Talent management starts at home

We talk a lot about talent.

But in any situation, on any day, I’d rather have a hard-working, committed but good team member, than an exceptional, but erratic and slightly lazy one.

Of course, I realise that the reality is seldom binary but the point remains the same.

We’re obsessed by “talent” we seek the “exceptional”, but in the process are we overlooking the essential? Are we missing the most exciting opportunities because we’re always looking for something more?

My instinct is this, if we were to focus a little bit more on developing and growing the people who already work beside us, if we were to be more ambitious about our colleague’s potential, then we’d discover more success than failure.

I would struggle to think of any individual who (when they were being balanced and thoughtful) didn’t think they had more to give, more to offer, more to contribute. And yet the amount of time we spend focusing on helping them to deliver on this, is marginal at best.

Sometimes, we overlook the opportunities that we have right before us. If we’re serious about talent management, we’d start at the closer point to home.

What do we do?

If you listened to a lot of the stuff and nonsense that is written and spoken about HR you’d think we were all engaged in hand to hand ninja fighting with machines, whilst repeating the mantra, “the future of work is human” and promising a tomorrow characterised by self actualised, engagement and bliss.

I don’t know about you, but that is far from the existence I see in most organisations. Far from the work that I see most people do.

First and foremost, before anything else, we make sure the trains run on time. We get people paid, we make sure laws aren’t broken. We handle the enrolment in to benefits that you never know you need – until you really need them.

We make work places safe, ensuring people have a place to go if they feel that they’re being badly treated, informing and educating towards a workplace that has dignity and respect at its heart.

We handle things when the go wrong. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it is a manager’s or an employee’s fault. Sometimes, it is just one of those things. We are there to resolve, rectify and recover from situations that no-one would wish for in the first place.

We find and grow the skills that are necessary to move our organisations forward. Whether that’s hiring, developing or nurturing – making sure that we are able to be successful today and tomorrow. Running programmes, schemes, campaigns to develop the skill base of the organisation.

We support people at their best and at their worst. We deal with the extremes of workplace experience, from the promotions, job offers, bonuses or pay rises to the redundancies, dismissals, deaths and emotional crises. We own messages which most would find difficult and own them well.

We guide, advise, counsel and coach. We help others to find the solutions, identify the outcomes and develop the conclusions that make their work better. We stand shoulder to shoulder with leaders as they go through organisational transitions and changes.

We take the blame. Someone has to and we are more than used to handling it. Not everything will go right at work, not everyone can always be happy. Sometimes people just need someone to point a finger at. And that’s ok.

Sure, we do a whole lot more as well. But funnily enough, not a single robot slain.

Principles or pragmatism?

In life there is a natural continuum between principles and pragmatism. It runs throughout our work, our personal decisions, our politics and our businesses. Running the gauntlet between the two polar forces is a key tenet of successful leadership.

The allure of the principled leader is strong. We want people who stand for something, organisations with clear values and purpose. But the frustration is palpable when they stand in the way of  things just getting done.

People who make things happen, who are willing to compromise and change their position. We admire them with a distrust. What wouldn’t they forsake?

Knowing when to stand by your personal value set, your principles and knowing when to let go and move on for the sake of organisational/societal benefit is perhaps the biggest challenge for us all.

This easy answer is to say it’s neither one nor the other – it is a beautiful simple, yet totally impotent perspective. An anodyne position which adds little to any understanding of the complexity of values and decision-making.

Because the truth to leadership is not recognising when you need to compromise, or stick by your principles – but understanding why others need to do so. Giving forgiveness and tolerance to the value sets of others.

It doesn’t matter whether it is personal, business or political. Our difference is created by recognising the difference in others. That sometimes we all need to stand firm and sometimes we need to change, admit we were wrong and reconsider.

Failure is when we judge without seeking to understand.

 

Give better interview

Let me start this piece with a giant caveat – I know I’m not the world’s best interviewer. I get bored, I have a tendency to wander in to areas that interest me and I want to explore and I have (on the very odd occasions) been known to be judgemental – don’t wear Christmas socks to an interview with me in March.

Whilst I’m willing to accept my own foibles are far from ideal, I’m also constantly surprised by the approach taken to interviewing by HR professionals and business leaders alike. Let me put it another way…

If you were making any other £50,000 investment decision, would you turn up to the investment meeting five minutes late, not having read the investment proposals and make a decision based on a variety of criteria and questions that have little if anything to do with the required product or service?

Ultimately each piece of recruitment, each interview is exactly that – a piece of procurement. And as such there are simple steps we can take to make sure we increase our chances of a better outcome.

  • Looking far and wide for the best providers (recruits)
  • Carry out good research and due diligence on the shortlist (application process)
  • Assessing against relevant and comparable criteria (interview questions)
  • Selecting based on moderated assessments (marking and rating of interviewers)

Too often we approach the interview process through the lens of employment law and regulatory requirements. And whilst this is a necessary consideration it shouldn’t be our ultimate focus.

Best practice is about best outcome and delivering real commercial value, perhaps more than anything else.