Talent Management and the wider ‘talent landscape’ is fast moving and fluid. It has become a well recognised Board issue and I believe has moved into the critical arena for organisations, as we see the skills gap widen and talent shortages deepen across industries. The good news is that it is now firmly part of the business process, as we see the industry using big data, Internet of Things and social media to start getting accurate data behind mapping and management.
This focus on talent is timely. Productivity levels have dipped to an all-time low here in the UK and uncertainty on the impact of Brexit on business is set to continue. As business leaders we need to work hard at recognising our talent pool, develop a common understanding of what we mean by talent and how to actively manage it, so we don’t let our future leaders leave the building.
Talent means different things to different people
So what do we mean by ‘talent’? Be careful not to fall into the trap of being too narrow minded; we are all talented in some way, but clearly we cannot all be in a talent pool. Every organisation has different requirements and will be guided by the nature of the business and the challenges it faces. You may have an Olympic cyclist in your midst, but if you’re in the business of long distance running, they may not be suited to the talent pool.
However, there are common traits across most organisations, such as the ability to progress quickly, having a string of successes in a role and being ‘change oriented’. But there will be differences in an organisation with large numbers of employees where the ability to get people to deliver excellent results will perhaps be more important than the ability to run projects. An organisation which is looking for innovative ideas and solutions, like the advertising sector for example will place a priority on those skills. Defining talent is crucial so you can manage the process and be able to communicate to employees so they understand what it’s all about and don’t get upset if they are not part of it.
Once you’ve defined what talent looks like to your organisation, outline the criteria you are looking the ‘talent group’ to display. Think behaviours, experiences, values and potential. These elements will help you identify your talent group.
Identification and attraction
It is more likely that you will identify talent from your existing workforce rather than recruit it in, you will naturally have more information to assess existing employees. However, avoid nominating people to the talent pool based upon one person’s view. Companies must have a rigorous process in place and involve a number of people in the decision making. There are many ways to assess people and it should be continuous, using management reviews, psychometrics tests, performance reviews and interviews to get the right balance.
Once you have identified your ‘talent cohort’ you need to actively manage it and share the areas for development with the group. One of the key aspects of active management is steering high performers into new roles. This can be exciting, as at this point, you can look at getting experimental with newly created roles for the people who can make them work and potentially define new categories within the business. An opportunistic move to bring hierarchal structures bang up to date, removing dated positions and modernising teams. There is no point investing considerable time, effort and money into a group of people to sit back and see what happens. They have been identified, to make a significant impact on your business. So work with them to move them into key roles where they can make the most difference.
A touch of realism
Don’t assume that you will get your selection 100 per cent right every time. HR leaders need to be good communicators with the ability to explain that membership of the talent pool is not a permanent state and sometimes employees will move off the talent grid – which shouldn’t be seen as a negative.
In an ideal world, talent management needs to be part of daily work life and become a positive corporate habit. Most organisations will have a monthly business review when performance is reviewed. Your ‘talent activities’ should also be reviewed as part of that process. Rather than seeing it as being separate to the business, it needs to be part of the ‘weft and weave’ of the company, linking in to the day to day, as well as other areas such as diversity.
And finally, without management buy in, you’re reducing the chance of success and the return on investment will decrease. Traditionally ‘talent’ is normally managed through the HR Function, but it is rising up the ranks as leaders recognise the need for change to enable a smooth and uninterrupted flow of business.
You need to position your people for the future. If you don’t, you’ll have to close the door gently on the way out.