No Image Available

An holistic approach to talent management

pp_default1

Holistic approachWill Mitchell explains how organisations can develop employees who are not identified as ‘high potentials’.


There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that young people find it hard to recover when they are labelled as outside the top group. This is why the 11+ was abolished in the 1970s as many later developers were penalised by a test that had a massive bearing on their future lives.

Organisations have the same dilemma with the consideration of high-potential schemes. There is a general acceptance by most organisations that the ‘war for talent’ necessitates a pro-active approach to ensure succession planning at senior levels with internal talent – to rely on building rather than buying externally.

“The critical objective is to maintain the levels of engagement of those employees who could be disillusioned by not being high potentials.”

While much is invested in those ‘high potential’ employees, there is a risk of disillusionment and disengagement of those who are still effective employees but not likely to progress to the highest levels.

There is an immediate anger and frustration at not being selected and possible distancing from the organisation and potential loss of valuable skills, as many may still be high performers.

There is a risk that if these employees internalise the label of not being high potentials, this could reduce levels of commitment and lead to performance decline.

Some of the implications of high-potential schemes are:

  • Those not selected are demotivated and leave the organisations leading to costly recruitment needs
  • Those not selected are disengaged and minimise their contribution beyond the required job role minimum
  • The high potentials might have been selected incorrectly and other employees could be suitable but need further opportunities to join a scheme

The critical objective is to maintain the levels of engagement of those employees who could be disillusioned by not being high potentials. These people need reassurance that they are still valued by the organisation and provided with encouragement to help maintain their performance.

Drivers of engagement

Employee research suggests that key factors driving engagement consistently emerge around personal growth and being able to apply skills and talents on a regular basis.

Consequently, employees will feel more re-engaged if they can play to their strengths and achieve the elusive fit between their talents and the tasks required. There is a need to encourage managers to keep developing their people not just for present roles to contribute to their own team effectiveness, but to encourage them to see each employee as having future potential for other roles within the organisation, not necessarily in senior line management roles.

“One of the challenges for leaders is to help managers think in the long-term around their talent, while being stretched by short-term competitive pressures.”

Recent research shows there is room for improvement. A survey by McKinsey in 2006 provides some clues. It found that 54% of executives interviewed felt that senior managers did not spend enough time on talent management activity. Also, 52% of respondents identified insufficient commitment of line managers as a critical barrier to talent management. Moreover, 50% of respondents observed that line managers were unwilling to categorise their people.

One of the challenges for leaders is to help managers think in the long-term around their talent, while being stretched by short-term competitive pressures. Many businesses operate in turbulent and changing markets where it is hard to plan six months ahead, let alone six years.

The McKinsey findings suggest there is plenty of opportunity for managers to understand the skills, strengths and aspirations of their staff. At present, it appears that there is an understanding gap between many employees and managers that can result in missed opportunities for development.

The risk of targets and rewards

Possible HR processes to encourage managers to take a longer-term focus are to impose objectives around people development and consider linkage of bonus to employee survey metrics around people development. However, these are somewhat stick rather than carrot, and a longer-term solution is to develop the thinking of the managers themselves to encourage a longer-term mindset, rather than forcing behaviour by targets and rewards.

A focus on mindfulness and strengths for all

Many managers have a limited understanding of the contribution from each individual beyond the basic tasks alone. There is an opportunity to gain greater understanding of what engages them personally and others within their team. They can appreciate that they can still make an important contribution, possibly in a specialist area, rather than progressing towards senior leadership roles.

“This holistic focus on talent management in parallel with high-potential schemes ensures that employees are able to re-engage and find a purpose in the role.”

Psychometric tests are consistently used for assessment to join an organisation and are increasingly applied for developmental purposes. Developmental diagnostics help people become more mindful of themselves and their preferences and attitudes. Some sophisticated tools now exist to look at people motivations for the future and can identify gaps relative to the present, such as the Saville Wave tool.

Two specific areas of contribution are emotional intelligence and signature strengths. These do not require significant external investment, though the initial feedback session should be delivered by a suitably qualified occupational psychologist or internal specialist.

This initial investment can begin to help employees to understand their strengths and aspirations for the future and help managers to think more of the future potential of each team member and how they might develop themselves to get there.

This self-awareness focus needs to be ideally supported by coaching or action learning to stretch employees out of their comfort zone. Workshops and self-development material can also help employees develop their skills and help understand how to better stay motivated and energised.

This raising of consciousness of employee strengths and potential inevitably has risks, and managers may have concerns that this raises employee expectations and could lead to some people realising that they need to pursue a career elsewhere.

This may appear a short-term cost but, in fact, leads to a more motivated and engaged workforce. It also may expose managers who fail to develop and recognise the talents of their team and this will also encourage a shift to more developmental managers. This helps to energise and increase commitment levels of the many, rather than the few, identified as high potentials.

This holistic focus on talent management in parallel with high-potential schemes ensures that employees are able to re-engage and find a purpose in the role and future within the organisation.


Will Mitchell is director of consulting at A&DC.

No Image Available
Newsletter

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.

 
 
 
 

Thank you.