Talent, How to Have It and How to Keep It

Published: 9th June

There are a huge number of extremely talented people in this world, but the hierarchy of business does not always see the most talented at the top.  Many have said that true leaders will always look to harness talent that they can learn from and hire employees that can bring something new to the table, and who believe in the company’s values.  And, to ensure that this talent is kept happy, they must be recognized and treated well.

Sometimes, very talented people just aren’t a good fit for your organization, but more often, the problem lies in a leaders’ inability to harness or align their employees’ talent to the mission. Either of these situations can cause employees’ talent to atrophy — or, worse, give them a reason to move on to a more engaging position at another company. Your job, as a leader, is to recognize when talent isn’t being used to its fullest potential and correct the situation.

Earlier this week, our own René Carayol interviewed Laszlo Bock, Senior VP of People Operations at Google, talking about his experiences and his new book “Work Rules!” where he shares insights from the inside of Google, and how Google treat their people.

With the importance of keeping talent, Laszlo Bock, emphasised the need to “do the right thing” and ensure that you are fair across the board with your employees.  “Empowering employees” was proven to increase productivity and performance within the workplace, and keep that talent happy.  “Even in a time of flat wages, you can still make work better, make people happier.  Indeed it’s when the economy is at its worst that treating people well matters the most”

When looking for new talent, Jonathan Rosenburge, former SVP of Products at Google says: “When you’re in a dynamic industry where the conditions are changing so fast, then things like experience and the way you’ve done a role before isn’t nearly as important as your ability to think.  So generalists, not specialists, is a mantra that we have internally that we try to stick pretty closely to. Specialists tend to bring an inherent bias to a problem, and they often feel threatened by new solutions.”


When Talent on Its Own Isn’t Enough

Chris Cancialosi states below some common talent issues leaders’ face that could hinder your business’s success in building high performance teams:

  • The “lone wolf”: The lone wolf archetype makes for a great western, but in today’s hyper-connected business world, that mindset just doesn’t work. You could have the smartest guy in the industry working for you, but if he can’t interact with the rest of your team, he’s ultimately a drain on morale and productivity. A successful business requires a team of people who make use of each person’s talents through effective and productive communication and collaboration.
  • Misaligned talent: Businesses can fall victim to misaligned talent for many reasons, but what I’ve seen happen, time and time again, is talent being evaluated based on short-term operational needs versus long-term business goals. Perhaps you needed someone to fulfill certain responsibilities at a pinch when your business was growing, but now that person is stuck in a role where her talent is being wasted. Leaders must be able to see past pressing operational needs to the future performance of the company, which includes putting your best and brightest in leadership and strategic roles.
  • Disengaged talent:If a talented employee is bored or unmotivated, they’re not going to perform to their highest potential. Getting employees out of their comfort zones, but not in panic mode, will help employees feel like they’re contributing to a greater cause and experiencing individual development. Those employees will know they are truly putting their strengths to good use and will go above and beyond for your business. However, fail to provide a challenge that fully utilizes an employee’s talent, and that talent will start to mold.

How to Align a Team’s Talents

Business moves fast. Often, business leaders get caught up with other priorities and let the performance and direction of their teams fall by the wayside. Here are three simple remedies to get talent back on track:

  1. Communicate:The most effective way to align a team’s talents is through honest dialogue. Take the time to evaluate internal processes and dynamics. Hearing from your team about what is — and isn’t — working will help create alignment and do more for your team’s big picture than any task management system or monetary bonus ever could.
  2. Look at your business objectives:When you put talent in the context of business strategy, talent will start to naturally align itself. Leveraging the strengths and preferences of employees according to where they fit within your long-term business objectives will naturally bring out the best in your people and organization as a whole. Make sure all employees know their roles and how their actions contribute to the bigger picture.
  3. Put the right people in the right seats:Jim Collins said it best when he advised that people need to be put in the right seat on the bus to drive performance. If your goal is building a high performance team, find the right roles and responsibilities for the right employees. Find out what your employees enjoy doing and what motivates them to determine where they are best suited.

How to get Noticed!

OK, so you have talent, but how do you stand out from the crowd and get noticed?  In René’s interview with Laszlo Bock, Laszlo stated that when he decided to move into HR, he knew he would do well because he stood out from the crowd.  How?  He had a different skill set, he could bring statistical and analytical knowledge to the role, so that he could put together experiments in the workplace and show the ways to improve productivity among employees, happiness in the workplace, among other things.

Laszlo strongly suggested honing your skills so that you could bring something new and different to the table that would benefit your organisation, and get you to the top faster.

We will leave you with a thought from John Maxwell, who insists that the choices people make are extremely important, not merely the skills that they inherent.  He says that successful people know that:

Belief lifts your talent.

Initiative activates your talent.

Focus directs your talent.

Preparation positions your talent.

Practice sharpens your talent.

Perseverance sustains your talent.

Character protects your talent

You can have talent alone and fall short of your potential. Or you can have talent plus, and really stand out.

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