"What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well." —Only an aviator at heart and a writer like Antoine de Saint Exupéry who often flew over deserts could have penned such a truth. So even if you followed the advice from the last article "Development Plans the Right Way: Creating Career Paths" and designed career paths properly, you still have to take a good look at each employee to discover their talent and hidden potential.
Our employees are the people who have the required abilities, skills and knowledge—the well of talent—to cover all our jobs or positions in our company, and perform the tasks and functions required for each position. And perhaps more that we don’t yet know about or recognize as potential.
Why do we need to identify talent?
Antoine de Saint Exupéry, as the narrator in his famed book wrote, “So I had to choose another profession, and I learnt to be a pilot. I flew all around the world. And it is true that geography came in very handy. I could tell the different between China and Arizona at a glance. Which is very useful at night.” That witty sarcasm illustrates the importance of spotting the specific qualities of talent among our employees that are actually useful and influence our company positively. So talent identification here is about making sure that the talent our employees have is aligned with what our company needs to achieve its goals and strategy, as well as with the company culture, traits and structure.
So how do we begin to identify talent? Logic tells us to find out what the employee knows, how well he does what he knows on the job, what he loves to do for fun, and what his inner dreams and concerns are.
What the employee knows we can figure out from their previous studies and training received during their career inside and outside our company. Performance in the current and previous jobs tells us how well the employee does what he knows, or supposedly knows. The things that make the employee tick and feel alive are up to HR to find out and nurture, just like the little prince did watering his rose and chimney-sweeping his volcanoes, including the extinct one, as one never knows. It is also our responsibility in HR to become familiar with the employee’s professional and personal motivations, concerns, interests, aspirations and desires as this also gives us clues on how to nurture each individual’s talent and potential.
Why do we need to categorize talent?
It all very well to know what you have in the well, but when you draw up the water, it’s because you are going to use it for a good purpose, and you want to make sure the well keeps filling. We know what talent there is, but we next need to know what to do with it, and when, for the best outcomes.
There are essentially 4 major ways of categorizing talent:
· By the career paths defined
Each group of employees in each career path must be allocated a development plan in order to evolve them through the various levels and positions of the career path. We need well-defined paths to travel on for a good measure of success, and even for flexible career paths, to allow an employee to switch from one path to another, in any direction at any time. So the geographer can potentially become an explorer in the book, “The Little Prince” we have to automatically assign the corresponding development plan.
And of course, we need to be prepared for the monumental life-changing event that comes with any proclamation of “The King is dead, long live The King!”. We toomust develop a succession plan for someone to take over the king living on asteroid 325, or anyone else that plays a key role in your company for that matter.
· By the employee’s level of engagement
Keeping workforce performance and engagement across the entire organization high is crucial especially if we want to sustain long term business performance successfully. An employee who is loyal, motivated, excited and aligned with the company’s values will always perform better and be more productive.
We can do a triage on employees based on levels of engagement: highly engaged, disengaged and those who can become more engaged if they percieve improvements in their work experience. For each one of these groups, we need to create a development plan aimed to improve engagement among the convertibles and disengaged, and to keep retaining the high performers.
· By performance and potential
We have already sorted our employees according to performance and engagement, but we can take this even further to make the most of what our workforce has to offer the company. This is about spotting potential based on how our employees perform and making development plans to cultivate it. So we can search and sort our employees by spotting their potential based on how they perform:
High performers, who contribute a lot are likely to be the key people and future leaders of our company.
Contributors, like the lamplighter on the asteriod 329, are usually who do about 90% of the work and go most unnoticed because they perform to standard and within the expected normal range for potential. The lamplighter’s job is a useful one: to light the lamp at sunset. But the lamplighter’s planet spins faster and faster all the time, and the poor man is forever putting out his lamp and immediately lighting it again. “Orders are orders,” says the lamplighter to the little prince.
Poor performers, last but not least, these are the ones that HR should worry aboutas they don’t work well and don’t show potential.
· By risk of leaving
There are employees who want to stop working in the organization. In fact, we always have to be on the alert to detect these and find out why they want to leave. Then decide whether we want to retain them or facilitate their exit. Those we want to retain may need different development plans, depending on the circumstances.
If we have come this far, then we are ready for the next stage, to define and implement development plans designed for each individual employee. Tailoring even further such individualized plans undeniably boosts each employee’s performance and develops each one’s potential further still to ultimately increase the company’s profits.