Friday, April 19, 2024

Talent, success and development

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In days gone by, our parents and other older adults admonished us that we should spare no caution in the way we use things such as clothing, shoes, food – because they were expected to last a long time and, if possible, were to be passed on to our younger siblings.
Let us apply that methodology to organizations and how management values its employees under the expectation that they too are “to last us for a long time”.
The global economic recession heightens what managers already know: that organizations must have the best talent in order to succeed in a hyper-competitive and increasingly complex global economy.
Talent may manifest in employee strengths, organization competitive advantage or both. Few organizations, however, can boast that they have the ideal collective of talent. It is therefore increasingly incumbent on managers to hire, retain, deploy and productively engage their organizational talent at all levels to achieve the highest levels possible of profit or effectiveness.
Not having adequate levels of talent is not an insurmountable issue as the organization should conduct training in the skills it expects its employees to demonstrate.
This is where we introduce talent management. This concept is simply refers to the organization’s anticipation of its human capital needs and its attempts to put plans in place to meet them. Central to an effective talent management strategy is a strategic plan.
A talent management strategy can only be effective if the organization knows where it is going, how it plans to get there and what profile of employees will propel them on that journey. I must insert the caveat here that poaching of talent is not a strategy.
How do we manage talent?
Organizations create environments which encourage their employees to consistently create value through efficient business processes, industry-standard customer service and innovation.
Talent management encompasses hiring for competencies which not only allow the organization to meet its short-term operational targets, but also achieve sustainable growth and profit; it represents the highest form of business integration.
The human resource department and its head, therefore, are no longer personnel administrators, but critical partners in the discussion on investment in human resources, financing the development of those resources and how our staff is best placed to achieve organization profitability through return on investment.
I should also caution that organizations must also not allow themselves to be hypnotized into the war for talent by looking only at A-list star players. According to a Harvard Business Review article (HBR, June 2003) the star employees often focus more on themselves and their own needs, and not on what is good for the company. Although it can be argued that a good manager is able to create a win-win by aligning employees’ self-interests with the organization’s goals, the investment in a steady committed B-player may prove to be just as rewarding.
However, the reality is that several managers fear losing high-performing employees who are valuable assets to the organization – even in a volatile employment environment, where employees themselves may fear job security. So there is cyclical fear in the organization. This causes management to hesitate to invest in its employees and it may also incite stagnation of outstanding employees particularly where objective appraisals or performance are absent.
But what does talent management mean in the wider context of Barbados? We must first have a clear vision of our development path as a country. Which sectors will be pursued as a priority?
Which sectors do our policymakers view as the new or emerging sectors and subsectors? Can these sectors be supported by the available pool of human resources?
If it is that we do not have the scope of human resource talent, then is there a strategy in place to develop that talent?
We must consider implementing a human resource development strategy based on formal education, skills training, professional benchmarking and more importantly labour market expansion and re-alignment. I strongly believe that the time is ripe for the latter.
Part of the challenge we must face frontally is that we currently have a labour market that falls short of the talent and skills our economy requires to move us from what the World Economic Forum labels a factor-driven economy, to an efficiency economy, to an innovation economy.
In other words, our training opportunities and labour market need to be restructured and expanded to create new sub-sectors of employment and by extension promote national development.
• Olivia Smith is a senior economist at the Productivity Council.

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