Retaining Talent

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Seven battle-grounds to fight and win a new talent war
“Too many companies are wasting their resources - their people and their financial leverage - by perpetuating outdated approaches to talent management.” DeAnne Aguirre, Laird Post & Sylvia Ann Hewett

Trouble in the world of talent management
March 2010, and the brightest and best in talent management are attending a Conference Board event in California. For delegate George Ambler¹, the speakers attempt to project a positive and up-beat message. But the mood among delegates in the coffee breaks is very different. They are discussing the problem of talent management. A public sector delegate is concerned that internal talent pipelines keep producing the wrong kind of leader. Someone from a retail firm expresses her frustration that promotion paths are being blocked by mediocre managers. Other delegates share their anxieties that their organisations are struggling to identify genuine talent. Ambler came away from the event asking some challenging questions: do we know what we're looking for? Or are we still in the dark about the concept of talent? is talent management simply a slogan? Is anyone putting this stuff into practice to make it stick? is anyone tracking what we’re doing to see if it works? And do we know what to do to get better?

¹ http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/03/todays_biggest_talent_manageme.html

© AM Azure Consulting Ltd 2010

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The War For Talent: 10 years ago
Remember “The War for Talent”. In 2001, this was a key book in the evolution of the discipline of talent management. Previously, a mix of activities, everything from recruitment, performance management, career development and succession planning, talent management arrived on the scene with the publication of “The War For Talent”. Business success arises when organisations follow the five tenets of: develop a talent mind set: building an obsession with people to drive business performance create an employee value proposition: reviewing current employment practices to create an environment in which talent can flourish rebuild your recruitment strategy: being proactive in the search for talent at every level accelerate the development of talent: look for imaginative way to test and stretch emerging talent differentiate and affirm your people: encouraging honesty in rewarding superior performance and tackling performance problems

© AM Azure Consulting Ltd 2010

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What went wrong
Embarrassingly for the authors, the keenest advocate of the talent prescription had been a company called Enron¹, an organisation whose financial implosion is now the stuff of business folk lore, who had taken “The War For Talent” seriously, and implemented all five of the talent tenets. Developing a talent mind set, the sensible belief that people make a difference became an obsession that individual contribution is the driver of business success. For Enron, whatever the “smartest guys in the room” touched would turn to business gold. Creating an employee value proposition should be the review of current employment practices to build an environment in which talent can flourish. For Enron it created a “them and us” culture in which the “super stars” flourished and others were ignored. Rebuilding the recruitment strategy is proactivity in the search for talent at every level. For Enron it was a resourcing plan to buy in the “best, bright and beautiful” at inflated salaries that undermined continuity of culture and purpose. Accelerating the development of talent is finding imaginative ways to test and stretch emerging talent. In Enron it resulted in the over-promotion of inexperienced individuals who got out of their depth and simply weren’t up to the challenge. Differentiate and affirm your people could have led to greater honesty in rewarding superior performance and tackling performance problems. Instead for Enron it created a “rank-and-yank” performance management strategy played out in talent reviews...
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