Talent spotting

Talent management is becoming a prominent feature in many HR departments,
but do people really understand it? By Guy Sheppard

The number of talent management specialists is set to soar over the next five
years, according to research by people management consultants Hay Group.

Director Neil Paterson says increasing difficulty in recruiting and
retaining key staff largely explains the trend, along with an expectation among
many staff that organisations should be more pro-active in developing their

"It’s put pressure on organisations to be more creative and
professional about the way we nurture and grow talent," he says.

But the definition of talent management is still fairly loose. Some employers
use it as a fast-track tool for high-flyers, while others regard it as a way of
boosting everybody’s skills. We asked readers for their opinion.

Kate King
Resourcing and organisation development manager, Selfridges

Our target is to recruit 70 per cent of our people at team leader level and
above from within by offering a structured career path, so talent management is
something we are really beginning to focus on.

There is a danger in thinking that because a person is good in one job, they
will automatically be good in the next role up. So we give people opportunities
to prove themselves first, through fast-track programmes, progression coaching,
projects and mentoring, before giving them promotion.

We are really cautious about not just focusing on high-potential staff. But
in times of constraint on development budgets, it’s really important that
organisations target resources on those people who are going to make the most

Jackie Wiltshire
Corporate head of personnel, Wokingham District Council

I don’t think the term is particularly helpful. If you mean recruiting staff
with talent, identifying them and developing them, I would say we have been
doing that before someone dreamt up the term.

If you are saying it’s about managing people’s careers, it’s not possible in
a small authority like Wokingham. People come and do a good job, but they won’t
actually stay with you forever.

You also need to remember that you can manage talent at all levels of the
organisation, not just among high-flyers. We don’t want to divert our resources
away from front-line staff and pile it all into talent management.

Andy Bedwell
Head of talent management, Exel

As our business becomes more complex, it is increasingly important to make
sure we have the right calibre of people in place to meet our business plans.

We do this every quarter with ‘talent forums’ to identify potential
candidates from both within and outside the company. It’s about identifying
people who are key to the business and then doing something pro-active about
managing them.

If everyone in the business understands why good, capable people are being
targeted for opportunities, then that can only be positive.

Isabel Bennett
Learning and development director, Vodafone UK

Talent management should not just be for people above a certain level, but
realistically most organisations start from the top down.

We have the ‘talent zone’ which focuses on high-performing senior management
and above. But we have started a programme below that level to help talented
people become senior managers or develop their skills.

Talent management must be done in conjunction with performance management.
It falls over when nobody knows the criteria for evaluating employees.

Phil Smith
Course director for talent management, Cranfield School of Management

It’s hard to get people who are capable of making an extraordinary
contribution to their organisation.

The kind of thing that most often goes under the guise of talent management
is the development of high-potential people and succession planning. We ought
to be thinking a lot harder about the unique human capabilities that are needed
to become competitive.

Peter Merrick
Director of corporate personnel, Siemens UK

Our executive management team set up a talent board in September 2003. We
recognise that capturing and nurturing talent is key to the success of Siemens
in the UK.

Our approach is only elitist in the sense of capability. The board’s role is
to identify the skills we want, specify the processes for identifying
high-potential people and then provide the support to develop specialist

The focus is not just on senior management, but also on IT specialists and
project and account managers.

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