War for Talent

Motivation: The Key to Building Talent

Motivating talent 123RF.com 29606316_s“Motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place.” That line from Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take” really made me stop and think! Imagine the talent, and its impact, if everyone was motivated – especially in business! Yet somehow we don’t do enough to realise this.  

Several years ago the “war for talent” was a major management topic. Now you seldom, if ever, hear it mentioned. Instead the big themes of today seem to be “big data” and “artificial intelligence.” No doubt these are important and denote significant changes to the way businesses and organisations operate, but you risk failing to reap their full benefit if you neglect talent.

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The Strange Dichotomy of Organisations and How to Bridge It

Dichotomy 12350504There is a strange dichotomy in organisations. Perhaps rooted in the Paradox of Management I described previously, it goes beyond that and lies in the fact that, although organisations depend on people to fulfill their purpose, generally they fail to take any account whatsoever of the intrinsic drivers of human behaviour.

An extreme case of this was a conversation with an executive who argued that putting people first was a complete waste of time. As he put it, “I employ people to do a job and I expect them to do it.  If they don’t appreciate how fortunate they are to have a job or they don’t want to do it as prescribed, there are plenty of other people who will!”

Wow! It seems hard to believe that such attitudes still exist. Yet, is it so surprising? Perhaps, despite claims about, and efforts to circumvent and “win”, the “War for Talent”, they reflect a fundamental, ingrained management belief.  Certainly there is plenty of evidence suggesting that, even if not explicitly expressed, they are pretty pervasive, and stem from a belief in the importance of jobs. But employment is about more than just jobs: it is about people.

Improving performance is seldom, if ever, as simple as substituting the person.  And why should it be? Even the exchange of machines can be complicated and their operation radically different. In every case you have to cater for the “needs” of the individual machine.  Those, however, are primarily physical/mechanical. But for people those needs are intrinsically physiological and psychological. Yet how often do you look at the physiological and psychological needs of your people?     

In his book “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek identifies the biological drivers of behaviour. Although these have their origins in ensuring humankind’s survival as a species, they are just as significant today. They therefore play as important a part in the modern workplace as they did in our hunter/gatherer history. In fact they determine our health and sense of wellbeing. Thus, failure to recognise them and shape them, inevitably impacts performance.

Similarly, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies the psychological drivers in his book “Flow”. He describes “flow” as a state when we become so totally absorbed in what we are doing that we become oblivious to the demands of everyday life and says that this is a state of happiness resulting from our need to optimise experience. Key here is the fact that we are all intrinsically goal driven and therefore motivated to continue developing and reaching for new goals. When we are not doing this, we become demotivated, disinterested and disengaged. Sinek explains this is due to the body’s production of dopamine, which makes us feel good when we reach our goals, and serotonin, which is produced by the sense of pride we get when we feel that others like and respect us. 

Daniel Pink identifies the essential ingredients of employee engagement as autonomy, mastery and purpose. The first two are again readily understandable when you understand that they derive from the production of dopamine and serotonin. On the other hand, he links purpose closely with a sense of belonging, which Sinek says stems from the body’s production of “chemical love”, oxytocin, which it creates when we are in the company of people we like, trust and respect, or when we do something nice for someone else or they do something nice for us.

Thus, although coming from three totally different perspectives, all three of these writers reinforce one another’s conclusions. This makes their findings more credible, and more significant for you as a business leader. To significantly transform performance and results you have to create an environment that makes the best of your people or – more accurately – that allows them to make the best of themselves.  For this you need to consider how you are going to create a system or systems that addresses the physical and psychological needs of your people. Both collectively and individually, because every individual matters.   


Contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model can help you create an organisational culture that embraces change and transforms – and sustains – organisational performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”

Why you, unwittingly, may be just going through the motions

Necessity 50123277_s

Have we got it wrong?  

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That is the old adage that we all grew up with. (The picture shows just how old!) And like me you have probably never challenged it. But is it valid? Recently I have been compelled to question this.

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Powering Business Success: The Sustainable Model

In my last blog I shared how I would adapt John Spence’s business success formula, building on its fundamentally people-centric essence. I promised then that I would show you how you could put it into practice more easily. So now it is time for me to keep my promise and do just that.

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The Core of Employee Engagement

I have been giving a lot of thought to a PowerPoint presentation created by Simon Larcombe called “Employee Engagement in a Nutshell” that I came across recently. (Do check it out if you haven’t already seen it.)  I was particularly struck by the diagram on the second slide, but couldn’t help wondering if, in a way, it didn’t also illustrate how we over-complicate the whole subject? Let me explain why.

