The Imperative of Talent Development

Making Talent Development Effective

The Imperative of Talent Development

The effectiveness of organizations depends more on the quality of their human resources than on any other resource. Henry Ford once said that his machine could be taken away and his building and capital taken over, but if his men are left with him he should become Henry Ford. In other words, Ford Motors was built by no resource other than people. High-quality human resources are a product not only of careful, painstaking and intelligent recruitment and selection of talent, but also of continuous identification of development needs that are followed through with a systematic plan and the implementation of development programmes. Maxwell (2007: 5) makes the following vivid point which underscores the need for talent development: ‘Talent stands out. It gets you noticed. In the beginning talent separates you from the rest of the pack. It gives you a head start on others. For that reason, natural talent is one of life’s greatest gifts. But the advantage it gives lasts only for a short time.’

Development converts people’s potential into actual capability to perform in a way that produces great results. Without development, employees, with all their talents, will diminish in value, skills and competencies and become less innovative, less engaged and less productive. They may ultimately become professional or managerial pygmies if they choose to remain in their organizations. As a consequence, the organizations will invariably reflect the stature of the managers and leaders they have, precisely because failing to grow and develop employees for leadership roles translates into failing to develop the capability of the organizations for higher performance and effectiveness.

The intellectual capacity of an organization is its greatest asset. People do not in themselves constitute an asset; they are mere statistics. It is their knowledge, skills,competencies and the relevance of such capabilities that represent an awesome asset or capital to an organization. In organizations where talent is highly valued and cherished there is a well-structured development process enshrined in a policy which is implemented in partnership with employees, because development is regarded as mutually beneficial to them and the organization.

A professional colleague was consulting for a multinational enterprise in 1996 when its CEO told him of his major concern with the low performance of some of his managers. On the recommendations of his division heads, he had promoted some six managers to senior managerial positions and deployed them to head the company’s operations in different countries. They were to be global executives. They all had impressive performance records and great potential. Two years after the promotions, the CEO and his division heads were wondering if they had made a huge blunder in promoting the six managers; four were doing poorly while the performance of the other two was just fair. The dilemma was that the same managers who had demonstrated extraordinary performance before their promotion were now failing in their new responsibilities. They were micromanaging, had no strategic vision, were not providing effective leadership to their teams, and were failing to network and manage client relationships effectively. ‘What went wrong?’ was the question on the lips of the senior management team.

After discussion with the six managers and reviewing their files, the cause of the problem became crystal-clear. These executives were not effective in their new leadership roles because they were still behaving the way they did prior to their promotion to global leadership positions. They were fixated with using the same skills and competencies that earned them advancement. The irony was that those same skills and competencies that had made them successful managers in the national setting became inhibitors and the cause of their failures in their new responsibilities. These executives had each attended three one-week executive development programmes conducted by a renowned business school during their two-year incumbency in their present positions as part of the preparation for the new role. Yet they were not producing the results expected of them. The fundamental question therefore is: why do executive development efforts fail to yield the desired results?

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