Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Challenges & Opportunities for Talent Managers / 1: The Truth About Talent


   Sorry for not blogging for a while – sometimes I just loose the motivation (it always comes back again though!).  The challenge when I’ve had a lull though is choosing which of those things I’ve missed commenting on that I’m going to try to catch up on again!

I think I’m going to limit this to one event I attended last Wednesday, organised by Fairplace Cedar, and featuring Jeremy Kourdi, co-author of The Truth About Talent.

For Jeremy there are a number of problems with the traditional focus of talent management, ie of those who are outstanding based upon the way they develop relationships, change things and invent things.

The main issue is that because we tend to think that talent is not abundant and diverse (which Kourdi things it is), we enter into a doom loop in which we antagonise everyone else:


This is a particular problem because more than ever, talent operates systematically and through relationships.

I’m not totally convinced by the doom loop, but I do agree with the broader problems concerned by an overly exclusive / differentiated approach to talent management.

However, as I commented to Jeremy after the event, I don’t think the problem is limited to disengagement.  Organisations need people to work together, and if the ‘untalented’ feel differentiated from the ‘talent’, then they’re not going to see themselves as ‘people like us’, and they’re not going to work together so well.  So there’s a direct hit on productivity too.

It was interesting therefore that on the same day as the event, HR Magazine published a survey suggesting that felt inequality rises with salary difference:

“For example, only 2% of workers earning over £80,000 felt their boss or company had 'more money than sense', whereas that figure rose dramatically to 23% for those who earn under that amount.”


In his book, Jeremy writes about social capital (thanks for the mention on p102 by the way Jeremy!) and this is the truth about talent for me: talent management in the way that Jeremy describes it makes some sense from a purely human capital oriented perspective, but it makes little sense from a social capital oriented one.

From the social perspective, it’s the performance of the whole organisation which is important, and singling out particular individuals as different is going to be mainly unhelpful to achieving this objective.

Talent managers therefore need to consider the effectiveness of their whole organisations rather than just the talent piece if they’re going to maximise their impact (see for example Ed Lawler on the organisational effectiveness role).


I’ll be continuing to post on challenges and opportunities for heads of talent for the rest of this week.  And I’ll also be describing how you (internal practitioners only, sorry) can win a ticket to the Economist’s Talent Management conference this June, where I’ll be chairing one of the panel sessions, and am once again the sole official blogging partner too.



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