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Jason Miller

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Solving the talent puzzle: identifying the talent of tomorrow


How to spot potential leaders of tomorrow? Try our guide and discover the people who will shape your organisation’s future.


Identifying talent is like completing the tough Suduko puzzle in the paper; we’ve all had a go; thought we had a chance but few of us ever get near cracking it. Performance indicators, appraisals and assessment offer a tangible and accepted means of evaluation and a traditional framework in which many organisations remain most comfortable to operate.

The consequence is that too great an importance is placed on the value of what an individual has delivered and is delivering now, and the need to consider their potential to perform in the future is neglected. Established measurements of an individual’s current and track record can accurately assesses ‘performance’ but when this is mistaken as an assessment for talent, an organisation risks missing the opportunity to increase its business performance by spotting the leaders of tomorrow.

True leadership potential is identified by combining current performance with the more intangible qualities of ‘ambition and stretch’ which form the elements of potential. Enlightened organisations are paying equal attention to these less tangible factors as an indication of true potential. They remain clear that individuals who demonstrate both high performance and high potential are those who possess real talent. But it is only when an organisation is equipped to identify and develop that talent, that true future leaders can be developed.

The ‘new values’ paradigm

The leaders of tomorrow have a very different set of values compared to previous generations. Much has already been written about ‘Generation Y’ which is emerging as a fiercely ambitious and mobile breed of entrepreneurs and business leaders, often with a strong conscience for ethical and environmental issues.

They have a radical approach to business and a strong respect for openness, progression and ‘making a difference’. Employers need to embrace this cultural shift if they wish to harness the drive and aspirations of the next generation. A new framework will allow these talented individuals to thrive where:

Co-operation and collaboration replaces the old style of ‘command and control’.  Emerging leaders don’t work in isolation but very much as part of a team – drawing on the knowledge of their peers for mutual benefit. Interestingly, it is a style of management which suits the evolving trend for businesses to work in partnership.
How someone achieves something is viewed as important, if not just as important as the final result itself.  In the emerging business world, the ability to build strong teams and create enduring business relationships with genuine long-term benefits is critical – these skills should be developed and respected.  

Entrepreneurial flair is encouraged. Innovation is no longer enough to secure commercial success; it needs a strong business platform and entrepreneurial vision to take the idea to market. 

Don’t just attract it, keep it!
‘Head-hunting’ days are outdated and ignored by the new talent employers who are keen to recruit. The next generation of leaders has grown up with social media as a way to reach out, network and communicate.

It is no longer a question of waiting for them to come to you, companies should be engaging with this audience on a regular basis. Google, for example, epitomises this approach and as a result has its pick from an impressive pool of over 1 million applicants every year – the company rejects 99.5% of them.

Of course, once you have found your future leaders, you need to work hard to retain them. If they are not motivated or their core values not met, they will walk. So it is vital to:

  • Be open and honest.  Ensure they are clear on how they rate against key development criteria; keeping them in the dark will not help them or you
  • Provide new opportunities for self-development. One of the main reasons talent leave is due to a lack of opportunities to develop and grow. Remember, they are recruited for their potential, so let them ‘stretch’ and rise to the occasion
  • Honour their values. High on the list for this ethically-aware generation is the desire to ‘make a difference’ and this is a cornerstone for many businesses keen to bring out the best in the new pool of talent. Working with social enterprises as part of our talent development programmes has proven highly successful for all those concerned. It presents a genuine challenge for individuals but also strong engagement with a clear mission which has genuine value.  

This is not ‘goodbye’
Of course, even with the most dedicated coaching programme, talented individuals may still decide to leave. It is vital that the leaving experience is as positive as their initial introduction – after all, they are advocates of the business so it is vital to secure a positive reputation amongst their, possibly equally talented, peers.

With this in mind, some progressive companies have chosen to introduce a ‘those we have loved and lost’ section on their website and invite them to alumni events. It is a relatively small world where the next generation are tightly networked, so it makes sense to ensure every touch-point with your organisation is a positive and rewarding experience. They may even be back when the time is right.

Harbouring within each organisation is an abundance of talent with the potential to deliver real business performance. However, an organisation can only maximise this when it is proficient at identifying the more intangible assets that comprise ‘potential talent’  Companies can pave the way for this next generation of business leader by matching aspirations, recognising motivations and providing the right environment for the individual to grow.

It is a positive choice, to gain a comfortable sense of achievement by opting for the ‘coffee break quick Sudoko’ which you know is within easy reach or to strive to complete the toughest, more rewarding puzzle.

Jason Miller, Tinder-Box Business Coaching,


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