Friday 27 November 2009

Richard Boyatzis on Talent Innovation


   OK, last few posts to wrap up my posting from the CIPD conference (what will I post on without it?).  And all these posts are going to focus on planning for the future.  Some of them are about talent, some about workforce, and I’ll also be throwing human capital into the mix.

But I want to start this process by looking at the need to bring more innovation into the planning.

In the CIPD’s introduction to the session ‘Fighting back through Talent Innovation’, Claire McCartney summarised research finding that 26% of organisations have been forced to change their approach to talent management as a result of the downturn (so 74% have not?).

Some of the positive practices adopted include:

  • Developing more talent in-house (55%)
  • Focusing on essential development (45%)
  • Continuing to recruit key talent (43%)
  • Increased focus on employee retention (35%)
  • Reducing reliance on recruitment agencies (34%)
  • Talent management practices unaffected (30%)
  • Downsizing while preserving key talent (25%)
  • Initiating a recruitment freeze (23%)
  • Use of new media / technology to recruit (22%)
  • Recruiting talent discarded by competitors (11%)
  • Downsizing and having to let key talent go (just 3%).


The way these practices are being performed has also seen some interesting innovation:

  • Partner with other organisations
  • Increase your profile and brand
  • Keep talent warm for future
  • Where appropriate acquire talent from competitors
  • Set-up leadership exchange groups
  • Build talent assessment capabilities in-house
  • Focus on critical experiential based learning
  • Ask for innovative business suggestions by talent pools
  • Build a sense of community
  • Provide support for stretch assignments
  • Target employees for specific career paths
  • Maximise funding opportunities for skill development
  • Streamline and improve talent schemes
  • Increase focus on talent performance, engagement and retention.


There are some good ideas in here, although I’m surprised by the ones which are missing.  For example, judging from a recent ITT I received, the CIPD still seems to think that organisations are focusing on an inclusive (everyone is talent) rather than exclusive approach to talent management.  My recent experience suggests the opposite – that organisations are being more exclusive and defining talent groups more tightly (I’m not necessarily sure that’s always the right approach but that’s another thing – see my forthcoming posts on Dick Beatty – again).

You can read about other innovative suggestions throughout this blog.


The CIPD concludes that ROI coming under more scrutiny in an economic downturn means that cost-effective talent management becomes more not less important.  This is supported by the session’s case studies, including Stephanie Oerton from National Express who notes that the downturn has provided opportunities to:

  • Get closer to the business
  • Discover talents within the team that may have not been discovered
  • Involve a wider range of people in development
  • Increase appetite for development from within the business
  • Develop stronger relationships with Business Leaders.


As far as this post is concerned, the important thing is that organisations are going to have to adapt innovatively again as things pick up next year (fingers crossed) – see this slide from Peter Cheese (ex-Accenture):




And organisations that are going to maximise the opportunities this growth will provide need to plan for this now.


Boyatzis on Talent Innovtion

You’ll have probably noticed that I called this post ‘Richard Boyatzis on Talent Innovation’ and I’ve not introduced Boyatzis yet.

Well, one thing I wanted to note, in connection to the ongoing need to innovate, is that we need to innovate our paradigms as well as our activities.  It’s great to see the innovative practices I’ve described above, but there’s much more we can do.  And it’s much easier to do this if we approach the opportunity with a different, innovated mindset.

And as I was walking briefly around the exhibition I cam across a new book from Mercer called Creating Value through People (I was attracted to it as this is the sub-title of my own book).  It’s a series of interviews with various leaders and writers, and one of these is with Dr Richard Boyatzis (ah, finally!).

Explaining the concept of the ‘talent innovator’, Boyatzis notes:

“The reason we need leaders and managers is to co-ordinate the efforts of others and to use capital in an organisation to achieve the organisation’s objectives and mission. When you take that general concept, you realise that the responsibility of leaders is to utilise and create capital. There are lots of ways to describe that. But the ones I like the best focus on financial, physical, intellectual, human, and social capital.

Now, I think we would all agree that if executives spent all their money on current performance it would be irresponsible. Organisations have to be concerned with the future. So, we would have to think that the job of an executive is to get current performance and long-term sustainable performance. To do that requires using capital now but also investing it in the future. This applies to human capital, too. The problem is that most of the time when people think about managing talent they immediately go to, how do I motivate people? How do I get the maximum performance from people? That frames the problem in a very short-term context.

As a result, almost everybody who is trying to manage talent is actually liquidating it. What I mean is that they are expending most of their organisation’s human capital on current performance. Let me give you an example. One of my doctoral students is trying to come up with what I call a human resource profit and loss statement and a human resource balance sheet. The problem with existing measures like the balanced scorecard is that while they are moving in the right direction, they get it wrong because they look at almost everything in terms of financial measures. Human capital shouldn’t be measured in financial terms. It should be measured differently, in human capital terms. My point is that we should approach the management of talent with the notion that you should manage human capital so it is greater at the end of the year than it was at the beginning of the year because you’re investing in it.”


This strikes me as a very powerful argument for innovating our attitudes – putting long-term talent / human capital needs ahead of, or at least at an equal level of importance to short-term business process / customer / financial needs, and growing out of the recession by growing our talent and human capital.  You’ll see more of this thinking in my suggestions for our talent / workforce / human capital plans.

(As an aside, you may also be able to see links between the points I’ve put in bold above to other things I’ve been blogging about recently.)





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