No stone unturned

Gareth Jones on Unearthing forgotten talent from within

I recently attended the Smart Resourcing conference in London where I had the opportunity to see the good and the great of corporate resourcing in action. It was a great conference with many interesting speakers but as I sat there listening (and tweeting furiously!) one phrase came up time and time again the war for talent.

Now I have to say that nothing raises my blood pressure more than hearing that line trotted out time and time again, especially when those that talk about it wear it like a badge of honour. It’s just wrong.

A new generation of leaders have emerged since management consultancy McKinsey first shared its views on talent management and it’s clear from listening to a lot of people today that few who quote the paper have actually read it.

I say this because rarely do you hear reference to the McKinsey call to action for organisations to ensure they have a killer proposition, which was central to their argument. Instead, you just hear one person after another use the same excuse the shortage of talent.

Well, listen up people there isn’t one. It’s a myth, it really is. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the creativity around attraction, especially the use of ’social’ strategies employed by the organisations in attendance at the conference bringing in new blood is a vital. But what disturbs me is our obsession with making it the default solution over and above leveraging the great people we already employ.

And it’s our myopic view of what talent looks like that fuels the ridiculous notion of a global shortage of great people.

If there is a war for talent, it’s more likely to be happening inside your business rather than outside. McKinsey argued that organisations need to get serious about developing an authentic (my words not theirs) and compelling proposition as an employer. Great remuneration, great opportunities for development, great place to work and grow all of which are internally determined.

It is these factors, not some mythical shortage of bodies, which are the roadblock to getting access to, and the most out of, great people.

Including those you already employ.

When was the last time you really cast a long hard look around your business and tried really hard to unearth the talent within? I’d wager that you rarely look beyond the usual suspects that pepper your succession plans, list of high fliers or personal favourites.

So here’s my suggestion: rethink your talent strategy and take the first step by creating a new role in your business - Talent Insurgent. These people would have a simple mission to unearth the talent from within. They would hang around the watercoolers, invite themselves to meetings, snoop around performance and development records, and attend after work booze-ups looking for evidence of squashed talent, compromised values, smart ideas stolen by others and generally unearthing the forgotten and untapped potential that you already have.

They would break the rules and champion the underdog, looking specifically for latent abilities, looking beyond degree certificates and high potential lists to unearth the hidden talent that’s largely being ignored, simply because they don’t fit the mould of classic high performer.
No stone unturned. That would be my recommendation. Until you have done that, you can’t really say you’ve done your existing talent justice.

Gareth Jones is leader at Courtenay HR, marketing and technology, part of The Stopgap Group

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