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74 management talent

As the skills shortage bites, keeping hold of your best

people is becoming all out war. ‘Talent management’ is
more than just a buzzword: it is a process of attracting and
retaining human capital, and companies practising it are
winning, says Wilf Altman.

g in to
tu e talent
t h Recently
a chief
executive or
managing director fails to
achieve targets, they are
unlikely to last more than three
three high-powered or four years. Finding and devel-
executives defected from oping management talent is
supermarket chain Tesco. becoming a tougher challenge
It was the latest and most for businesses of all sizes.
pronounced instance of the Ambitious smaller and
ferocious battle for brainpower medium sized companies recruit
sweeping through the senior managers from larger
boardroom. Across the globe concerns. The challenge of
companies of all sizes are running even a small but
having to face the fact that in growing company, and the
tough times survival and prospect of stock options can
success depend on attracting, have more appeal than waiting
developing and retaining key for promotion in a big firm.
staff. Companies, like countries, The new paradigm is talent
are realising that their future management, which focuses on
prosperity depends not only on developing and retaining good
natural resources or even on people. Companies that are
financial capital, but as Fortune known to practise talent
Magazine noted recently, on management have a better
human capital. chance of attracting recruits at
“We’ve lost some good all levels. One of the challenges
people,” Tesco said when three they face, says Professor Cary
of the company’s senior people Cooper of Lancaster
left, “but we’ve also recruited University’s School of
some good people. That’s what Management, is to “identify and
happens in companies of our develop the next generation of
size.” Where organisations have talent. What do we do to develop
a strong team at the helm it can them and groom them for senior
limit scope for others to move up jobs? What skills will be needed
and head hunters are quick to in the next five years?”.
prowl for younger talent just
below main board level with a Hearts and minds
good chance of a senior job with What is talent management,
another concern. or talent development?

The battle starts at the top. If “Organisations often try to set

engineering & technology 8 march - 21 march 2008

‘You can win the war for talent,
but first you must elevate talent
management to a burning
corporate priority’

up talent management is that of Steve Jobs, CEO of corporate culture, with 46 per A fifth said their organisations
processes,” say the authors of computer manufacturer Apple, cent worried about managing were not adequately equipped to
‘The Essential Guide to who hires people with an remote staff efficiently. succeed as global enterprises.
Managing Talent’ but real “intriguing background and Globally, nearly two-thirds of “Rapid global business
success comes when you extraordinary tastes”, for those polled put competition at expansion presents significant
“engage with the hearts and example artists, poets and histo- the top of their list of five key management challenges and
minds of individuals. rians. Their magic, according to threats. The health of the global opportunities,” says Frost. “As
Individuals joining an Jobs, is that they have exposed economy and an inability to companies expand and enter
organisation need to feel that themselves to “the best things attract and retain the best talent these new markets, their success
they are valued and that their that humans have done and then came joint second, followed by will depend on streamlining
contribution will make a brought those things into their company reputation (62 per their global operations and 
difference”. projects”. Job’s original cent) and the inability to develop
A decade ago, management Macintosh team was a new products and services (just
consultancy Mckinsey “marvellous mix or artists and over half). key points
published ‘The War for Talent’, engineers. Their aesthetic “In today’s multi-polar world
which predicted that the most interests were as strong as their – where economic power is Talent – six steps
successful firms would be those
that made attracting, developing
techie interests”.
A new study by management
distributed among multiple
centres of economic and
to success
and retaining their key staff a consultancy Accenture has business activity – the war for
major strategic priority. You can found more than two-thirds of talent has gone global,” says L Talent management is
win the war for talent, the executives are deeply worried Mark Frost, Accenture’s group everyone’s job in your
consultants advised, but first about the threat of not being chief executive management organisation.
you must elevate talent able to recruit and retain the consulting and integrated L Talent is the single most
management to a burning best talent. The survey of more markets. “Additionally, new important force creating strategic
corporate priority. To attract than 850 top executives from the technologies are transforming value for your organisation.
and retain the people you need, US, UK, Italy, France, Germany, the nature of work, the skills L Ask yourself: why would a
you must create and perpetually Spain, Japan and China found demanded, the manner in which smart energetic and ambitious
refine an employee value propo- worries about talent work is sourced globally, and the individual want to come and work
sition – senior management’s management were growing, ways in which people collab- for you?
answers to why a smart with 67 per cent this year putting orate. Leading organisations L Talent is the engine of the
energetic, ambitious individual it second only behind compe- must build capabilities to under- modern organisation and
would want to come and work tition as the key threat, up from stand and source talent more engagement is the mystery
with you rather than with the six out of ten last year. strategically, based on clear ingredient that can transform the
team next door. Nearly half of British execu- definitions of skills gaps and engine’s output.
Obviously the talents that tives were worried about the needs for the future,” he adds. L A human capital strategy is
Microsoft or IBM look for in effect of low employee morale, essential to support your
their employees are different with nearly a third pointing to Global challenges organisation’s strategic goals.
from those needed by engineers, another talent management Globalisation was a growing L A talent powered organisation
consultants, retailers or banks. issue – instability at the top – as issue for the executives is an organisation that invests in
In ‘The Circle of Innovation’, a major concern. Four out of ten surveyed. More than half said building distinctive capabilities
Tom Peters examines different of the UK sample were also they were concerned or very and in managing talent to
approaches to hiring talent. concerned or very concerned concerned about the impact of produce extraordinary results.
Perhaps the most extraordinary about their ability to maintain a the global economy on business. 8 march - 21 march 2008 engineering & technology

