Managing Skills For Business Continuity

In a meeting recently, a client made a comment to the effect that they were very concerned that “Talent Management” has become just another fad word. Sadly in many circumstances this is already the case. One of the main contributors to this demise is the fact that many limit “Talent” to “professional” occupations or positions usually associated with big offices and salaries to match. While it may included those falling into this description this is not the complete truth.

Talent Management can and does take on a broader interpretation, which includes succession planning at all levels across the organization. Many organizations face issues with aging work forces, once again at all levels within the organization. The consequence of an aging staff compliment is that, when such people do retire, much of your corporate capability (skill) leaves the building, and the gap left in its wake is more like a vacuum. This is not always immediately visible, but over time, as skill sets reduce and tacit knowledge flows out of the organization, eventually business continuity is threatened.

For many organizations dealing with Talent Management takes on what can best be described as the “mercenary approach”.  This “instant” approach to Talent… “We will just go and buy (poach) the skills we need”, hugely perverts ones approach to hiring the best people for the job. The up-side to this approach is one doesn’t need to train up the talent and skills your organization requires (provided that these skills are available). The downside to this approach is that skills begin to attract premium salaries out of kilter with their intrinsic value. Never mind the fact that one never really gets to instil any corporate culture with any level of consistency. That is another whole kettle of fish for another time. Another issue is that the very ones that arrive in this way also leave in this way, with a whole bunch or your organization knowledge in their head.

You will not stop people leaving with your stuff in their heads, but you can retain the knowledge they have brought to the party for the time they were with you. In fact you can even do one better than that; you can retain the knowledge and the application if you go about it in the right way.

Talent Management and Succession Planning initiatives still leave gaps in the pipeline of skill and people development across the entire organization – as the focus is on ‘jobs’ – not maintaining and growing SKILLS. There are many who do not value the pipeline – to their detriment.  At the risk of beating an analogy to death – consider your garden hosepipe. No water will ever come out the front of that thing unless you keep putting water in the back end of it – at pressure. We have a client that is very fond of the expression; “water don’t flow uphill”. Yet water can flow uphill when you apply enough pressure. The same thing is true of the garden hose as it is of your business. Unless you have a structure to the flow of your talent, skills and organizational wisdom, you are at risk of having an intermittent flow of talent – at best.

In closing, something for you to ponder upon… many companies make huge efforts concerning their Talent, Succession Planning, Recruitment and even Staff Development and neglect one of the most valuable building blocks in all of this; the skills and knowledge inherent to this system.

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