So what is talent? Its a tricky question as definitions of talent and career management vary widely yet the terminology can easily be interchanged. Though for our purposes I will stick to the term talent to avoid confusion (mainly mine). Definitions vary as do the talent management programmes across many industries and businesses. Some good and not so good and some non-existent. So to drill a little deeper l will try to identify some key characteristics of what talent management is and how it can work.
Managing talent in an organisation could be defined as being focussed upon particular people in the business, a set of characteristics or more toward a statement of identified needs for the future. Some organisations see talent as the ability to go on toward leadership & CEO status, or as McCartney & Garrow (2006) suggest as “employees that have a disproportionate impact upon the bottom line, or have the potential to do so” However the CIPD (2006) defines talent management as ‘the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement/retention and deployment of those individuals with high potential who are of particular value to an organisation’. So how do organisations identify a talent pool or groups of individuals that will have significant effect upon the business and most interesting what do they do with the group when they have been identified?
Toxic Talent Management
Having witnessed unfettered and undefined talent programmes in a large organisation here in the UK, where graduates (mainly young men) were employed on-mass, as being educated therefore talented, that over time created a significantthem and us divisions. The talent management plan was undefined and none of the non-participants of the programme were informed of the plan (or lack of them) to help them understand it and potentially rise to the levels of the talent pool. Thus raising performance expectations for all employees instead of the few. Without this information people easily saw the initiative as being unfair, it effected motivation and job performance.
The chosen few in the talent pool soon became overly competitive, boorish and unmanaged because they could. Young men with little in the way of people skills were promoted way beyond their capabilities and began to struggle with the burden of expectation. They were offered no coaching or mentoring or development workshops just expected to slug it out toward survival of the fittest. Not a healthy state of play and gives rise to the suggestion that managing talent is certainly not easy and not easily defined.
Talent Management Planning
Clearly the management of talent has many areas of focus. Any program will need careful planning to fit in with organisational culture, form appropriate measurement of the high performers and equity within the organisation. Moreover, no one size fits all, as many HR organisations do not see managing talent as a priority. Of course this is perfectly understandable in the current business climate. These programmes need time and commitment from all facets of the business to work and can be expensive. Though there is considerable evidence to show that the business that engage in talent management make significant returns of their investment. Profitability up by between 15.4% to shareholders to 1,289% returns to shareholders over ten years data from http://www.greatplacetowork.co.uk/. So lets move on toward positive talent & leadership development here are a few discussion points to get the ball rolling
- Have a clear agreement as to what high potential staff or talent is for your organisation. Is it to lead, manage, sell, or develop products etc that effect profit or what exactly?
- Define the job roles for this process
- Are the people inside or outside the organisation for the talent programme?
- Will performance management programmes be rigorously applied i.e. fit to focus?
- Have you identified a clear system of identifying the talent potential?
- Are organisations expectations realistic?
- Is their an open and honest organisational culture and able to give and receive constructive criticism? Does this programme fit your cuture of operations?
- Non-participants encouraged to understand the talent programme and aspire to the standards expected.
- Development centres/workshops to encourage group working, deal with poor performance, taking stock of career progress, personal performance coaching and most of all reflection time for learning and PDP.
- Ensure development has clear purpose
Managing talent is tough to get right. As to some extents it is counter intuitive in a very lean and competitive business world. Clearly these initiatives are expensive and time consuming as mentioned earlier and need progressive commitment from the organisation to work. However, having key people in key positions leave the business as a result of a lack of career development can be expensive. Both in terms of loss of revenue and recruiting the right type of person to the role. So managing talent could be seen as perhaps inoculating your organisation to potential high performers leaving and succeeding elsewhere. As the old adage goes and adapted for this purpose – train your talent so that they can leave, but treat so well that the don’t want to.
Having a clear focus upon the talent needs of the business demands a framework and expectations clearly defined at the outset. Equally important to the organisation is the ability to engage the whole group in developing a ‘talent mindset’ and to help everyone engage and have the same opportunities. Moreover, encouraging the whole team to strive toward pre-defined objectives for those that can achieve will no doubt lift motivation, productivity and sense of purpose & career direction.
The introduction of talent management can viewed as a highly positive response to a changing business environments. However, talent management programmes will need the commitment from leadership teams, management, coaches and mentors to ensure success. Thus signalling a shift to a more proactive culture of people development and performance management for the whole business. However, committing to the talent management plan and setting out goals and objective is a great start.
McCartney C, Garrow V (2006), The Talent Management Journey, Horsham:
Roffey Park Institute
CIPD (2006), Reflections on Talent Management, Change Agenda, London: CIPD