76 management
general topictalent
specific bit

in a nutshell

what is ‘talent management’?

In this extract from its commitment through its

‘The Essential Guide to behaviours and attitudes.
Individuals joining an
Managing Talent’, organisation need to feel
authors Kaye Thorne that they are valued and
and Andy Pellant that their contribution will
explain what talent make a difference. It is
easy to say that this is
management is and happening, but far harder
how it works to have concrete evidence
of its application.
We would prefer to call it In any discussion about
‘talent development’, as it is talent development, it is
actually quite difficult to important first to emphasise
manage talent. Talent slips and the development of all
rolls around an organisation individuals. No organisation
and often before you realise should focus all its attention
it, it has disappeared out of on developing only part of its
the door. human capital. What is
Organisations often try to important, however, is
set-up talent management recognising the needs of
processes, but real success different individuals within
comes when you engage its community.
with the hearts and minds In the search for an
of individuals. The organis­ effective process for
ations that achieve most developing talent, most
success with this are those organisations recognise the
where the visions and values need to do it differently. The
of the organisation are aligned challenge is often to identify
with the individual. how and where to start. We
Fundamentally, talent wanted to identify models
development needs attention and case studies that provide  differentiating their products management is the hardest
to make it happen. It also needs relevant examples of how to and services. At the same time, attribute for commercial
a holistic approach, like move from the theory to senior management must competitors to replicate. It may
customer service, quality practical application. maintain and strengthen their be time consuming and hard
standards, and health and We also recognised that company’s core values and work, but talent management is
safety. You cannot just give the talented people do not corporate identity, as well as ultimately essential to create
responsibility to one person necessarily fit into an easy secure a diverse and highly competitive advantage.”
and hope that it will happen. system of classification. collaborative leadership team Companies that still doubt the
There has to be a belief and a People are talented in many with knowledge that spans value of attracting and devel-
commitment to make it happen ways. Some may have a disparate markets,” he adds. oping talent should bear in mind
from the CEO and the executive particular aptitude for doing Modern managers have a key that today and in the foreseeable
right through line management something which may be role to play in developing team future we have to compete with
to the newest recruit. primarily skill based. Others members or risk losing them to around 200,000 new computer
Organisations can convince may be gifted artistically and more progressive rival firms, science graduates leaving
themselves that talent yet others may demonstrate according to Andy Hornby, who Indian institutes every year and
management is being carried their talent in more courageous was headhunted from a senior the 820,000 engineers who
out when they create a ways and may be seen as management position at ASDA graduated in China recently.
system to define the steps or maverick in their approach supermarkets to the role of The authors of ‘The Talent
outline a process to manage to life. retail director at HBOS, and two Powered Organisation’
talent. However, talent years ago became chief (published by Kogan Page) go so
development only happens L ‘The Essential Guide to executive of the bank. far as to argue that talent has
when you create a culture Managing Talent’ by Kaye “In all consumer based become the most essential factor
Thorne and Andy Pellant, is
based on shared values businesses,” he says, “we have to “in executing your chosen
published by Kogan Page
and beliefs, where thinking and priced at £18.99. get the basics right: strong business strategy. Talent is a
and feeling emotions For more information, brands, aggressive marketing, fundamentally new factor of
are engaged and the visit www.kogan-page. low cost structures, and a production for any business

