Reading the winning entry for the HR Excellence award for talent management, has reminded me that it used to be HR’s lodestone back in 2007. Whole HR programmes, conferences (and even vendors) started branding themselves with talent management, whether or not it was warranted.
We all remember how the McKinsey consultancy identified that the top 20% of managers were twice as likely to increase sales, profits and productivity. Anyone seeking to hire and retain these ‘A’ players would reach for the seminal work, ‘‘War for talent’.
How stable is this interpretation of talent? To find out, we surveyed HR directors from large, private-sector firms.
It turns out that the definition has changed considerably in the last decade.
McKinsey focused on high-performers. However, the most common definition of talent among our sample is individuals with high potential (44% of respondents). The shift from performance to potential is important since potential defies simple measurement. I can square the circle a little: high performance is a strong indicator of future potential.
The original McKinsey researchers said that managers were the golden employees. 22% of our respondents see engineers, scientists and other specialists as talent. The ageing demographic means that competition for some specialist skills is heating up as baby boomers retire.
In 20% of the firms we surveyed, talent refers to everyone. Aviva has spoken about “the vital many”. ‘A players’ are no longer “the exclusive focus”. Through applying talent management techniques, 45% of those who were in the wrong job are now thriving.
McKinsey has moved with the times and updated their original work. They now recommend investing in the whole workforce and developing multiple employee value propositions for different groups of employees.
Recently, the debate about talent has been muted. Engagement and then downsizing became more pressing. However, I’m now seeing companies investing again in local and global talent to drive their plans forward.
Congratulations to Indesit for winning the Excellence award (and Bupa for their commendation) and for showing how talent can be retained in these straightened times.