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What is HR anyway?

This week I attended a seminar entitled “HR Strategy and the Role of the HR Business Partner.” I was really looking forward to it and hoped to get a clearer insight into what an HR Business Partner was and what they did. What a disappointment!  

My key takeaways from the evening were:-

  • There was no clear identification of what the role entailed; it varies from organisation to organisation.
  • Results where business partners had been introduced were mixed and generally the business response seemed to be unenthusiastic. There even seemed to be some doubt as to whether the concept would last.
  • Even the case studies illustrated that significant communication problems persisted.    

The elephant in the room was gap between “business” expectations of HR and how they saw the role and how HR saw their own role. This was specifically identified and yet no effort was made to address it or to identify how or what was being done to close the gap. Surely that has to be a primary function of HR partners? Perhaps, therefore, it was hardly surprising that the discussion revolved around generalities. The speakers talked about “strategies”, “measurements” and “the need to understand the business”, without giving any tangible examples of what they meant or how they were really adding value.

Consequently my lasting impression from the evening was that, “Nobody, including HR themselves, actually knows what HR is or what it stands for.” All HR professionals think what they do is important. Yet they seem to be incapable of proving it. If they did that gap would not exist. It is entirely of their own making.

To say this is ironic is the understatement of the year. But the irony is magnificently magnified by the fact that it is so unnecessary: the role of HR should be obvious to everyone. Let me explain why.

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How to Escape the “War for Talent”

Are you familiar with the “War for Talent”? Worse still; are you caught up in it?  Recruiting and retaining people with the right skills to ensure, maintain and sustain the success of their business may be the number one concern of many CEOs. Only last week I read a headline, “70% of CEOs say they cannot find the right talent.”  Don’t you be drawn into this ‘phoney’ war. 

The term “War for Talent” was coined by Steve Hankin of McKinsey and Company in 1997, which means it has been around for nearly 20 years now. That is certainly testament to the catchy headline it makes. Yet it referred only to a likelihood of an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining people as employees. So what you need to ask is, “How likely is this scenario?”

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Why Employee Engagement is Essential and How to Ensure It

Data substantiating the link between employee engagement and business results continues to proliferate; helping to raise the profile of this important subject. And, as a result, more and more is being done to improve employee engagement. Yet, despite this, surveys by Gallup and others continue to show scant improvement. Year after year around 70% of the workforce remains disengaged.   

As a business leader you have to ask yourself, “why?” If the figures aren’t improving, despite all your best efforts and the resources you are investing in employee engagement, you have two basic questions you need to get to grips with:

  • Is your effort justified?
  • Are you going about it the wrong way?    

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Rigid rules and the bankruptcy of customer service


Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse they did.


12406507_frustrated businessmanPreviously I described how my bank had rejected a payment to an overseas supplier whilst “charging” 6.65% for the transaction. When writing I fully expected the matter to be amicably resolved. I never for a moment believed they actually expected to get away with it. After all it is pure bank robbery, albeit an inversion of the normal sense of the term. Here you have a billion pound organisation extorting money from a small business simply because they believe they can get away with it. It seems that I was naïve and misguided and completely failed to recognise just what bullies banks are.


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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (5)

Lessons: Service Hell versus Helluva (Good) Service

My latest trip to Tunis was a marked contrast to my previous 3 which had all been uneventful and enjoyable. I have now shared, in some detail, my experiences during my most recent trip and so you have seen for yourself what made it so exceptional. There was more to this, however, than a self-indulgent rant. There are a number of explicit and implicit customer service lessons embedded in the experiences (as I hope you will have gathered from the titles.) So let’s take some time now to review them and discuss solutions that will ensure they don’t occur in your business to create service hell and undermine all your efforts to create an exceptional customer experience.

Hell 16271742_sMy journey to service hell began with the initial loss of my suitcase. It is hard to believe that it can happen at all in this day in age, when parcels can be tracked 24/7 at any stage in their delivery. It is even more difficult to understand when my suitcase did have a name and address label as well as the airline sticker. Yet, judging from the rush to the baggage claims and the number of unclaimed suitcases I saw in the baggage reclaim it is obviously happens more frequently than passengers would like to think. (I am sorry to say that it actually seemed to be quite a common experience, and that Air France was frequently identified as the culprit.) I can accept, however, that these things happen and that was the least of my issues with the whole sorry saga.

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