leadership demonstrates unique culture are all crucial to altogether more volatile,
success – but successful talent dynamic and transformational

engineering & technology 8 march - 21 march 2008

‘Modern managers
have a key role to
play in developing
team members or
risk losing them to
more progressive
rival firms’

Case Studies
1. Peter Brett Associates
Engineering consultants Peter
Brett Associates was founded 43
years ago in Reading to provide
structural and civil engineering
advice to an architectural practice.
It is one of the largest independ­
ent consultancy practices in the
UK, employing some 540 staff,
covering all broad engineering
and environment related
disciplines in 11 UK and eight
overseas offices. Talent focus is
led by the HR team. “We are
proud of the investment we make
in our people,” says senior partner
Steve Capel-Davies. “By recruiting,
motivating and retaining high
calibre employees, PBA provides a
quality service for our clients. The
consultancy operates an annual
staff assessment programme
linked to training. We encourage
people to work for a further
degree or professional
qualification. In short, we
It may be time consuming encourage people to develop.”
and hard work, but talent Peter Brett Associates was
management is ultimately voted the highest ranking multi-
essential to create
competitive advantage disciplinary engineering firm in
the Sunday Times ‘Best company
to work for awards’.
than those described in conven- Barclays in the UK, Shell informed business decisions,”
tional economics. A human University in Europe, AVAYA, a says Greig Aitken, head of
capital strategy is essential to leading Nielsen University, the human capital strategy. 2. Asea Brown Bovari
support your organisation’s learning arm of Nielsen Media Information is gathered ABB is an employer of choice for
strategic goals”. Research and Unipart through joiners’ and leavers’ engineering and science
University, and the Automotive questionnaires, external bench- graduates, offering “a huge
Focused faculties Components Parts Company, marking and ‘pulse’ surveys, diversity of opportunities, coupled
The immediate concern, which involves suppliers and linked to an annual global with firm support for employee
however, relates to finding customers in its courses. employee opinion survey sent development and a good work
talented people. Many Of course investment in out to all employees. This environment”. ABB’s international
companies send their most training and development is of enables the group to monitor its status is also highly attractive to
promising executives to little value unless effectiveness eight drivers of employee students who value the Group’s
business schools and recruit can be measured at regular engagement – employee recog- multi-cultural composition, the
from universities. The latest intervals and there is definite nition, performance and devel- products, and leading-edge tech­
trend is for companies to set up improvement. At the Royal Bank opment opportunities, relation- nology, as well as the opportunity
their own corporate universities of Scotland (RBS), significant ships, total reward, the work to work abroad, the focus on
to offer tailor made, rather than growth since the late 1990s itself, product brands and development, and the opportunity
academic, training. For resulting in 135,000 employees reputation, leadership, and to job-rotate worldwide. To quote
example, British Telecom and 35 million customers in 30 work-life balance. a student: “My skills are constantly
University in the USA focuses on countries today. The role of its “In an organisation of the put to the test in this complex and
retraining to meet changing human resources function had size and complexity of RBS, the challenging environment. Training
demands placed on employees as to be transformed from transac- HCM strategy provides our offered by ABB is central. ABB
technologies are replaced and tional administration into a business leaders with an under- takes care of its employees and
practices redefined. Other business focused and value standing of the link between provides challenging
examples of corporate driven business partner. “We efficient people management, opportunities. Retention rate is
universities owned and had to introduce a human superior customer service and above many other competitors.”
controlled by a single company capital strategy to help our financial performance,” says
include Motorola in the USA, businesses to make more Aitken.  8 march - 21 march 2008 engineering & technology