Targeted Talent Management
by Ed Hurst
May 7 2004 - Most large organisations talk about Talent Management as part of their wider strategy. It is a crucial way of securing, developing and motivating people with the right skills and approaches to meet business objectives.
But how many of our strategic goals are fully met by our talented people? All too often, we find that we don't have the right people in place to fill a gap when it appears, or we simply can't keep hold of the individuals we want. Even worse, talented people may simply not be operating at the level we require.
So what can we do to seize these missed opportunities? I believe that the biggest single challenge is achieving genuine "connectedness" between Talent Strategy and Business Strategy. A wide range of people processes often take place without a clear relationship with the ultimate aims and culture of the business.
Think about recruitment, performance management and development - to what extent are these processes based on a clear analysis of the talents and skills that people will need to operate at the next level? To what extent do you build people's capability and motivation to meet the needs of the business in a few years' time? It is vitally important to build a clear definition of what each organisation really means by talent throughout the organisation. The acid test is simple - do people with these qualities deliver the kinds of business success we are aiming for?
In a project that I am involved with at the moment, I am working with a major organisation that has a very clear sense of its future strategic direction. It is investing now in its people by providing feedback and coaching - targeting not only each person's natural areas of strength, but also pinpointing the specific qualities that the organisation will need in the future. Crucially, this is not a one-hit wonder - the outcomes are being linked to how people are managed, developed and motivated. The direct effect on business outcomes will be tracked and analysed. It is this joined-up quality that makes a significant difference - linking business strategy to people's daily experience of the organisation.
It is vitally important that individual aspirations and organisational goals are delivered together. Too often, these are seen as unequal partners. However, organisations that genuinely focus on understanding each person's own natural talents tend to achieve corporate success. We need to create different routes for people to progress and develop, otherwise we will only appeal to a narrow range of people. This approach requires an open mind, tackling questions like "How can we use this person's talent and energies?", "How can we organise our work differently?" or "Are we aiming for the wrong things?" But if such issues are genuinely addressed, great things can be achieved.
"Alignment" is another key element of a successful Talent Strategy. When selecting or developing people, most organisations focus on the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours required for the role. However, some organisations are beginning to look at the behaviours required to operate effectively in a particular team or culture. Working with Professors Michael West and Neil Anderson, ASE have an approach that looks at all of the factors that drive team performance (not simply the "types" of people in the team), and this leads to impressive results. We need to understand the relationship between people's motivations and the sorts of organisational cultures in which they will thrive.
Talent Management should be about delivering business success through understanding what we actually mean by talent, and how it will achieve the specific goals of the organisation. It is about ensuring that we value the natural talents and aspirations of our people. It is about ensuring that we understand what blockages can spoil all our hard work. It is about operating people processes that join together not only with each other, but with the business's goals. And finally, it is also about understanding how to manage people for alignment as well as ability. If we adopt these approaches, not only will business success follow, but we should also have fulfilled and effective people.