All Cream and No Bottle—The Talent Management Challenge

(From -- Talent development and talent management are not entirely synonyms: the former is an intervention applied to some or all of the people in an organisation, while the latter is a matter of strategy that should ideally be seen as 'husbandry' activity – maximising the human resources of the organisation by the judicious and informed application of its non-human resources. (Or 'time, money and energy', in plainer speech.)

Talent management is a far more complex discipline than simply skimming the cream from the milk – good use has to be made of the skimmed milk and care taken to prevent the cream from curdling. Simple pampering of the 'winners' is not the answer, although an element of it will be required – those with the ambition to rise tend also to expect more than a modicum of special treatment to keep them onside. A 2010 Harvard Business Review article showed that 25% of Hi-Pos expect to be working elsewhere within a year (no doubt a higher percentage were less candid with their current employer).

One of the conundrums for the talent manager is to strike the right balance between talent identification and fairness. Grounds for the identification of potential are not as straightforward as they might seem: current performance is no guarantee of future potential, especially when what will be performed may be substantially different from the individual's current repertoire. Selection needs to factor in more nuanced criteria: individual learning agility and the motivation to learn and improve are just two, and they are in turn influenced by reward and recognition practices. That does not mean that informed selection is impossible, but it does take more effort and insight than is often allowed.

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