Talent Management

by Rachel Brushfield

What makes a good manager of talent?

A good manager of talent requires many skills and qualities:

  • Empathy – putting yourself in their shoes
  • Confidence – being unfazed by the likelihood of them progressing above you, because you are confident within your own skin and recognise your own abilities
  • Strategic thinking – being aware of the wide implications of talent management, including the employer brand, recruitment, engagement and motivation, employer experience and employee value proposition
  • Self-belief – being ego free, yet able to deal with their ego
  • Open-minded – flexible to being challenged and open to other opinions or approaches
  • Resourceful – good at thinking on your feet (they will keep you on your toes)
  • Time management – managing them is an ‘important not urgent’ task, so you need to prioritise
  • Diversity – be sensitive of the different needs of talent, including cultural differences and female talent; the latter is especially important with regard to working mothers and where one sex dominates in terms of numbers in an industry or profession
  • Flexibility – talent may be moved in and out of your team or department, so you need to be flexible.

Managing talent versus average staff

As a line manager, you have a number of direct reports to manage, so what, if anything, is different about managing talent?

  • They will demand more of your time.
  • They may try to run before they can walk, so you need to give them autonomy and yet support them.
  • They can bring out natural yet negative emotions in you, including jealousy, resentment, frustration and even anger, so you need to know how to manage your emotions.
  • They will challenge you because they are very intelligent and/or they know their power.
  • If they are very bright, but have a large ego or lack emotional intelligence, they may be arrogant or sometimes exhibit difficult behaviour.
  • You also need to be aware that talent, more than other staff, may be reluctant to share personal issues with you in case it affects their fast-track promotion within the business.

An empowered organisation is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organisational success.

Stephen R Covey

The implications

Companies do not have infinite budgets and line managers have limited time, so prioritising your diary for talent is vital. Use the 80:20 rule; be aware that they are the 20 per cent of your team who are more likely to help deliver 80 per cent of the results.

  • You will have to make decisions about learning and development budgets being used for some staff and not others.
  • You may need to explain to staff who are not defined as talent why they are getting less attention. Honesty and sensitivity are important here; make sure you give feedback about the positive and valued skills and attributes of each of your employees and explore how they can be utilised more, for their benefit and that of the company, the whole team and you as the manager.
  • You will need to motivate staff and recruit when talent gets promoted and moved out of your team. This can be an opportunity for other members of your team to take on more responsibility or to benefit from the different skills of a new recruit joining from another department or from outside.
  • You will need to take a strategic view of your team, doing what is right for the business as a whole. It’s important to take a step back to see the big picture and look at succession planning. You should also consider your team’s individual career aspirations, so that they are retained for longer.
  • You will need to be good at handling behaviour that is sometimes difficult.

Consider keeping notes about talent – skills, behaviours, motivations, values and so on – to help you to manage your talented individuals over time, and so that you can share useful information with their future managers.