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Talent Management time to end the war and liberate talent

Talent Management - time to end the war and liberate talent

It’s time for an outbreak of peace in the war for talent.  We’ve all heard (and many of us have used) the metaphor of ‘war’ in terms of talent – and it’s been great at focusing our attention on the importance of this issue, creating that ‘burning platform’.  But in some ways the idea of a ‘war’ is reinforcing some assumptions about talent – assumptions which could be limiting our response to the talent challenges we face.  So, as a creative exercise we’ve been questioning some of these assumptions and experimenting with some different metaphors.  Our conclusion?  It’s time to end the war and move into a new era of talent management where rather than talent management being predicated on talent as a scarce commodity, we see that talent is abundant (even if it hasn’t quite blossomed yet).  It’s time to create a shift from talent war to talent liberation. 

The idea of talent liberation totally alters our perspective on talent and creates new questions and new potential solutions - it opens our minds to different ways to tackle the so called ‘talent crisis’.  Here are three of things which we think are particularly exciting about this shift:

Talent is to be discovered, uncovered and recovered - there is more of it than we think.  The war analogy invites us to concentrate on people who are deemed to have a talent quotient – and in doing this we may forget to pay attention to other influences on the availability of talent.  For example, have you noticed that some line managers are excellent at finding talent?  That some line managers always seem to have a great team of people who are performing at really high levels and seem to have the potential to move on?  Perhaps it’s not the talent that is the limited resource – but the line managers who are brilliant at creating an environment for talent to flourish.  Moving from war to liberation could encourage us to invest more effort in creating a climate and culture that helps more talent to flourish so it is no longer a scarce resource.

Know your talent (and what makes it tick). There are a huge number of books, models, technologies and processes to help organisations to manage their talent resources.  Some of these have a place in strategic planning, but we risk forgetting that these resources are people – with aspirations, hopes and lives outside work.  If we move away from the war analogy we may shift our focus.  Just think how things would change if we started thinking of talented people as our customers… a group of people we wanted to really understand so we could meet all of their needs to retain their loyalty.  Shifting from war to liberation provides a platform for us to collaborate and engage with talented people as partners – rather than try to manage them as a resource. 

Talent needs a hero (the bigger the better).  The talent management ‘war office’ seems to be led by HR – and it can be an uphill battle to try to engage the wider business.  This can leave many line managers feeling that they don’t have a part to play.  If we change the analogy to talent liberation this makes it easier for line managers to take a role – finding ways to engage with their teams and have real conversations about what they want from their work and their career – not conversations they are told to have, but ones they want to have.  In our experience most managers are enthusiastic about this role – about being a catalyst for someone’s career

We’ve been fighting the talent war for nearly two decades now and we’re still worried about a shortage - shouldn’t we conclude that our tactics aren’t working for us? Let’s stop the fight and find ways to liberate the huge talent that is around us.

Comments on this Post

Terry Priestley on 18th April 2016

Thought provoking, as usual! The whereabouts of talent isn't always found in the more obvious places (graduate, fast stream, accelerated promotion etc.) but, as we all know, can reside within the normal employee base. Herein is where potential lies but, like a seed that is planted it needs the nourishment of great management to allow it to grow. How many courses have we delivered where there's been no pre-course discussion between the delegate and the line manager (and what's the chance, therefore, of a post course nurturing discussion)? Line managers - step up to the plate, please!

Maggi Evans on 8th March 2016

Many thanks for your comments - we've had a lot of positive responses to the idea of liberating talent... and it builds on the themes of much of our work - liberating leadership, mentoring, the performance equation. We'll be doing further blogs on this topic showing how we can move from the idea into action.

Roger Young on 6th March 2016

Very thought provoking.The easiest way to liberate talent is to give "them" responsibility early. Never in my career have "juniors", given a task, let me down. They, like me when a "junior" given responsibility, moved heaven and earth to ensure that I delivered. Yes, I wanted to show what I was capable of. So too do others. Just have faith in others, and support them where necessary.

Micaela Greenwood on 4th March 2016

Thanks Apter for a thought-provoking piece. I really like the way the way you've framed this and the practical implications and suggestions are excellent. I will retain these thoughts - thank you!

Chris Shewan on 3rd March 2016

The thinking and idea are wonderful! Of course the leadership and culture will need to create the context where line managers wish and are able to nurture liberation and allow it to flourish.

Tracey Skoyles on 3rd March 2016

Another excellent blog! The idea of talented colleagues being thought about as customers is an excellent one and puts me in mind of Greenleaf's 'Servant Leadership' philosophy. The suggestion of liberating talent rather than just 'managing' it is, well, hugely liberating!

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