By: Janine Oosthuizen “My point is not that ‘people are cool,’ ‘people are important.’ It is that … ‘people’ (their talent, creativity, intellectual capital, entrepreneurial drive) is … all the hell there is.” - Tom Peters –Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age (2005)- Tom clearly emphasises and supports my view that the right talent far exceeds the right systems and processes – at any rate people create the systems and processes... HOW DO WE SEE TALENT AND TALENT MANAGEMENT? There are many definitions of talent, but generally it can be defined as dynamic and likely to transform over time depending on the priorities of the organisation; it is organisation specific and influenced by the type of industry (Grobler & Diedericks, 2009). Talent management also seems to be a bit of a mystery and presented many definitions in the literature over the years and as such it may be best to refer to the English dictionary for a neutral definition (www.allwords.com):

talent management noun (idiom) Human capital management of the entire employee lifecycle. Companies that are engaged in talent management are strategic and deliberate in how they source, attract, select, train, develop, promote, and move employees through the organization. This term also incorporates how companies drive performance at the individual level (performance management).

In order to make the definition of talent management more tangible it is likely to be useful to summarise some of the key activities involved in talent management (www.sergaygroup.com, 2011):

Talent Management
Entry
  • Recruitment
  • Selection
  • Orientation
  • Placement
Retention
  • Culture Fit
  • Immediate Manager Fit
  • Involvement – having a purpose and adding value
  • Person-Environment Fit
Development
  • Competency Assessment
  • Development Opportunities
  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Challenges – being in flow
Performance
  • Role Clarity
  • Performance Agreements and specific outputs
  • Feedback – continuous and respectful
  • Recognition & Reward

  It was also evident from Thorne and Pellant’s research (2007) that the following were key elements of a complete talent management system:

  • Employer brand
  • Recruitment and selection process
  • Training and development process
  • Performance management system – effectively tied to a reward system
  • Information system that retains data on:
    • Satisfaction
    • Motivation
    • Talent Development
    • Talent Utilisation
    • Performance

Certain conditions also need to be present in order to tie all the talent management activities together, to ensure effective functioning of the entity.  The conditions are as follows (Grobler & Diedericks, 2009):

  • Talent should be viewed as a strategic asset and feedback should be consistently and frequently provided to employees regarding their value-add
  • Financial resources should be made available to support the talent management system
  • The company’s strategy, vision and culture should be the core of the talent management plan and programme
  • Technology is essential in tracking people and positions
  • Line managers and the human resources department should engage in open dialogue about key talent issues
  • The process that creates, manages and organises talent, as well as the talented individual are important to the overall talent process and as such effective and correct structures, systems, processes and practices should be part of a coherent whole

In summary talent management is about attracting, developing, retaining and transitioning employees.  It refers to managing the risk of unnecessary recruiting costs, cost of induction, the risk of not having a culture fit between the organisation and potential new recruits, the cost of offering a sustainable service in terms of client relationships and the cost of service capacity due to talent not being retained effectively (Meyer, 2005). THE WHAT AND HOW OF TALENTED PEOPLE Grobler and Diedericks (2009) conducted a study in the tourist accommodation industry and addressed three pertinent questions regarding talent management:

  1. What do talented people want?
  2. What conditions do talented people thrive in?
  3. How do talented people like to be managed?

The findings indicated that talented people want to be recognised for their contribution; they want to feel like they have achieved something significant; they would like to experience excitement, variety and stimulation in their work environment and they want to feel that they are making a difference in the organisation, in their field or on a personal level. Furthermore, in an extensive literature survey the following components presented as important when motivating employees to remain committed to the organisation and need to be physically in place within the organisation (Mackay, 2007):

  • Commendation
  • Praise
  • Recognition and appreciation
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • High expectations for employees
  • Loyalty
  • Building confidence and self-esteem
  • Removing organisational barriers to individual and group performance
  • Job enrichment
  • Sound communication
  • Financial incentives

