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People’s champion

HR products and services are coming to market faster than ever and technology and economies of scale have been widely exploited to create differentiation. But no piece of software or advance in technology can replace good people, champions Dawn Robinson, Head of Learning and Development at Sage.

Products and services are all relatively easy to imitate and are, therefore, unreliable as sources of competitive advantage. As a result there has been a clear shift of focus to human talent within businesses. If an organisation has a more highly talented workforce than that of its competitors, it is much better placed to respond to the challenges of such a fluctuating and competitive climate. It is the businesses that attract, develop, and retain talented people, who are better able to create real and long lasting competitive advantage.

“It’s a fallacy that talent management is about focusing on the ‘best’ people. This approach suggests there are people in the organisation that should not be considered talented”

Now, more than ever before, there is competition amongst employers for the finest people. This ‘war for talent’ which means attracting, developing, and retaining the best people has become of paramount importance to a business. Talent management takes HR to another level, where it becomes a strategic decision making part of the business, alongside finance, marketing, and research and development. Striking the right balance requires a considered and strategic approach. The world is made up of different people and different priorities. It is essential to remain receptive to this delicate mix. People of all ages are attracted to the incentive of work-life balance, and are driven by a desire to create a lifestyle and career path that suits them, rather than trying to fit their life around the organisation for which they work. Organisational ethics, corporate social responsibility and global career opportunities are all of interest to employees, particularly when it comes to attracting Generation Y employees who bring with them a whole new set of expectations and demands.

Success in attracting and retaining the ‘Millenial’ generation will come from innovative development and reward packages that are tailored to the general trends in attitudes and values. Ultimately, employers need to be in the position to offer more than just a job. A recent study carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reflects this, indicating that more firms are looking to offer alternative incentives to staff in a bid to keep them content in their jobs. 58 percent of company chief executives admitted that they tried to motivate staff through non-monetary rewards.

It’s a fallacy that talent management is about focusing on the ‘best’ people within an organisation. This approach appears to suggest there are people in the organisation that should not be considered talented. A more holistic view sees talent management as a process that encompasses every stage of an individual’s relationship with the organisation, with the aim of helping every employee achieve their full potential. Talented employees are attracted to organisations that can demonstrate their consideration for an individual’s development and can match their career goals. An effective talent management strategy should also aim to identify and nurture those individuals who possess unique potential within an organisation. Talent management and succession planning should go hand in hand as a proper strategy is not only about looking at people for key roles, but also about spotting talent wherever it is. For these individuals, talent management is about setting them on a journey designed provide them with a range of experiences across the business, which includes having a mentor, or coach.

As an example of this idea in practice, Sage previously executed its own leadership journey comprising three levels. The first, referred to as Aspire, was about giving people the tools needed to do their job. This was followed by Enable, a week long course that focused on developing the leadership skills of the individual. Finally, Inspire was the final preparation for taking on the responsibility of leadership. This strategy was designed to create a pipeline of internal talent that both assures people they are on a well-structured career-path and reduces the costs and risks associated with recruiting externally for strategic roles.

With the economy still in recovery, holding onto talent is perhaps more critical than ever.  The most successful talent management strategies achieve this by creating a variety of development programmes to meet the needs of all employees. It is crucial for organisations of all sizes to recognise that this is not something which can be instilled by individual managers. Everyone must buy into the talent management process, and feel that it is relevant to them and their career. Most organisations still have some way to go to strike this balance, but the majority are beginning to recognise how fundamental the management and nurturing of talent has become for their prosperity.

Dawn Robinson, Head of Learning and Development

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