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May 2010

Talent Management or Employee Effectiveness

Talent Do you sometimes feel that the world is being swamped by the new jargon of 'Talent Management'? Pick up a management magazine or read the business section of the newspaper and you will almost invariably find something about talent or talent management.

It is as if the HR profession has discovered something new and is trying to justify its importance with this remarkable breakthrough and all that is associated with it and overseeing the resultant 'talent pool'. What has changed? Didn't companies have talent before?

At a recent conference a speaker described how much nicer it was to refer to people as talent. Then, with no sense of the irony of what she was saying, she went on to describe how the Talent Management function had made great progress and identified 1% of the workforce as "high potentials" for accelerated learning and development within the organisation. She seemed equally oblivious to the negative effect that this might have on employee engagement.

Indeed the whole approach to both recruitment and talent management seems to be that you hire and manage talent as a discrete entity, completely separate from the people it comes attached to. Complaints about the difficulty in recruiting "the right talent" and the depictions of the "war for talent" compound this and imply a profession that has hardly progressed from regarding employees as "hired hands." There is still no recognition of the totality of the person.

Such focus on talent begs the question "Is the current generation less talented and less capable than previous generations?" The answer to that can only be an emphatic "No!" This certainly suggests that the approach is still wrong. Is the fundamental issue not more about people effectiveness rather than talent management?

I would suggest it is, and therefore that, if we really want to get to grips with the issues, we need to start by recognising the challenge for what it really is. Employees are people, and if you want to maximise talent you need to regard them as such, and help them maximise personal potential. That is the best way to nurture talent, without belittling your people. Anything less than a universal approach is divisive and will perpetuate your employee engagement problem.


Are you MAD?

Am I showing my age here, or are there others out there who remember the "You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps!" posters? MAD

What brought them to mind? It started after I wrote my last blog calling for more effective people management to align company values and strategy. I was thinking about that when I remembered learning at a recent seminar that the average role for any Generation Y employee is 15 months.

Now if that doesn't make you rethink your approach to people management, nothing will!  For, unless you can stimulate people to create the employee engagement necessary to create a sound employer brand to retain them, your chances of running a successful business and developing or maintaining any sort of credible brand are slim to non-existent.

Now you might think an employer would be mad to risk employing anyone who is likely to only stay in a role for 15 months, but of course you cannot avoid employing a whole generation! You simply have no choice but to change your approach. This is not as difficult as you may think; because making a difference is a key motivator for Generation Y. Ironically they are not so very different from any other generation in this regard. The real difference is that they simply do not subscribe to "be grateful for the job and put up with it" attitude of previous generations. So, whereas "my way or the highway" might have been an effective threat to older generations of employees, Generation Y have reversed it completely and made this a threat for managers rather than a threat by them.

Thus as an employer you have to create an environment in which people can make a difference. However, to appeal to Gen. Y's fast-paced, almost instant, life-style, but building on from our own proclivity for 3 letter acronyms, you can abbreviate "making a difference" as MAD. This brings us back to the old poster which now does not seem as whacky as we thought. For Gen Y, you do have to be MAD to work here, because if you aren't, you won't!

But that's okay, because as an employer you don't want anyone who is not MAD! So maybe the joke's on us and we were smarter all along than we thought!  


Is your message on song?

It's a bit of a cliché to talk about "all singing from the same songsheet" but perhaps the concept is more relevant than you realise. You see, if you don't, you might find there is a different song out there, as this example shows.

The message that comes across certainly doesn't do BT any favours and could very realistically counter every single penny BT spends on advertising. It clearly demonstrates that viral marketing can be both a negative and positive phenomenon, and that the power is no longer exclusively with the big companies with their big spending. After all, what is the point of spending millions on advertising across all media if poor service means a single dissatisfied customer can negate all your efforts - and for nothing?

Social media can be a wonderful tool for disgruntled customers!  It certainly goes a long way towards levelling the playing field and taking the power out of corporate hands. So if you still doubt the premise of the organisation as a team, you clearly need to think again. If you cannot align your people and get them to think and act consistently with your business values and strategy, your business will be in trouble.   

There is a lot more to being on song than you realised - or than was ever the case before! People management is a HUGE challenge and you need to recognise this and be ready to step up to the plate. After all you can no longer be sure of who the messenger actually is and, more than ever, "actions speak louder than words!"