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Financial Times Briefing: Talent Management

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Financial Times Briefing: Talent Management

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  • Copyright 2011
  • Edition: 1st
  • eBook (Watermarked)
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-374787-5
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-374787-4

FT Briefing on Talent Management is your short, results-focusedguide to the principles, behaviours and actions that underpin any successful talent management strategy and provides the practical and accessible guidance to attract, develop and retain talent in your business.

It shows you how to genuinely engage your people, how to establish a meaningful succession plan at all levels and how to integrate talent management fully into your leadership approach. The book’s unique structure will ensure that you get the targeted advice you need.

Financial Times Briefings are designed to give busy decision-makers the answers to pressing issues that require hard measurable results

Sample Content

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

PART 1 – In Brief

1. The executive précis: the challenge, risk and opportunity of talent management

To be effective, talent management has to be led and championed at board level. But talent management or HR is only one strand of corporate governance. Long term thinking and consistency is needed in the face of short term expediency and hopping from one crisis to the next.

A new attitude to talent – Employers have to understand that even with the shortage of jobs, generation Y are still the generation that believes in working to live rather than living to work. To retain talent employers need to understand this dynamic and offer genuine commitment to improving work/life balance.

2. What is it? What do I need to know?  Key terms/ concepts

War for Talent

Pyschometric testing

Employee engagement

Employee Retention

Work/Life Balance



Succession planning

Performance Appraisal


Competency framework



Career Development Plans

3. Why do it?. Risks/ Rewards 

Should a company invest in helping all of its people achieve their potential or concentrate spending where it believes it will be most effective – ie on succession planning and developing the next generation of leaders?

Risks - Talent management is vulnerable in a downturn. Traditional command and control management has failed to empower workers at all levels in the organisation.

Rewards- Modern talent management practice recognizes that a more egalitarian and consensual approach is needed to bring out the best in people.

4. Who’s doing it? Who has done it?

Real life examples

What do success and failure look like?

Many organizations view talent as their key differentiator. It is the quality of service, their ideas and intellectual property that generates wealth for the company. But a company needs to have a long term vision of where it is heading.

Case studies

  Bourne Leisure


  Thomson Reuters


PART 2     In Practice

5. Step by step guide-

     A.) How to identify talent –

Forward thinking companies have a set of core values or behaviours they seek to promote. They will recruit to those values. (See brand). Internally, graduate development and management development centres play a big role in ensuring that talent is developed in the most appropriate ways. 

B.) How to attract talent –

Merely paying the highest salary is not going to get you very far, especially when budgets are being squeezed. Employer brand is vital to attract and recruit staff who will be a good fit with corporate values. For the best companies this is an extension of their marketing both internal and external.  The message has to be consistent.

C. How to nurture talent-  

Many organizations are discovering that giving people a challenge works best.  It is the variety and the challenge of the job as well as communicating with individuals and letting them know when they have done a good job. Corporate culture plays a big role.Good leadership is a positive self-reinforcing cycle. Board champions understand the value of having a relevant policy to develop talent within the organization.  

6. How to justify talent management – the business case

The changing role of HR – In times of recession few companies can afford a top heavy HR department. Current best practice means devolving appraisal and career planning to line managers. HR’s job is to oversee the process and focus on the strategic issues where it can add most value.

Look at several organizational models. (case studies)

7. How to manage talent

Empowerment - Talent enjoys being given responsibility. This is easier in a flat management structure where front line staff are empowered to make decisions. But how does talent fare in more bureaucratic structures?

Creative industries in particular thrive where talent is given a free rein. How far do you go in allowing individuals to pursue their own agenda? What are the necessary checks and balances?

Creating the right environment – Companies need to celebrate success. This is a way of acknowledging the individual and the team contribution. Internal awards schemes are one way of recognising talent.

8. How to measure talent management

9. How to talk about  talent

Good internal communications, links and networks help retain talent. Coaching and mentoring plays a significant role in retention.

Don’t put off the bad news – The advice we keep hearing from Best Companies style award schemes is that employees respond well to being kept in the loop. Rumours spread in a vacuum. Keep staff onside by communicating regularly. Frankness is valued. And make this a real exercise in consultation.  

10. How to tailor your approach situation characteristics

Models of different companies

a)       The large company

b)      The SME

c)       The consultancy 

Some situations where talent management needs to be tailored. Eg

Managing home workers – Many businesses allow staff to work from home. It is a great motivator and can produce better productivity.  But it is harder to keep people engaged. A few dos and don’ts of home working. 

