How key is a talent management strategy in business today?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, said Peter Drucker, the most widely known and influential thinker on management – and he’s right. However, if you don’t have the right people, in the right place, doing the right things with the right skills, values and behaviours and who are seriously committed to the vision and values of your business – i.e. the talent in your organisation – it will not be truly successful.

Let’s take a look at the world right now:

A volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) world, some would say. We do indeed live in interesting times with the ‘Brexodus’ already happening, business confidence plummeting to an all time low since 2012, globalisation, exponential growth of technology and automation with benefits, risks and challenges, unemployment at its’ lower since the early 1970’s and an ageing population where, by 2025, one in three workers will be over 50. Not a very pretty picture is it?

In the middle of all of this, we need to think about who actually is the talent? 

Is it everyone in your organisation, the senior cadre of staff, knowledge workers, those who work the longest hours, make the most sales, go that extra mile, develop and coach others? In my view, it’s all of them. It also includes, I think, those additional ‘colleagues’ that are AI. Yes, that’s right – I’m hearing more and more that we need to think of our talent as all those who support the business – be it a person, android or AI system or process.

If we think about talent in this way, we need to be creative, innovative and open-minded in our strategy making around talent management. Given the complexity of our world, we need to think about how we manage and develop our talent in a very different way.

If we think about talent in this way, we need to be creative, innovative and open-minded in our strategy making around talent management. Given the complexity of our world, we need to think about how we manage and develop our talent in a very different way. The psychological contract between employer and employee is key in this thinking. We need to think about how we ensure that there is utter congruence and understanding in the different elements of how the ‘talent’ and the employer view the psychological contract. If this isn’t thought about in your talent strategy and process making, your organisation could find yourselves with an exodus of talent leaving to other organisations, or setting up on their own, so that they can be happier and more fulfilled in their working world.

When you think that in 2025, there will be only 7 million younger people entering the workplace in the UK, with 12 million older workers leaving, that’s one heck of a load of talent gone! You have to think about your strategy now.

In 2025 what skills, behaviours and values will we be looking for in our talent?

Seated grey android looking at grey tablet

As more automation and technology enters the workplace – some blended with human/AI interfaces becoming more prevalent even today – it will be important to have more ‘human-centred’ skills as more technology will take over more transactional work. So, empathy, teamwork, creativity and resilience will be key skills and behaviours to develop in the future. A coaching focussed set of behaviours, based on trust and building relationships, whilst constructively challenging each other, will be necessary to navigate our complex world of work of the future. With the rise of populism, the ability to speak ‘truth to power’ will be crucial. This takes confidence and resilience and is very difficult to do in many circumstances. Spotting and developing talent who can do this will, in my view, ensure that organisations remain fresh, don’t stifle ideas, innovate and are successful.

So, now to the benefits of putting more effort into talent management, retention and leadership development.

If you understand talent across the organisation and wider system, you will make better informed decisions and development interventions, whilst building effective workforce and succession planning.

A clear talent management and development strategy, processes and coaching on talent management and development mean that talent based conversations can be less variable and more focussed on the bigger picture of organisational development and success.

Creative approaches to talent management and development can ensure that pathways for career development and navigation are not overly bureaucratic and can support the congruence of the psychological contract between employee and employer.

Honest conversations around talent can lead to some surprising findings and outcomes – a demotion can lead to a positive outcome like better work/life balance, a deeper understanding of the paradoxes faced by individuals in organisational life could lead to a different career trajectory and by having transparent, open conversations about being an introvert or extravert could lead to a different way of looking at the diversity of talent. The key to this is not to ‘pigeon hole’ people through your own perceptual filters – ask questions and create an environment of openness, honesty and a good dose of ‘serious fun’!

This blog post originally appeared in HR Review.