TTT – Maximising the Value of Talent

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Thursday 28th November 2013 hosted by the BBC’s Karen Moran (Director of Resourcing, Talent & Leadership) and Annabel Dixon (Head of Resourcing and Talent), titled ‘Maximising the Value of Talent’.

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Resourcing professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.

Retaining and developing an organisation’s workforce is critical for sustained success; even more relevant now as the market picks up and employees feel more confident about taking the next steps to further their careers. One of the main challenges associated with doing this effectively is having a clear definition of talent and understanding what needs to be done with different pockets of employees to truly maximise their value.

Self-service career management

Empowering employees to take ownership of their careers can be a great way to ensure staff are developed in the most effective way. Often line-managers falsely believe that they own the careers of their team and can therefore prevent an individual progressing upwards or sideways; even if it’s going to be more beneficial for the wider business and employee. To introduce an effective self-service system HR need to ensure that there are the tools available for employees to be able to navigate and explore the best options available to them. Within the career journey HR should play a facilitation role and be on hand when an employee requires assistance. However, it’s important to remember that this type of model is unlikely to work in a cultural environment that doesn’t already embrace some element of self-service.

Talent management

What does ‘talent’ mean within your business? Is it a descriptor for high performance and high potential or does it encompass the entire workforce? Arguably it should be a term used to describe all employees as surely everybody has the potential for something, they just need the tools and training to excel in the environment they’re in. For many businesses the term talent purely relates to the employees perceived to have the ability to become leaders. But why should someone who doesn’t wish to pursue a leadership / management career be considered to have any less potential than someone who does, and therefore not be rewarded / developed appropriately?

Some businesses have reported success with redefining the nine box grid to view every employee as talent and ensure that all boxes (apart from the bottom left) have a positive ‘tag’ or ‘descriptor’ associated with it. This has helped prevent managers from simply putting all their staff in the top right box; behaviour widely experienced across many businesses based on the negative association of having team members falling outside this box.

When it comes to performance management, how are assessing your employees? It’s crucial to relate the appraisal system back to the core values of the organisation – whether that means focusing on safety, efficiency, innovation or profitability. It helps employees live and breath the organisational values and also positively impacts engagement scores when employees see what their contribution is doing for the greater business. However, when measuring performance it’s advisable to consider the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, and therefore reward this accordingly. For example did the employee exceed in terms of performance, but did they tread on the toes of colleagues to get there?

Holding difficult conversations and getting managers to manage

We expect managers to be able to effectively handle challenging conversations and provide honest feedback to their staff with regards to their performance. But do we place enough emphasis on giving them to tools to do so? When an employee progresses into a management position are they offered any relevant training or are we just assuming that because of their ‘talent’ status they’ll know what to do? As the expression goes ‘people leave managers not companies’ and therefore a positive relationship between an employee and their line-manager is vital. Equipping managers with the tools to hold candid conversations allows the employee to make better decisions based on a more transparent and real dialogue. Again, it’s not HR’s responsibility to manage talent but it is HR’s responsibility to ensure managers have the tools to do it effectively.

Assessing and developing talent

Within your business do you know what good looks like for job groups? If you don’t then it’s probably time to find out. Using an external agency to assess your internal population and then benchmark this data against the wider market is invaluable. It will offer clarity around the types of individuals you already employ and flag the desirable qualities you should be looking for in the recruitment process.

When identifying the pockets of talent that are most in need of development, look to develop the areas that will result in the biggest business impact. Additionally, understand what will be required of the business tomorrow and develop in the areas where new or enhanced skills will be required.

Are we fighting a losing battle?

Many talent management programmes are based on a more traditional outlook of the career journey. For example, reflective of a time when individuals joined a company for life or at least spent six to seven years within one business before moving on. Gone are the days when a candidate with two to three years experience at a company is considered a ‘job-hopper’. The traditional interim CV seems to be looking more and more like today’s permanent candidate population.

So, it begs the question – are we fighting a losing battle when it comes to talent development if employees are inevitably going to move on in three years time? It seems that businesses need to take more of a segmented approach to talent management; catering to the individuals who desire the more traditional career path whilst not neglecting the employees who are more likely to crave variety. It’s often a case of accepting that one business cannot always provide the perfect development and exposure for everyone. However, creating a culture that makes it okay for a member of staff to leave your business, gain the relevant experience and then return with more knowledge is absolutely possible and lies in the hands of the employer. These employees are going to be able to provide a beneficial insight into the wider market and will be all the more valuable given their external experiences.

The Talent Think Tank’s recommendations for ‘Maximising the Value of Talent’:

  • Effective talent management and development is dependent on the ability of the line-manager and the tools available to them – ensure they have received the adequate training to make them good people managers
  • Talent should be a collective term used to describe the entire workforce, as everybody has the potential for something when working in the right environment
  • Why should high potential status be so reflective of leadership capability? There should be development plans available for employees who want to be true specialists as opposed to people managers
  • There isn’t a one size fits all model – a business’s demographic population will largely dictate the required talent management and development programmes
  • If your business culture allows, put the onus on the employee to navigate their own career (supported by HR and by making the relevant tools available)
  • Make your performance management process relevant to the core values of your business
  • Talent development will not work if it’s a one sided endeavour. The line-manager and employee both need to be bought into development plans
  • Re-label the nine box grid with positive tags to encourage managers to plot their employees in more appropriate boxes (even if they’re less favourable).
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