Planning!  Yes, demand segmentation is critical, and you must do it - but you aren't going to get any of the talent management power of a "top marketing department" until you start thinking about the attributes of the supply.  Believe me, the marketers at Pepsi don't think of segments as the market as "people who drink the Pepsi my budget says I need to drink Pepsi"!  They think of them as "hip homemakers",

So yes, there are some really good points in this article (especially if you are operating in China), but please - let's not pretend we are treating the talent market like marketers when what we are really doing is continuing to focus only on demand!