Talent Management and Transforming Performance

Many talent management programmes are unaffordable and destined to fail. Talented people can be costly to recruit and difficult to manage and retain. Talent Management 2 and performance support work with existing people and cultures and offer a quicker and more affordable route to flexible and high performance organizations whose people excel when confronting challenges and exploiting opportunities as they arise.


The quality of an organization’s human resources can be critical and talent management has become a topic for boardroom discussion. Will talent management endure or turn out to be yet another fad?

A five-year investigation of various approaches to transforming performance has found that general initiatives such as corporate restructuring are time consuming, expensive and disruptive. By the time they are implemented requirements and priorities may change and opportunities can be missed.

The investigation’s report Talent Management 2 sets out a more affordable approach to creating high performance organizations. It advocates a shift of emphasis from recruiting and developing high fliers for an unknown future to helping people excel at activities that are crucial today and handle challenges as, when, and wherever they arise.

Experience of Talent Management

Many applications of talent management involve a focus on high fliers or future leaders and investment today for future benefit. Attempting to build a talent pool involves risks, such as whether an individual will fit in and shine in a particular context, or whether talented people will be retained long enough to yield a return on their recruitment, induction and fast track development.

The evidence examined suggests the approaches of many organizations are costly and doomed to disappoint. More encouragingly, a practical and much more affordable way of quickly achieving multiple corporate objectives and measurable benefits for people and organizations is being overlooked.

Recruiting or Building Talent

Should one recruit for a job, or select people perceived as having potential and build roles around them as circumstances change? The latter seems attractive, but is it affordable for sufficient people? Could building talent and supporting job roles as needs arise be more cost effective?

Finding better people can be problematic. Recruiting and inducting new members of staff can take time and be expensive in comparison with changes of support to enable more to be achieved from an existing team, especially those who are open to taking advice, prepared to learn from their peers and willing to adopt superior practices.

Talent wars to attract the best people and can push up salary costs, be distracting and involve collateral damage. It may be better to concentrate on understanding critical success factors and capturing and sharing what top performers do differently, especially if a quick response is required.

Talent Management 2 focuses on particular jobs and the requirements for success in them. It involves assessing the roles and tasks that will be required; identifying steps in work processes that have the greatest impacts; and ensuring that people in these jobs are enabled to excel by providing them with appropriate performance support.

Addressing Contemporary Requirements

Identifying high potential and/or future leaders can require considerable commitment and effort. Talent Management 2 does not preclude initiatives to develop leadership potential, but it can enable a wider range of people to build upon and complement natural strengths. It can also be liberating and adopted relatively quickly.

A view of what represents top talent can become quickly out-of-date. Hence, a requirement for more flexible ways of enabling affordable people to confront and handle tricky and unfamiliar situations, as, when and wherever they arise. In essence, this is what Talent Management 2 and performance support are about. While the ordinary person may hugely benefit, by capturing and sharing what high performers do differently, Talent Management 2 also greatly increases the beneficial impact that superstars at key tasks can have on organisations.

Addressing ‘Known Unknowns’

Cadres of high fliers can be expensive when the cost of fast tracking is taken into account. Going to the market as needs arise may be a cheaper option. Setting out to buy high performance can also be costly if a star in one context may not perform so highly in another. It may be cheaper to work with the people one has and put the right support environment in place.

While some of the qualities that people have might be transferable, an exceptional talent in one area may be found to be average in another. Achieving objectives often depends on the skills that are employed in particular jobs, especially front line jobs that have a disproportionate impact on priority areas for improvement and customers.

The cost of developing a talent pool can be daunting for smaller enterprises. In comparison, the entry price to Talent management and providing a solution for a scattered workgroup that addresses a critical problem for an organization can be around the cost of recruiting and paying the first year’s salary of one new hire.

Managing Exceptional People

Clever people represent a challenge and an opportunity for organisations. They can be difficult to manage and retain. Giving special treatment to them can alienate others. Large amounts can be spent on expensive people who are not engaged, effectively used, or appropriately supported. Talent Management 2 recognises people who excel at particular activities and performance support enables them to push the envelope and help others to emulate what they do differently.

Staff turnover and costly talent wars are problems for many organisations. The focus of Talent Management 2 upon helping and developing existing workgroups can aid retention. People may be reluctant to move and leave support which makes it easier for them to learn, develop and do a difficult job.

The authors’ investigations of key corporate activities have identified critical success factors for key corporate activities. Even superstars can have areas of deficiency. Talent Management 2 focuses on particular tasks, which makes it easier to identify high performers. Support provided can incorporate critical success factors and the superior ways of high achieving peers.

The performance of workgroups sometimes suffers when experienced members of staff are replaced by those who are less capable. Capturing and sharing superior approaches can address this problem.

Talent needs to be applied to what an organization is setting out to do. Talent management 2 looks beyond high fliers and is especially relevant to front line support. It also integrates learning and working. While tactical and local applications can quickly generate significant returns, a more strategic approach is required to reap its full potential.

A More Cost-Effective Alternative

Many organizations fail to reap the benefits of learning from people who excel in certain areas. Talent Management and performance support offer a way of achieving a high performance organization and multiple objectives with the people one has average people who do not cost an arm and a leg to recruit and retain and an existing corporate culture.

Organizations require an affordable approach which can achieve improved results by taking people as they are, rather than as we would like them to be. Early evidence from pioneer adopters of performance support suggests it represents a more focused, relatively quick and cost effective way of securing large returns on investment.

The approach brings together various elements, from helping people to understand complex areas and making it easier for them to do difficult jobs, to a cost-effective mechanism for providing support on a 24/7 basis to people wherever they may be. It has been shown to be relevant to different sectors and can contribute to creating flexible, adaptable and high performance organizations.


In many companies talent management has focused on high fliers rather than people in front line roles. It involves top down management rather than the provision of bottom up support. Performance support can ensure compliance and enable more to be achieved by fewer and less costly staff. People can be enabled to handle more complex cases and feel more confident and in control. By making it easier for staff to do difficult jobs performance support also speeds up responses and reduces stress.

Talent management develops and deploys talent at the point at which work is done to increase performance and reduce risk. In place of investment in talent and potential for an unknown future, the focus is upon boosting the performance of today’s key workgroups, quickly delivering multiple benefits and ensuring continuing relevance and vitality.

(Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas)

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