That’s not talent, that’s process

Sometimes there is an unassailable truth that needs to be told. A guilty secret that needs to be revealed. A lie that needs to be challenged.

Because, in your organisation, you’re not managing talent, you’re managing process.

Well, if you work in 99% of organisation you aren’t. And if you work in the other 1%, you’re lying.

The thing is, the language that we use around “talent management”, the behaviours that we all display, the way in which we approach it has as much to do with managing talent as chocolate has to do with teapot formation.

Most of us don’t know how to measure talent. And where we do measure, we’re not really measuring talent at all.

HiPo? Is the definition of talent someone who is capable of being more senior?

Because Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Sylvia Plath. They were all destined for management?

And if they weren’t then they clearly weren’t talent.

Our organisations are based on a myth of hierarchy that assumes that power and value is added as one progresses, rather than understanding the true mechanisms that drive organisational performance and rewarding the people who truly add value.

As a result we reward a politically charged, single focussed, rise to the top. A game that is suited, not to the most talented, but the most politically adroit. We promote the people who impress by playing the game, and we neutralise the people who don’t fit the mould.

You’ll argue that you don’t do this, that you’re different. But you’re not.

And that’s because our organisations, our businesses, the western world is geared up to systemically ignore true talent. Your reward systems, your recruitment processes, your learning and development programmes. Not a single one of them really recognises talent.

And the funny thing is, the hours we spend on “talent management” the grids we fill in, the conversations we have, the investment we place in systems that effectively wipe the lipstick off the pig are a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time.

You would still make the same promotion and development decisions without doing it.

Until we are willing to re-engineer the way in which our organisations operate, to refocus our energy on the right argument, rather than the incessant and dogmatic pursuit of a rather badly dressed up false promise.

Until then, we will always be managing process.

And that has nothing to do with talent.

These things I know…..

I’m speaking at a myHRcareers networking event this week. If you haven’t come across these guys, it is worth checking them out. One of the things that interests me is the chance to speak to people earlier on in their careers about HR, the world of work and what to expect (and avoid).

I kind of fell in to HR, as a lot of people did. And I made my way based on the good and the bad advice that I received from the good and bad managers around me. I never felt I particularly fitted in to the networking events or the branch events. They just didn’t seem to be people like me or who thought like me. I’m sure there were opportunities, I just never found them.

In looking back, and in preparation for Wednesday night, I thought back to the things that I’ve learnt about HR as a career and what that means.

1) Most people will have to do a whole lot of shit jobs, before they get to do a meaningful one. Most HR jobs are pretty tedious, in tedious companies, with tedious managers. You just have to realise you’re earning your stripes. Keep your head down and hold on to your dreams. In time you’ll get the opportunity to do something where you can make a difference. Remember the reason you want to, when you get there.

2) You’ll work for a lot of people who you don’t respect. The fact is that our profession is littered with more ineffective, unintentionally dangerous and damaging rejects than the QC department at Durex. That’s the way it is. Learn from them, remember what annoys you, what frustrates you and resolve to do things differently when you get the chance.

3) Nothing that you learn during your studies will help you in your employment. That doesn’t mean it is worthless; it just doesn’t help. Learn by speaking to others, listening, observing, trying and failing. You will make have less failures than you have successes, but you will remember them twice as clearly. That’s a good thing.

4) The difference between a great HR person and a rubbish HR person, is that a great person can tell you why they do their job as well as what they do. Never forget the why. And if it doesn’t have people at the heart of it, you’re a rubbish HR person in disguise.

5) This isn’t heart surgery. Nobody dies. That means that you can relax, have a little fun, be human and make people laugh. Trust me, they’ll love you more for it and it won’t cost you anything. Your reputation isn’t built on how far you can get the broom up your own arse; but if you really want to, there won’t be a shortage of people volunteering to help you with it.

A chain of thought

It seems a a week can’t pass without someone warning of the risk to business of the ageing workforce and a resultant skills gap.

I also repeatedly hear arguments to fragment the function by separating out Resourcing, Learning and Development, Talent (repeat and replace with whichever specialism the complaining person works in) from the evil HR.

And I sigh and try not to resort to my wearied protestations of idiocy.

I don’t know of any other area of business where we would fragment the management of the supply chain and believe that it would result in a better performance.

Internal capability, succession, resourcing, talent, skills, development and education need to be seamless and integrated, not fragmented and disparate. We need to unite, not divide.

Instead of assuaging our fragile egos, let’s think about the challenges that face us and how we might raise our game to meet them.

Complex problems, require complex solutions. Not simplistic thinking and vacuous soundbites.

“It’s not fair”

The Olympics are only a few days away. For some this will induce a sigh of despair, for others a sense of excitement. For the many, many competitors this is their moment to compete on the world’s biggest stage and potentially to shine.  And for those that perform above and beyond anyone else, the ultimate prize, the medal, the media spotlight and the adulation of the watching crowds.

People like to see people win at sport.

People hate to see people win in life.

When we see a sportsman or woman stand on the podium, taking the ultimate prize, we talk about the hours of commitment, the sacrifices, the hard work and the talent. Yet when we see someone doing well in life, we talk about the fact that they must have got there by screwing others, the injustice, the fact that they are a “fat cat”.

I know life isn’t a level playing field. But neither is sport.

I can’t win the 100 meters final at the Olympics, I’m not going to score the winning goal in the FA cup final, and I’m not even going to get around the park in as quick a time as many. Does that make it unfair?

Is it unfair that Usain Bolt can run faster than me and therefore gets a goal medal and millions of dollars worth of endorsements?

Is it unfair that Didier Drogba scored in the final of both the FA Cup and the Champions League and secured a big money move to a club in China?

Is it unfair that you can run around the park quicker than me and therefore get to the pub first?

Next time you’re thinking about the guy with a bigger house, the girl who got the promotion ahead of you, or reading the reports about somebody else’s bonus, remember this: it isn’t unfair, they’re just doing better than you.

Work hard, do your best, fulfil your potential and your talent and stop looking on with envy at others. Whatever rewards that brings, if you’ve done your best that is all that matters. Respect the success of others, be gracious and, for the love of God, stop bleating on.