Purposeful Talent Management

Author: Clive Wilson and Sarah Cave

Date: 15/11/2022

The Nature of Talent

Let’s be absolutely clear, high-performance talent management is built on a clear understanding of what we believe about talent and how to ignite it by aligning it to the purpose and values of our people and to our corporate strategy.

The following definitions are really important, despite the fact that the words are so often used interchangeably:

  • Competence:
  • The ability to do something to an agreed standard – like riding a bike without falling off or perhaps to pass a cycling proficiency test.

  • Talent:
  • A natural ability to do something well – often something we’re born with or have developed in childhood.

  • Strength:
  • A talent that we have developed to a point it adds significant value to ourselves or others – perhaps the cyclist able to win the Tour De France or an Olympic medal.

What we believe really matters

The so called “competence movement” of the last century still prevails in many organizations today. Because competence is fairly easy to measure, this approach often leads to the vast proportion of learning and development investment being targeted at “fixing weaknesses”. This despite the fact that research has shown that the biggest return comes from investing in the development of strength.

Furthermore, even today, many talent management strategies are built on the dangerous notion that only a top ten or twenty percent of our people have talent worth investing in. More progressive strategies, acknowledge that everyone has talent and it is sensible to recognise it, value it, develop it and use it. These four words are a useful mantra for any talent management strategy:

  • Recognise
  • Value
  • Develop
  • Use

Hidden Talent

Many organizations may be missing out on the talents their people are leaving “at the factory gate”. Like the shop-floor employee going through the motions Monday to Friday and coaching their football team during their evenings and weekends. We only discover these hidden gems when talent is a regular topic of conversation.

Talent Ignition

Linked to this is the idea of “talent ignition”. This occurs when people are able to make a connection between their talents, their personal purpose and their values. Even more powerful when they discover the synergy between this and the purpose and values of the organization.

Putting everyone in the “driver’s seat” of their career

It is conversations such as those suggested above that inspire people to take ownership of their time in the workplace. In 2021, Primeast spent the year working with a worldwide payments business on their quarterly conversations programme, which gives every one of their 24,000 employees the opportunity to engage deeply with their manager on their personal performance, development and wellbeing. The key feature of this work was, consciously and explicitly, putting each person in the “driver’s seat” of their career.

8-steps to the strategic alignment of talent

Employing talented people is one thing, making best use of this amazing asset is another. The following eight step approach is reasonably self-explanatory and, for those wanting more, is further explained in “Designing the Purposeful Organization” (Clive Wilson, Kogan Page 2015).

  1. Direction
  2. Fully understand the purpose and vision of the organization so talent needs can be aligned to it.

  3. Philosophy
  4. Understand what the organization believes about talent (the narrative in this article provides clues).

  5. Process and culture
  6. Review the current structures and corporate culture to ensure they support a progressive talent pipeline – right from securing talent to understanding what happens when it leaves.

  7. Plan
  8. Auditing the processes and culture will inform the plan for the coming period.

  9. Communicate
  10. Once a talent plan has been agreed, make sure everyone knows by implementing a corresponding communications strategy.

  11. Leadership
  12. Develop leaders to implement the talent plan.

  13. Teamwork
  14. Give every team the opportunity to share and explore their personal talents in support of higher performance.

  15. Review
  16. As the company and its talent needs are fluid, review the above at least annually and after any significant shift.

Developing talent for a disruptive future

We are living in the most disruptive decade in living memory. As well as dealing with a global pandemic, wars in Europe and elsewhere and a climate crisis, progressive innovation across sectors is prompting change at an unprecedented rate. Organizations will therefore need talent in areas they haven’t even considered.

However, there are clues in recent research. For example, there is an unquestionable need to develop creative leadership talent. This is well informed by the Leadership Circle, McKinsey’s DELTAs and the Inner Development Goals.

Primeast has taken all this research into account in the development of our “Future Skills” offering which defines a comprehensive curriculum of essential topics for the future. To ensure the most targeted approach, we engage with leaders to define which topics from the portfolio are most important for the coming period.

Contact Primeast to discuss how we can help you with your own purposeful talent management

About the Author

Clive Wilson

Clive is an enthusiastic writer, keynote speaker, facilitator and Primeast coach, whose main focus is the purposeful alignment and leadership of individuals, teams, organizations and communities.

Experienced in working with leaders and groups of absolutely any size across the world, Clive is committed to organizational sustainability in service of a better world.

About the Author

Sarah Cave

Sarah Cave is a Director of Primeast and Head of Leadership. She is a development professional who is passionate about learning and performance improvement.

A leadership specialist, she believes that great leaders have both an academic understanding of leadership models and theory and the ability to breathe life into these within their organizations. Her pragmatic style suits both complicated problems and complex people.

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