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Six tips for effective talent management

29th Sep 2011
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With competition to retain high-potential employees at fever pitch, talent management is firmly occupying the HR, learning and development and leadership agenda.

But there are six principles that organisations can adopt to make a real difference in talent management terms in order to ensure that they select, develop and retain their best performers and future leaders.   1 Be in the Know   Are you aware of the talent that your business cannot afford to lose? Do you know such individuals as well as your competitors’ head hunters do?   The message is clear - keep in touch with your talent on a regular basis. Talent managers would benefit from deploying some of the characteristics of the world’s best executive search firms.   2 Keep dialogue going   Do the people that you can’t afford to lose know just how much you value them?   It is said that great talent managers are not just familiar with people but know them intimately (Charan and Conaty, 2010).   One leading third sector organisation found that by designing a ‘talking talent toolkit’, managers had the resources to distinguish between a ‘performance conversation’ and a ‘talent conversation’. This provided a practical means for leaders and managers to hold conversations with employees to help them truly understand each individual’s future aspirations and desires.   3 Align talent to business challenges   Is your top talent aware of your business strategies and realities?   One of the best ways that organisations can develop their talent pipelines is by encouraging such people to work on ‘real’ business issues and challenges.   Although current job performance is not necessarily a predictor of future potential, ensuring that high-performers are given goals and objectives that are stretching and aligned to business imperatives is key to ensuring they have the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and strengths within different contexts.       4 The value of assessment   Do you know the attributes that will predict the success of your future business leaders and/or chief executive?   While, historically, many organisations have adopted valid generic talent development models, some are now questioning whether this ‘off-the-shelf’ approach is enough to meet the business’ specific long-term needs.   Internationally, there is an increasing appreciation that, although many companies have signed up to generic competency-based models to determine what ‘good’ looks like, this generic approach is not predictive when it comes to identifying future leadership potential (Shippmann et al, 2000).   Thomson Reuters is one organisation, for example, that, over the last year, has been investing in internal and external research to identify the attributes that its future leaders need to demonstrate. Interestingly, one of the characteristics that has been identified relates specifically to an individual’s capacity to interact with technology - a feature missing from most current generic frameworks.   5 Respect diversity   Should all talented individuals be nurtured in the same way?   It is important to highlight the needs of underrepresented talent groups. Firstly, this means being explicit with the under-represented group in question about some of the challenges that members are likely to face. Women, for example, tend to receive lower ratings at assessment centres and are typically more apologetic in board meetings than men.   Second, it is crucial to explore how the organisation can intervene in a way that best helps underrepresented talent to understand their strengths and ensure that they are in an optimum position to make their next career move.   6 Realising strengths   Do you know how to develop unrealised strengths? Are your talent strategies based on the development of these strengths or do they expose individual’s weaknesses under the guise of development opportunities?    Assessing and developing the realised and unrealised strengths of individuals can act as a tool for unlocking their potential, the potential of the teams in which they operate and the potential of the wider organisation.   Having a rounder view of each individual should ensure that any career moves are not made on the basis of trying to overcome personal weaknesses and/or learned behaviours. This is a key reason why some individuals flourish in one area of the business but crash and burn when they move to another – the so-called ‘hero-to-zero’ phenomenon.   Organisations should not only ever place people in positions that play to their strengths as everyone requires opportunities to grow and develop. But if you insist in putting people into positions that fundamentally play to their weaknesses, then don’t be surprised if they fail – and you lose some of your most promising talent as a result.   

Nicky Garcea is consulting director at talent management consultancy, Capp.

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