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From talent identification to value creation

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Creating value in business is not just a matter of hiring talented individuals. It’s about how their talent is utilised, explains Curtin Director of MBA Programs, Steve McKenna.

A digital illustration of a woman standing the spotlight among a group of people in shadow.

An ongoing battle for talent in global business has been going on for more than 30 years. A key aspect of this ‘war’ is the idea there are limited numbers of talented individuals and that businesses and countries need to put in place policies, programs and practices in order to recruit and retain them.

In turn, this has led to the development of an industry of ‘experts’ aiming to identify talented people and a plethora of human resource management techniques designed to retain talented staff.

It is generally agreed that having talented people within an organisation is related to business expansion, innovation and new product development.

But these kinds of value creation are not an effect of simply having talent in an organisation. While identification, recruitment and retention of talented individuals is important for any business, the existence of talent alone will not create value within a business.

Instead, what turns a talented person into a value-creator is the way their talents are utilised. And the key drivers of value creation lie in identifying mission-critical projects and future-oriented objectives, and aligning talent to particular projects. Talented people create value when they have mission-critical projects to which to apply their talent.

The following example is a case-in-point: An organisation plans to expand its business tenfold in revenue terms over the next five years. It puts in place a 10-year strategic plan and a talent identification system to identify 100 talented people within the business who will be critical to driving the business forward.

The chosen talent will undergo a development program, which comprises a variety of short courses, mentoring and coaching. Once they have completed the development program the identified individuals then return to their previous roles and are expected to ‘make things happen’.

It looks good in theory, but there are two problems with this method. The first is that the exact nature of the initiatives the talented individuals are expected to do remain undefined. The second is the disconnection between what the talented individuals are expected to achieve and how that fits into the organisation’s overall strategic objectives. It is actually an inefficient use of talented people and has very little focus on creating value.

Solving both of these problems is key to creating value for the business as well as making the 10-year plan achievable. The business should instead look to become project-driven, dividing its plan into bite-sized chunks with definitive timelines and objectives, and then connecting the projects and the KPIs attached to them to the overall strategic goals.

When mission-critical projects are identified they can then be matched with talented individuals who, with senior leadership mentoring and support, and assistance from human resources management, can be tasked with achieving specific project goals.

Once they have completed a project, talented individuals will then have the capacity to move on to another identified project, not only providing them with new challenges, but also helping to work towards successfully solving key business problems and helping to achieve the company’s strategic objectives.

A point often overlooked is the fact that talented people also need to be nurtured. Organisations may make the mistake of employing talented people to undertake certain roles and tasks, but fail to offer them the challenges and rewards they want to experience – and talented people can be hard to keep.

Without challenges, autonomy, visibility, involvement, rewards and support, they may become disillusioned and dissatisfied, and may look for other opportunities and challenges with other organisations as a result.

For this reason, an organisation’s HR professionals are invaluable throughout a business’s push to create value, both in identifying talented individuals, and in nurturing them and generating opportunities for them to succeed.

Factors that improve the retention of talented individuals include assigning them to senior executives for regular mentoring lessons. However, mentoring alone is not enough to create a truly positive visibility experience for talented individuals.

Instead, talented individuals could also be invited to attend key meetings, meet key high-level stakeholders and shadow senior executives through crucial decision-making processes and decisions. This way, individuals can create value related to the way work is organised and structured.

To conclude, identifying talented people and retaining them is critical for business success.  However, equally important is the identification of mission-critical projects directly related to organisational problems and future-oriented objectives. It is the alignment of talented people with critical projects and nurturing them that defines and drives value creation in any business.

Business at Curtin

This series of articles highlights the impactful research taking place at Curtin Business School and Curtin Law School.

In 2018, we explore how partnerships between universities and organisations from all sectors of the economy are solving today’s pressing business challenges and improving organisational agility.

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