Dispersed teams – Old fashioned models of line management and employee development and appraisal may not work when staff are mobile and can come together in teams which may only exist for the duration of a project. Communication and motivation play an even more important role.  

Line managers …Training of line managers helps promote the talent message. Internal training can cascade expertise through the organization.

   PART 3 - Intervention 

11. Executive intervention

A)      What is my role?   Talent is about individuals: succession planning is about roles. Career planning, personal development plans, mobility and coaching are all part of the mix.

The role of the non - exec -  Non execs play an important part in coaching or mentoring talent and also in better corporate governance – such as challenging the board.  They can foster talent. Also board composition both internationally and in terms of the balance of sexes can set an example of inclusivity and democracy. 

At a time of rising shareholder activism the remunerations committee has a tricky path to steer between allowing an unbridled and potentially dangerous bonus culture and a more healthy long term incentivisation. Execs need to set an example. Partnerships face a different problem of dividing the dividend. Fairness and transparency should rule.

B) What should I measure and monitor?

Return on investment is notoriously hard to quantify so far as talent is concerned. Some companies measure their investment in talent in terms of high levels of employee satisfaction and retention. Others find that talent strategy is geared towards making employees better trained and more productive. And it needn’t cost the earth. In a downturn, managing people’s career development through well chosen placements or coaching can be more effective that spending megabucks on fancy business qualifications.

Matrices or competency frameworks are useful foployee satisfaction surveys can measure the effectiveness of employee engagement measures. Is talent fully engaged? Can be cross referenced against employee churn.

Surveys such as Best Companies and Investors in People which are based on sampling employee attitudes to issues like management style, and leadership help benchmark organisations that are talent friendly. Other industry awards internal and external re-assure staff that they work for a good organisation. You need to make your company the employer of choice within your industry sector.

C.) What questions should I ask, and who should I ask?

Why would anyone want to work for you? – Why are some companies just so much more attractive to work for?  How does press coverage or Corporate Social Responsibility impact on the perception of your company in the jobs market and in the wider arena?
What does your company stand for? –Corporate values change over time. Communicating core values is an essential role for HR and needs a multidisciplinary approach adopted at board level. Pride and culture What makes a company an employer of choice? Pride in the job or in the company makes it easier to recruit and retain.

How big is my talent pool and what sort of fish do I have swimming in it? - There are different views on how to maintain a supply of ambitious, job-ready CEOs in waiting. Most importantly, how do you manage expectations?  Not everyone can get the top job.

   D.) Make or break decisions –

Know when to delegate! (The role of the line manager) With training and support most line managers can be perfectly good talent managers. How does a company ensure that this happens?

Deciding when to hire and when to fire. Restructuring and redundancies may be needed. But companies are in a dilemma.  Do they revert to form and cull the over 50s or do they recognize that it pays to retain experience even if on short term contract? A freeze on graduate recruitment could lead to skills shortages in the future. How do companies resolve short term difficulties with the need to manage talent?  

Preparing for an upturn – Companies need to decide where they want to be in five or ten years time and develop a talent management strategy to deliver the skills and the ideas that will get them there. Doing nothing or reacting to events is not an option.  Case studies.

E.) What levers do I have? When should I pull them?

Career planning – Talent needs a broad range of experience and talent management policies that promote a few star players over the rest run the risk of alienating people. It is fair to say that talent needs to recognise where its strengths lie and that senior management and talent should take a balanced view of career planning. 

Pay and prospects – Research suggests that above a certain level pay ceases to be a motivator. Fairness is important and talent needs to see that it is on an upward trajectory. Benchmarking pay is important but so also is being given the opportunity of doing interesting and challenging work.

Employee Engagement  – Corporate social responsibility can engage talent and is an essential part of branding. But how genuine is it? Is it a distraction from a bigger problem such as pollution or unscrupulous pursuit of profit is it part of a genuine desire to be part of a more sustainable economy? Different generations may have different attitudes to charitable works and involvement in community projects.  

Coaching and mentoring – Having a role model has been shown to play a major role in fostering ambition, confidence and direction among young talent.  It can be a valuable support for a talent’s ideas and an antidote to potential conflict with line managers in resolving disputes. 

G.) How do we know when we’ve succeeded or failed?

Trust your judgement. Being over prescriptive and constructing ever more complex assessment grids does not help. Best practice is aligning talent management to business needs and is not process driven. Also the need for succession planning should not be influencing or distorting talent strategy. A company with a successful talent management strategy in place should score high on employee retention, and employee engagement. When you have a clear succession plan, you will have a talent pool of internal candidates coming through.

          Part 4 – In depth 







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