Talent Management

by Rachel Brushfield

In a nutshell

1. What is talent?

Talent are people with the skills, attributes, knowledge, experience and leadership potential who have what it takes to enable a company to achieve its objectives and deliver the vision it has created for itself.

  • The definition of talent will vary from company to company.
  • Talent is important because we live in a knowledge economy and they are therefore the source of a company’s competitive advantage.
  • They are also important as there is a shortage of talent in the world and therefore a ‘talent war’ to attract the best people.
  • Talent competencies are the skills, knowledge and personality traits required for your company to succeed.


2. The need for talent management

If you work in a sector with a talent shortage, you may have to work harder and spend more time than you would ideally choose to keep your current team happy and attract the talent you need in future. Poor talent management takes many forms, all of which can adversely affect your company in general and your team in particular.

  • Poor recruitment decisions – you get in the wrong people and then have to cope with them or manage them out and start again
  • Poor organisation – not devoting enough time to coaching talent, so you don’t get the best out of them and they may leave
  • Not paying attention to small factors and gestures that motivate and engage talent


3. The company’s view of talent

One of your basic duties as a manager is to make sure that you understand the company’s attitude to talent:

  • Whom do they regard as talent?
  • Whom do they hope to attract and retain?
  • What plans do they have for managing talent?
  • Larger and more sophisticated companies tend to have clearly-defined criteria against which they recruit, appraise and develop talent; these measures can be tracked using software that can get extremely sophisticated in large multinational companies
  • On the one hand, the Board needs talent, but on the other, members can feel threatened by it
  • Be objective – try not to be subjective about talent you would like to keep or attract
  • Be strategic – think about the wide and long-term impact of moving talent around the company, not just hoarding talent in your team or department


4. What talent wants and needs from you

Talent are key to the current and future success of the company, so it’s essential to give a high priority to their needs.

  • Plan 1-2-1s with them regularly and support their fast growth
  • Mentor and coach them yourself and consider getting them an executive coach and/or internal or external mentor
  • Give them new challenges and responsibilities to stretch them
  • Share your experiences of the company, key stakeholders, any politics that they need to be aware of and your knowledge of the industry
  • Allow them to make mistakes and help them to learn quickly
  • Don’t withhold information unnecessarily or ‘pull rank’ to maintain your power or superiority
  • Be flexible and open minded


5. Liaising with Human Resources (HR)

Human Resources play a key role in talent strategy, so build a relationship with them. They can be a useful source of information and resource to support you. Ask them key questions to establish what talent means in your company and how to talk about it:

  • How should you explain the company’s policy on talent to your staff, especially if your company only defines some staff as talent, and some of your team aren’t in the talent category?
  • What do you need to do with talent and how does this link with other people processes?
  • How are talent gaps filled?
  • Is there a company talent spotting incentive scheme?
  • Are there key dates or committees about talent that you need to prepare for and attend?
  • What support does HR offer in career conversations?


6. The ups and downs of managing talent

The downsides of managing talent are these:

  • You may resent their fast success and attention
  • You invest in them and then they move elsewhere in the business
  • They challenge you
  • They take up time and can make you feel insecure
  • Managing younger talent can be especially difficult because of the differences between generations in values, beliefs and expectations.

The upsides include

  • You will learn a lot and they will stretch you
  • They can raise your profile, positively influence your career and develop your abilities as a coach and mentor
  • They can also support the development of the rest of your team, so everyone benefits.


7. What makes a good manager of talent?

A good manager of talent needs to have empathy, self-awareness, strategic thinking ability, self-confidence, self-belief, open mindedness, flexibility, good time management and resourcefulness and be open to diversity.

  • 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
  • You will need to motivate staff and recruit when talent gets promoted and moved out of your team.
  • You will need to take a strategic view of your team, doing what is right for the business as a whole.
  • You will need to be good at handling behaviour that is sometimes difficult.


8. Internal communication

Talent and how it is defined can be a sensitive subject as they often get more attention, development and rewards than average staff.

  • Become familiar with your company’s language for talent and make time to develop all your staff and help them make the most of their talents, so they realise their full potential.
  • Be honest yet sensitive in handling the issues, especially where selective learning and development and rewards/remuneration is concerned
  • Recognise that all your team have strengths and support them in playing to those strengths and being the best they can be.


9. Emotional intelligence required

You need to have good emotional intelligence to manage talent:

  • If a talent member of your team is given a mentor who is a peer of yours, see it as an opportunity rather than a threat
  • When talent moves out of your team, be positive about it
  • See talent as an opportunity to learn and grow through modelling them
  • Invest in your self-awareness and be comfortable and confident in your own abilities
  • Foster an open, honest and supportive culture
  • Don’t be afraid to benchmark yourself against the talent competencies and put a personal development plan in place to address any weaknesses.


10. Learning and development for talent

Talent are intelligent and love learning.

  • Ensure that you are skilled at using a coaching style of management to help them to think through challenges themselves.
  • Encourage them to create an Action Learning set to help them develop alongside and talk with other talent peers in the business.
  • If your company has a talent management programme, be flexible in releasing them from commitments.
  • Encourage them to network internally across different departments.
  • Fund them to have an external coach so they can achieve more, faster.


11. Excellence in managing talent

To be truly excellent at managing talent, consider the following suggestions:

  • Research your competitors’ talent management strategy
  • Be aware of your own values and beliefs – and therefore your bias – when recruiting talent
  • Don’t play safe – don’t recruit staff who can’t ever make you feel challenged and threatened
  • Ensure you communicate about talent honestly, yet politically, as it can be a sensitive subject
  • Invest time in defining the talent competencies for your team or department and the impact of long-term market trends or changes to the business
  • Develop your coaching and mentoring skills to help talent to think for themselves