We all know that when talented individuals are engaged and managed well, they can add exponential value to an organisation. However, it’s equally true that poorly managed talent can actually prevent businesses from achieving their performance goals. The Corporate Research Forum (CRF) recently hosted a round table discussion with industry experts in which we discussed the current state of talent management in business.
In this blog post we consider the current issues preventing talent from reaching its full potential and how HR professionals and business leaders can seek to address those issues:
Issue 1: Failing to hire the right talent
The fast-changing business context – characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) – requires talent with a different set of skills to take business forward. Despite this, CRF research has found that organisations are failing to adapt their recruitment strategy quickly enough in terms of attracting and developing individuals with the right attitude and aptitude to deliver sustainable performance. Instead many organisations typically focus on assessing current or past performance with an emphasis on ‘technical’ skills. Indeed, research from Harvard Business Review has found that more than 70% of today’s top performers lack the critical attributes essential to their success in future roles such as engagement and aspiration 1.
What should they be looking for instead?
Although it is important to look at the specific skills and abilities which individuals require to do their jobs well, it is no longer enough to recruit on these factors alone. Instead, our research shows it may be more beneficial to consider the individual’s ability to thrive in a changing environment: Increasingly employees will need to possess a strong learning mind set 2. This is because now more than ever, the competencies required to succeed in business are likely to change frequently, and the increasingly dynamic nature of work places a premium on the ability to generalise knowledge and skills, adapting to new situations and problems. In addition, high levels of personal resilience will enable employees to thrive under volatile conditions, minimising stress and adversity. Our research shows that the way we respond to such situations can mean the difference between thriving and collapsing under pressure 3. These two factors can ensure sustainable performance, when combined with ability.
Issue 2: Talented employees are being held back
The CRF research also notes that the impact of talent is often constrained by the culture and practices within an organisation and not only this, but by the quality of conversations between line managers and their talented people. Research by the CIPD has found that following performance feedback from line managers, only 44% of respondents received clear objectives which built on this feedback. This makes it difficult for talented employees to set goals around their own development which line managers are bought in to and supportive of.
Leaders and line managers both have a critical role to play in talent management. As such it’s important to consider how to select, develop and reward managers based on how they manage their talent. Leaders should look to co-create a vision with their employees, helping them to think about how their development may continue in the future. Equally, line managers should look to challenge their talented employees, stretching their current capabilities to ensure that they reach their potential.
Issue 3: Failing to support leadership transitions
The CRF research has also highlighted that in spite of having well-developed processes and techniques for identifying potential and developing talent, the outcomes achieved from these initiatives are often disappointing. This is regularly a result of failing to support talented employees as they transition into new roles and more senior positions. A recent survey conducted by the CIPD 4 found that more than three-quarters of organisations now face challenges retaining staff – showing an increase on previous years. To counter these issues they found that employers are investing more money in talent management and many are making efforts to improve retention by creating clearer career paths.
Our own research has shown that leadership transition stages are a key and pivotal moment for ensuring organisations get their best out of their talent. We found that almost half of the leaders we surveyed raised concerns about structural barriers that impeded making a role transition smooth. These structural issues included factors such as not having a full understanding of the organisation and role, a lack of systematic procedures, continuing with previous responsibilities, a lack of job knowledge and a general adjustment to the structure of a new role and team. Also, significant were issues related to conflict and change.
Organisations should seek to provide additional support for talented employees transitioning through leadership stages. Our research showed that coaching was recognised as the most important tool for transitioning into a new role, with one in every six respondents suggesting that coaching support would have been beneficial to make the move to the new role smoother. The second most frequently cited aide was the provision of a clear description of roles and responsibilities for the new role.
It’s clear that the current landscape for talent and talent management is becoming increasingly complex and competitive. Our research demonstrates that organisations and HR professionals must make an effort to shift their focus towards the future and adapt their practises accordingly. Failing to do so, or reacting too slowly will have a huge impact on the organisations’ ability to survive and flourish.
1 Martin, J., & Schmidt, C. (2010). How to keep your top talent. Harvard Business Review, May, 54-61.
2 Lane4 White Paper: Grow your Potential
3 Lane4 White Paper: Rising to the Challenge: Raise the Bar on your Personal Resilience
5 Lane4 White Paper: Investigating the leadership pipeline