People are not your most important asset. I know that is a heretical thing
to say, but the reality is that it is the right people who are your most
important asset – the ones who are fully engaged in what they do for you.
I have a horrible feeling that a lot of what companies do acts against this
since many of the management processes used actively destroy people
psychologically by concentrating on weakness, "areas of opportunity"
and filling in gaps in people that they are incapable of filling.
I would get rid of competency models and anything that ends up
compartmentalising people and stifling what comes naturally to them. It is HR’s
job to help people define their talent and to then build the organisation
around that. Much better to concentrate on getting selection right, on letting
the wrong people go, and in creating roles that allow people to do what they do
best on a regular basis.
The same is true for leadership models. There simply isn’t one way to do
things – great leaders do it their own way and smart companies let them get on
They also create open, flexible working environments – building "social
capital" – everywhere to ensure that people have an emotional and
psychological reason to stay around.
Personally, I shudder at the thought of the training money I have wasted in
the genuine pursuit of developing the well-rounded "super-worker". If
someone isn’t competitive, they never will be and they won’t learn how to be
so. If they are an Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver in Myers-Briggs
terms, they won’t ever be good at detail and structure – so don’t put them in a
job that demands a lot of this.
It strikes me that this is really what managing talent is all about. Ask
someone to do something that comes naturally and they will excel and are likely
to be hugely productive. Ask them to work on a development plan that plays to
their non-talents and the reverse is usually true.
There has been much written about the war for talent, most of it excellent,
but there has also been a tendency to over-intellectualise the debate and in so
doing we are in danger of forgetting some simple home truths. Put the right
person in the right job – and by this I simply mean into a role that plays to a
pre-existing strength – and foster an environment that lets them get on with it
and the shareholders get more value out of the human assets tied up in the
businesses they own.
By trying to implement convoluted, complex management development,
succession and performance management processes that largely concentrate on
what people get wrong, companies have destroyed people and have destroyed value
at the same time.
By Chris Matchan, Vice-president, consumer practice at Korn/Ferry