In discussing the importance of people and talent in companies, it is hard not to reflect on the classic work done by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman – In Search of Excellence. Although these authors initially thought it would be strategy and structure that made companies excellent, they found that, in reality, it all boiled down to “people”!

Eventually, as the external contextual conditions started to develop and intensify, concern for “people” management transformed to an entirely new level under the label of “talent” management. This meant that some individuals matter much more to the strategic success of the company than others. Being able to document that some individuals had special competencies on which the success of the company depended made it easier to treat them differently than the others. So those with “talent” got special treatment and so they continue to today. Undoubtedly, in companies where almost all employees are perceived and treated this way, they end up on the “Best Companies to Work for” list and increasingly on the “Most Admired Companies” list.

The baseline to manage talent is an investment made while identifying talent, calibrating across teams and to ensure ‘Top Talents’ are well aligned to the organisation’s strategy and values. And that’s the reason a lot of companies have a dedicated function for talent management to set up the right processes in line with internal needs for today and tomorrow as well as with industry trends. This is further augmented by ensuring that the appropriate tools are in place. In the current digitization set up, leaders should have easy access to data and so digitized talent review to update information, access and refresh is of paramount importance. Also, it helps in creating the development plan for employees to bridge the gap required for the future.

Once the talent has been identified, ensuring regular career discussions to assess the motivators and fears will play a key role to gain a better understanding. Many research and survey have established the impact and cost on an organisation for losing its top talent. And so, a simple but structured career conversation is critical along with creating the development plan on skill development, visibility of the individual to the stakeholders, engagement, retention, compensation, mentoring and mobility, as per the individual development actions.

An HBR article stated that assuming “That High Potentials Are Highly Engaged” is a mistake. It further stated that 

  • One in four intends to leave their current employers within the year.
  • One in three admits to not putting all his effort into her/his job.
  • One in five believes her/his personal aspirations are quite different from what the organization has planned for her.
  • Four out of ten have little confidence in their coworkers and even less confidence in the senior team.

And so demystifying myth and assumption by having regular dialogues are simple yet powerful tips that go a long way.

However, just words would not help and so actions will play an important role to show care and empathy to develop their careers. Actively listen to empathize in the true sense, ask questions to understand what’s going on in their mind and not to provide answers right there. Provide them with a culture to express and feel connected with the organisation’s purpose and future. Be open, honest and encourage two-way feedback. Feedback if delivered in the right manner will not only help them understand their blind spots but also allow them to be heard.

In addition, high performing employees will always look for work that will challenge them and excite them. So, ensure to back them up with continuous support to guarantee they are set up for success. Last but not least, never take their work and contributions lightly. Everyone seeks recognition and so do they. Timely recognition and words of praise in visible forums should never be underestimated.

Amol Gupta