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Meritocracy & Talent Management

Meritocracy & Talent Management

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GES White Paper Series on Talent Management published in www.barbadostoday.bb , pg 45 & 48, August 16, 2012
GES White Paper Series on Talent Management published in www.barbadostoday.bb , pg 45 & 48, August 16, 2012

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Published by: Global Expert Systems on Aug 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“Meritocracy & Talent Management: Isthe Caribbean Ready for this?”
By Global Expert Systems 
Defining Meritocracy
 As the word suggests, meritocracy is a system whereby an elite group of persons are rewarded according to
their ability and talent rather than by some special kind of privilege based on class, family connections, racegender or some other discriminatory factor. The underlying belief is that this group will better manage and/orlead the system (especially government/public administration). In an earlier article, GES defended the idea of standardized testing for public sector jobs as a means to implementing a meritocracy. Now this is not withoutsome degree of controversy.In the English-speaking Caribbean, for several decades now, we have stoutly defended the CommonEntrance Exam or the 11+ as a means to determine academic merit to decide who goes to the so-called bestschools within the elitist educational systems across the region. And year after year, there is a debate about the
fairness of such a system. Here are some ideas to ponder on meritocracy:1.
 Why is a merit-based system more controversial when we speak of academics?2.
 Why do we accept such a system more readily in sports?
If we delayed standardized testing until age 16 or 18 or 21, will the results be different? The key to solving such a polemic is that for a merit-based system to work, everyone must be given the sameopportunity. In other words, we must all be at the same starting line. Then our abilities and talents willdetermine how we end the race or which race we enter and complete. This is particularly interesting especially on the heels of the just concluded London 2012 Olympics. British blogger, Neil O’Brien, who writes for The Telegraph and who is also the Director of Policy Exchange, an independent think tank working for betterpublic services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy, strongly defends meritocracy by drawing asimilar analogy. He states that
“Everyone starts on the same starting line, but at the end some athletesare further ahead, and there are clear winners. That's basically a description of meritocracy.”
 Are talent management and meritocracy synonymous?
 We have to give the “not really” type of answer to this question because we cannot say categorically yes orno. Certainly, if we are speaking of a highly professionalised public administration/civil service, then the mosteffective way to recruit would be through standardised testing. As we intimated before, this is already done in
several areas of public administration, namely the security forces, public health workers (nurses, doctors) andpublic prosecutors who all are subject to rigorous testing before recruited or appointed to service.
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However, such a one-dimensional approach is not what is best understood to be talent management – testing is but one component of a talent management system. Talent management is more holistic and goes beyondrecruitment by seeking to develop, retain, retool and optimize the talent within the organisation. So the realanswer to this question is that meritocracy as we know it, can be taken a step further with a morecomprehensive talent management system. This is particularly true and more evident if we are attempting to
avoid what is commonly known in the human resource management discipline as
 The Peter Principle.
What is The Peter Principle?
 The Peter Principle was written by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and RaymondHull in their 1969 book of the same title,and in it, they demonstrate that withinhierarchical systems, persons arepromoted if they perform competently.However, they are eventually promotedto a point of incompetence and reach apoint of stagnation because they can gono further. Does this sound familiar?How many times have we come acrossthe excellent salesperson that gotpromoted to a sales managementposition and then failed miserably as amanager? This is a perfect example of thePeter Principle at work. That salesperson was rewarded, maybe rightly so, because of their talent, ability to sell well and real output. But was s/he really the right person to manage the sales team? This is where talentmanagement will complement a merit-based system. With a proper talent management system in place, all the
members of the sales team will be screened and tested and the most suitable one will be selected. Please notethat the most suitable sales manager may not necessarily be the salesperson with the most sales.
 A talentmanagement system must always seek to match attributes to the real requirements of the job.
Furthermore, GES will suggest that proper talent management can only serve to mitigate against the PeterPrinciple.
Here is some advice to manage against the Peter Principle and stay relevant in today’s tough job market.
Five tips for employees:
It is important to observe the trends and stay ahead of the curve. For example, if you were trained inmarketing five to ten years ago, you will need to quickly retool to upgrade your skills in digital
Do not depend on your employer to pay for your training. See your personal professionaldevelopment as an investment as you would invest in any other financial instrument. Unfortunately,
most companies cut back on training during recessionary periods.3.
 Try to gain practical hands-on skills in the shortest possible time. You will need to demonstrate to
your employer that you are ahead of the trends and valuable to the organisation.
Experiment with online training. This is an irreversible trend that we cannot avoid. The benefits aretremendous for you can now access top level training without having to travel.
Develop additional skills outside your core area of competence. The employee with multiple skills isalways more resilient in tough economic times.

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