Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Great Talent Trade-Off

The global financial crisis has seen a reduction in team sizes, flater structures, and a focus on short term results. This has impacted on how talent is recruited and developed. Acquiring resources that make an immediate impact and are given a remit to 'act and ask questions later' is a trend.

In this current over stretched and activity driven business landscape, the process of developing people through mentoring and coaching is a distraction. Over burdened managers and team members do not have the time to do this well.

So where does this leave talented resources who want to learn and grow. I have seen many people thrown into the 'deep end' who rise to the surface displaying skills they did not even know they had. In these cases, it has mostly been a combination of personal tenacity, coupled with informal coaching and support that has fast tracked professional growth.

Resources that have development needs are missing out on quality informal support networks due to the stress on manager workloads. The outcome being a rush to recruit 'new' rather than enhance 'existing' skills. Given the cost, risks  and lead time of external recruitment this seems like a false economy.

Business leaders indicate that finding and managing talent is one of the biggest; if not the biggest; organisational issue and opportunity. Having resources with the right capabilities, attitudes and experience is a key success enabler. One dissenter, aggressor or saboteur can impact on a team's performance, morale and dynamics. The risk of this increases when new variables are thrown into the mix.

Learning theory states that the more frequently we perform a task, gain experience or apply knowledge the more adept we become. Many younger or developing professionals are finding that time, patience and tolerance for error needed for growth is a scarcity. Being 'tagged' specifically by the job function they perform rather then the potential abilities they possess.

Most managers indicate that they don't have time to manage people, let alone develop people. There is a lot of pressure on team leaders to performance manage individuals and significantly less focus on development. This is a symptom of the current business climate where people management is part of a job function and not a specialised competency.

Short term, high impact resources have come to be seen as the solution. However, when this solution is applied too often it can damage team performance. Causing disruption, frustration and even friction as teams attempt to move quickly while adjusting to change and pushing for results.

It takes time in any new organisation to learn how 'things are done' and effectively build internal networks to influence outcomes. Even highly experienced resources coming into a new organisation need to navigate decision politics and build influence. So the ability to make an immediate impact can be stifled. These resources too can suffer from a lack of internal guidance and coaching.

Bringing in new perspectives and skills is necessary at times. At other times it's a catalyst for disaster. While immediate results are the ultimate aim, these are hindered by changing group dynamics and lack of internal process experience. 

Existing resources that are dedicated, hardworking and willing to learn can excel in stretch roles with the right coaching. They have the advantage of established internal networks and trust. In short, they will get things done. Channelling existing talent into appropriate development roles would reduce recruitment costs, staff turnover and time wasting. It will build a learning environment and motivate current staff to excel with promotion in mind.

Getting the right mix of established and new talent requires considered thinking. People Managers have many time pressures, giving them little time to focus on others in their teams. So naturally it seems expedient to look for team players that need little guidance or direction.

Yet where does this leave individuals with potential who want to learn and grow. These resources can miss out on receiving the attention of their line managers for informal and formal mentoring. Is the desired outcome of minimal involvement for quick wins really holding true as managers struggle to do just that - manage people.

I can't help but ponder... managers are too busy to manage and resources need to be 'ready to roll.'

Are we making talent assessments based too much around short term needs?

Is there a section of the workforce missing out on developing professionally through informal support networks?

Is the cost vs benefit stacking up?

Is this a time of short term talent trade-offs that will have long term impacts on individual and team performance?

What do you think?

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