Clive Wilson explains how bosses can get the most from their staff through ‘talent liberation’ – a vital part of the talent management strategy.
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein
Our world is facing a severe economic downturn, making life in organisations tough. Many organisations are facing closure or significant downsizing. Those in more fortunate positions, if they are wise, are making sure they take full advantage of their situation to get ahead or stay ahead of the competition.
The implications are obvious. For organisations, it is more critical than ever to focus on what matters and point the attentions of their people towards compelling corporate objectives. They need a clear vision and they need to provide the opportunity for their people to engage with it, working out what it means for them, individually and collectively.
For employees too, this becomes a challenge. More will be asked of them in difficult circumstances. The need to be more creative about what people do, so that more can be done with less, will foster opportunities for the use of people’s talents to become even more important. Knowing what one’s talents are and how they can add value thus becomes a valuable bargaining chip with an employer, as well as a source of personal satisfaction.
Organisations also need to take notice of the evidence regarding what will make them most productive and most competitive. Research shows that only about 14% of employees are fully engaged with the objectives of their employer. It also shows that when they are fully engaged there is up to 40% more discretional energy that can be brought to the task in hand.
There is absolutely no doubt that playing to the strengths of their people is the secret to being the best they can be. And yet, most organisations are fixated with competence, paying more attention to where their people fall below the line, rather than what they have to offer that is unique and amazing about them. It is our belief from dialogue with our clients and others in the marketplace that large organisations spend around 90% of their learning and development budgets fixing weaknesses rather than developing strengths.
In these tough times, the best possible strategy is to focus on the philosophy of talent liberation: organisations reach prime performance when they recognise, value, develop and use the unique talents of all their people in the delivery of their objectives.
Talent liberation: A vital and distinctive component of talent management
Talent management has become the dominant workplace issue of this century. The prevailing theme of the talent management profession is the establishment of processes through which sufficient talent can be sourced, developed and used for an organisation. Emphasis is placed on succession to key roles and the development of key individuals.
The focus of the discipline of talent liberation on the other hand is on making the most of the talent that everyone brings to the workplace. It is a progressive and emerging discipline and a subset of the positive psychology movement.
In the talent liberation philosophy, the words recognise, value, develop and use are key. Experience suggests that individuals and organisations must take deliberate steps to:
(a) recognise the talent they bring to the workplace
(b) value it in terms of a calculated understanding of how each talent adds value
(c) develop talents into clear strengths rather than focusing too much energy on weaknesses
(d) use the unique talents they have consciously to deliver their shared objectives
For talent liberation to work properly, it must be led from the top and fed into the life-blood of the organisation in a systematic way. Every organisation is different and the precise implementation of talent liberation will depend on what else is going on. With this in mind, the following eight-step process is offered, to be molded as appropriate for particular needs.
- Confirm direction: Make sure there is clarity of vision in the organisation and a good understanding of how value is added. Without this, people will not know how to add value through the best use of their talents.
- State philosophy: Establish the organisation’s philosophy on talent. Could it buy into the statement provided above? What else needs to be said to make it fit for purpose?
- Align processes: Do the organisation’s performance management processes support the philosophy? If not, initiate appropriate changes.
- Plan: What else will the organisation need to do to support talent liberation? Take stock of all the steps in this article.
- Communicate: Communicate the new philosophy and plan of supporting action via the head of business. Then, establish a clear communications strategy to let people know how talent is being used to support business needs on an ongoing basis.
- Develop leaders: Provide leadership development for all managers where they can recognise, value, develop and use their talents in the delivery of business objectives. Then, after they have made gains, equip them to do the same for their people.
- Build talented teams: Provide team development where individuals can acknowledge each other’s talents and commit as a team to improved ways of working that play to their strengths.
- Review: Review, modify and repeat as required.
A concerted application of the talent liberation philosophy and eight-step implementation method adds significant value to organisations. When the economic climate is tough, it is an essential route to doing more with less, to staying in business when others fall by the wayside and to gaining competitive edge.
Clive Wilson is deputy chairman at organisational development consultancy Primeast.