If organisations managed their assets as carelessly as they do their employees, not only would their lifespan be rather limited, but they would also find themselves under extreme pressure from their shareholders for gross under utilisation of assets and resources. Although it is commonly accepted within most organisations that their employees are one of the primary critical success factors, many organisations are either unable or unwilling to set up procedures to effectively measure and thus effectively manage their employees' contribution to the organisation.
Many years ago whilst still in school we had an annual event called the Talent Night which after inception soon became the entertainment highlight of the year. In fact, in the second year, the acts had to be spread across two nights as the school hall could just not accommodate the crowds. What soon became apparent, was that there were some individuals in the school who had exceptional talent, be it playing a musical instrument, a stand up comedy routine or just being a great actor. These individuals soon became "icons" within the school, and each year all and sundry waited to see what they would be doing at the Talent Night evening. I remember clearly how these individuals were given every opportunity to improve their talents and of course, as the event drew closer schoolwork actually took second place. Why? Well as the Talent Night was the flagship for talent within the school it was seen as imperative that all the individuals involved were given every opportunity to ensure they could perform to their maximum potential. Imagine if that was the vision statement hanging in your canteen - "Here at the SABC we ensure that all our employees are given every opportunity to perform at their maximum potential". Imagine the impact on employees, clients and any other visitors you may have reading this statement. So what relevance does acting in a Talent Night production have to my organisation you might ask? Well in a typical organisation you have, just like in a school, people with various talents and potential, employees that others look up to regardless of position or power and those who become your informal leaders, mentors or advice givers. Once talent is recognised it needs to be nurtured and grown in order for the individual to maximise their potential and of course for the organisation to reap maximum rewards. I relate the story from my school days because the same principles should be applied in the workplace today. I cannot believe that the teachers of my school, which was stuck in the middle of the Free State, were that far ahead of their times. The teachers realised that, once they had identified talent in a student, they then needed to nurture it by creating opportunities for this talent to grow, in order to maximise the individual's potential. It was plain common sense - and it worked!
So why do so many organisations fail to even get out of the starting blocks with the cornerstone of managing and valuing their talent - performance management? There can be two significant barriers that could stand in the way of a more productive or strategic approach to managing or developing employees. Firstly, many managers are reluctant to categorise employees, sometimes in fear of appearing elitist and others for the fear of being seen to discriminate. Secondly, the HR Department classifies employees according to their functions or their business units - in vertical silos - and not how essential the employee's roles are, or what experience and other personal qualities are required to perform in the role. Often no attempt is made to classify people across the organisation, in other words horizontally as opposed to vertically, where the value of how "business-critical" they are is seen as the most important criteria. In many organisations, where the employees' contribution to the success of the organisation is considered, it is all too often limited to a discussion around the employee's individual performance rather than any consideration of the organisational measurements of success. Organisations need a far better understanding of the strategic value of their employees as this is critical to their success in the global marketplace. Your company's future growth and competitiveness now depends more than ever before on attracting the right people – qualified employees - who are becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Once these individuals are part of your organisation you need to ensure that they perform not only on an individual level, but also as part of the team. Key to this is role definition. Just like in the Talent Show, each employee should know their role, and yes, you will have employees in starring roles and others in supporting roles.
Reference: Rethinking the Value of Talent by Jeffrey Joerres and Dominique Turcq.