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How do high performing businesses tackle talent management?

When it comes to effective talent management, the best high performing businesses understand what it takes. So what do they know that you don’t?

Becoming a high performing business takes work. It’s not enough to have an impressive bottom line, innovative products or an appealing brand that attracts customers and employees. In fact, the best high performing businesses would tell you that although your organisation might be the thing that attracts individuals to you, it’s your managers who will turn that attraction into dedication. For successful businesses, talent management doesn’t just rest with HR but instead starts with how managers understand the business needs before identifying, supporting and developing their people to fit them, so everyone benefits.

So, what do these high performaing businesses and managers do and how can we learn from them?


They develop talent for their long-term needs

Understanding that talent development is an ongoing process rather than a knee-jerk reaction is key. High performing organisations are always looking ahead to how their talent needs will change, then building a plan to deliver against those needs. They make sure managers are aware of the overarching goal for the business and ensure they know how they need to support, develop and even recruit people to help them achieve it.


They know talent management is a jigsaw

There are many parts to talent management. They link and work together, but you need all the parts in place to make it work.

Managers have to know their people and recognise what their strengths and development needs are, measured against the desired skills, knowledge or behaviours they need to do their job.

A competency framework can be a valuable way of allowing everyone to understand what’s needed in a role. It also helps prevent organisations from falling into the trap of automatically promoting a ‘good performer’ before they are ready to take on the job.


They include everyone

Managers in high performing organisations view all people as talent, not just a select few. They realise how the business benefits when everyone develops new skills and behaviours. Supporting people to excel then recognising their good work builds confidence and performance -– it’s a virtuous circle that contributes to growth and productivity.


They create a coaching culture

The best way to develop talent is to focus on coaching rather than ‘telling’. Letting people find solutions to problems and bring forward new ideas gives individuals the confidence and sense of ownership they need to fulfil their potential. The chances are, as they’re closer to the ‘coal face’, with the right coaching they will often find the best solutions too!

BE Fuelcards & The Right Fuelcard Company is a business that’s seen the benefit of coaching. Based in Leeds, they employ more than 60 people across the two organisations, and achieved Investors in People (IIP) accreditation in 2014. “Everyone here is supported in the right way to progress and develop,” explains operations director Liz Slater. “We believe in learning through doing, it’s how you build the right skills, insight and knowledge to do your job.” People at the organisation agree. They describe how the coaching they receive from their managers “helps us to do our best work as we are learning all the time and have the opportunity to take on more projects and different work that interests us”.


They know what people want and inspire them

Taking time to understand what people want to achieve and what their goals and ambitions are pays dividends.

This includes finding ways to inspire people to believe they are capable of promotion to a bigger and broader role – or even to do something completely different. Annual career discussions are an opportunity to talk about people’s ambitions, using coaching questions to find out what people want to achieve in their careers and then helping them to realise that vision. 

This conversation could include key questions like:

  • What would you like to be doing in five years time?
  • What changes in circumstances over the next 0-6, 6-12, 12-24 months might mean you could be interested in something different?
  • What jobs might you want to develop into in the future?
  • What new skills would you like to develop?

Some people may not feel confident sharing their goals or even believe they are possible. Effective managers look for positives to praise and share what they believe the individual can achieve.


They understand the power of employee ownership

Many organisations do annual reviews, but high performing organisations know how to follow up on these conversations and turn talking into action. And that starts with giving individuals a sense of ownership.

It’s often the case that people who want to be promoted or need to improve performance take up a lot of a manager’s time, while the people in between – who are doing well but aren’t as visible – slip through the net. In fact, it’s usually these people who eventually leave. Focusing all of the attention on the people at either extreme can leave those in the middle feeling unappreciated and ‘taken for granted’.

A great way of making everyone feel supported is by creating individual personal development plans.

These plans encourage people to think about what they need to do to achieve their goals and ambitions as well as the company’s. It gives them a sense of ownership over their career progression and the opportunity to directly feed into the growth of the business.


They provide opportunities for people to learn and develop

High performing businesses understand the value of investing in their talent – with opportunities to develop at every level. OneE Group, based in Bolton, is a great example of this. They employ 50 people and achieved IIP accreditation in 2014. “Part of our talent development plan includes recruiting graduates,” explains operations director Lindsey Daniels.  “We know that graduates arrive with plenty of enthusiasm but that needs to be supported with opportunities for them to develop appropriate skills and qualifications. So we provide a four-year plan that includes funding for relevant tax qualifications, which means that in the future they can be promoted from within.”

Lindsey knows this approach works, as she is one of two current directors who joined OneE Group as a graduate. She was promoted into different roles that built her skills and experience, which set her up perfectly to take on the role of operations director. “I’m an example of just what effective talent management can achieve,” she continues. “Our people see how a career can take shape with us, it gives a clear message and gives them encouragement and motivation that you ‘can get on here’”.


They review, review, review

Having development plans in place means very little if they aren’t kept current. The best organisations – and managers – are aware of this and take every opportunity to review plans as well as ongoing performance to make sure things are on track, making changes if necessary.

Managers who understand all these things don’t just appear. They are the product of organisations that identify the skills and needs of their managers and give them the support they require to in turn support and encourage others, creating empowered, engaged and committed individuals at every level. And that’s how high performing businesses take shape.