Sound communication cannot be stressed enough as, Grobler and Diedericks (2009) indicated that the effects of poor communication can result in a negative impact on production and employee relations; consistent misunderstandings and could lead to confusion, mistakes, wastage and even accidents.  Other elements of importance that featured were culture and how it unites others, as it defines what is acceptable and what is not and sets the framework of behaviour (Robbins, 1993).  In addition, involving employees in leadership decisions of the company communicates that they have faith in their employees’ abilities and strengthens the level of trust between employer and employee (Grobler & Diedericks, 2009). Without open communication between management and the team or continuous feedback regarding performance – how will employees be fully engaged at work and in turn how will management retain the talent? QUICK TIPS: RETAINING KEY STAFF BY ADRESSING WORK ENGAGEMENT TO ENSURE SUPERIOR BUSINESS PERFORMANCE: Most employers understand how vital employee retention is and the impact it has on the overall well-being and success of the organisation.  However they are not always aware of the key questions that need to be asked and the actions that follow from this, to ensure that employee commitment is ignited and maintained.  The following are practical questions that may assist in addressing the issue of work engagement (Phillips, 2002):

  • Are employees aware of the vision, goals and plans of the organisation?
  • Are employees 100% sure of what management expects of them – in clear unambiguous measures?
  • Do employees understand guidelines, laws and policies within which they operate?
  • Did you utilise a rigorous selection process to ensure you have selected the best talent for the organisation?
  • Do you have a planned programme for staff training and development necessary for the job and which leaves room for succession and growth?
  • Does your staff receive consistent and sufficient feedback regarding their performance and how they can continually improve?
  • Do you have structured plans for developing people to future roles and are the required tools and training provided to ensure employee success?
  • Are your employees paid fairly and do they understand how their pay is arrived at?
  • Does the organisation support and facilitate a balance between work and personal life – no amount of money is likely to keep an employee around if it places a significant strain on one’s family?
  • Does the culture of the organisation promote and welcome input or innovative ideas from employees across all levels of the organisation?
  • Do managers know their team – do they know their names, the skills and talents they bring to the table or do they make their staff feel invisible?
  • Does management threaten an employee with termination or demotion to get results

In addition Leiter (1997) identified six crucial areas of work-life that could predict engagement and are most relevant in the relationship individuals develop with their work:

  • Workload - work demands spill into personal life, social pressures and the physical and intellectual burden of job demands.
  • Control - opportunities to make decisions, solve problems, and contribute to the completion of responsibilities.
  • Reward - financial and social recognition for the individual’s contribution on the job.
  • Community - the quality of the social context in which the individual works – relationships with managers, colleagues, subordinates, and clients
  • Fairness - consistent and equitable rules for all employees in the organisation and the quality of justice and respect at work.
  • Values - consistency between the personal values and the values inherent in the organization of employment

If a mismatch exists between people and their work environment in the abovementioned areas, it is likely to reduce their capacity for energy, involvement, and a sense of effectiveness.  As such, if you wish to identify the areas to change that have great potential for significantly enhancing work engagement and ensuring that your talent is retained - assess and address these six fundamental areas! REFERENCES Grobler, P.A. & Diedericks, H. (2009) Southern African Business Review, Vol 13, no. 3. Leiter. M.P. (1997). The Truth About Burnout. John Wiley & Sons. Mackay, A. (2007). Motivation, Ability and Confidence Building in People. Amsterdam, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. Meyer, T. (2005). Talent Management.  [Online]. Available at: www.fasset.org.za. Accessed: 01 August 2011. Phillips, P. (2002). Retaining Key Staff – Can You Afford Not To?.  [Online] Available at: www.ceoonline.com. Accessed: 01 August 2011. Rick, T. (2010). 20 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement and Performance. [Online] Available at: www.torbenrick.eu. Accessed: 01 August 2011. Robbins, S. (1993). Organisational Behaviour. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Thorne, K. & Pellan, A. (2007). The Essential Guide to Managing Talent: How Top Companies Recruit, Train and Retain the Best Employees. London: Kogan Page.