Is ‘talent management’ another fancy name for Human Resources or Personnel? Or is it something that conveys and delivers a more distinctive level of value?

Smarter businesses are slowly recognising that any organised process of talent management should not be restricted to the sales ‘rainmakers’ or technical wizards. To be fully effective, it should apply to people across all departments who, with effective management and development, can add significant value to the business.

Nor is effective talent management just about supporting and encouraging those who are already recognisably good in their current role. For any personal development programme to deliver a rapid return, it should focus on identifying and understanding staff with potential – those who, with the right skills and behaviour training, can take on board new ways of working.

There is a trap to avoid here. It is not uncommon for talented and successful employees with strong operational skills in any department to be promoted to a management position. This brings new challenges for both the individual and the broader organisation.

Take the case of a talented seller or customer relationship professional who is appointed to lead. The team instantly loses the day-to-day skills of a great seller or somebody who really understands how to nurture an account. And there is absolutely no guarantee that that individual’s capabilities will translate into a talent for sales management or for driving customer service strategy.

That’s a potential double hit. The new leader must also be able to adapt his or her own talent to meet a new set of personal goals whilst also developing talent within the team. They must also ensure there is the right balance of skills and experience to deliver against the company’s targets.

Simple ‘sheep dip’ training does not constitute talent management. To achieve this, training and coaching must be embedded as part of the company culture, valued and encouraged by senior management. The right level of time and resource needs to be dedicated to its execution.
It also means that the business has to view training, not as a cost centre but as an investment which delivers a valuable return for the company, the employee and, not least, the customer in terms of a better and more consistent experience.

It may not be possible to attribute cause and effect directly. Yet it is surely no accident that the best- performing companies are also those who clearly commit time and resource into planned programmes of identifying and developing talent in this way across their business.

Employees feel both engaged and empowered by organisational initiatives which show they are valued as contributing to the success of the business. And, in the long term, this helps create a virtuous circle, as ‘great companies attract great talent’.

In short, improving behavioural and operational skills is not a financial burden to be avoided wherever possible. On the contrary, it sits at the heart of the business’s future success, by helping retain and nurture their best people – as well as their best customers.

By David Freedman, sales director, Huthwaite International