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How to improve talent development and retention

BY: Frik Landman|11 December 2018
BLOG| Business leadership and strategy

‘When a paradigm shifts, everybody goes back to zero’. We’re still trying to understand Industry 4.0 (4IR) and frame it. It’s not yet defined, and the conversation has only just begun. We need to participate in it, but we’re not yet sure what it’ll look like. One thing is for sure, it means our approach to talent management must change.

How to attract talent in a time of uncertainty

Talent refers to many things. It could involve a focus on developing each employee or an ambition to upskill only the top performers for key roles. To maximise the potential of your talent management efforts, you should focus on the whole pool of people you have to ensure you have the current and future supply of human capital you need for your greater business strategy. This sounds deceptively straightforward but could get complicated given the rise of a ‘Workforce on Demand’ – how Salim Ismail describes talent in his Exponential Organisations. Basically, you’ll have a small internal component, but the rest of your team will be contracted to meet your demand.

A workforce on demand means access to a greater pool of talent. That means a constant stream of fresh ideas. It also means a radical new approach to talent scouting and remuneration. Attracting new talent in the speculative environment of 4IR isn’t easy. Efforts need to be based on an understanding of upcoming generations, on the demands of a globalised world, and on the technology available. As has always been the case though, organisations that are part of society, have fair and responsible practices and care for people, the planet and profits, immediately have the edge on winning ‘the war for talent’.

HR will also continue to play a big role, with platforms like Bersin streamlining digital efficiencies. Tech will impact every aspect of people management, alleviating mundane administration and offering more opportunities for smart resource allocation. By not keeping up with tech innovations in HR, you may find yourself at the short end of the competition for top talent.

Should you develop temporary talent?

I believe that ‘good’ companies will inevitably invest in the workforce on demand. Otherwise, the arrangement will feel too transactional, which is detrimental to organisational life. Talent brought in from the outside will need to deliver and participate in a company’s context and culture. The talent comes into a social space, which has its own ways of doing things and behaving. It’s not just about a person completing a task, it goes beyond that.

Going forwards, hybrid models will probably start to emerge where talent is not full-time employed but has a consistent role to play in the contracting organisation. The organisation will then feel secure enough to invest in the talent’s development – through online courses, etc. – to cement this relationship. The relationship needs to be there to ensure the continuity of the organisation’s culture. All these factors need to be considered in the talent management strategy.

A good talent management strategy should:

  • Align with the organisation’s overarching strategy. If your current talent lacks the knowledge and skills to deliver the strategy, the answer is obvious: disaster. It’s important to consistently scan the environment and reformulate the ‘big’ strategy accordingly. If the current structures do not support the new strategy, jobs may need to change.
  • Focus on the internal and the external. A talent management strategy needs to take external ‘shifts’ into account. For example, in most industrialised countries, the population growth is slowing down. That means a potential shortage in labour forces. If you have an aging population, what happens regarding demand? Could technology ‘step’ into the place of labour and deliver? Or will the workforce live and work for longer, assisted by technology? The answers to these questions all have elements of ‘truth’, from which you must carve a strategy.
  • A focus on development and technical skills.

How will continuous learning help improve talent development and retention:

With the shelf-life of qualifications and skills shortening as the speed of change picks up, continuous learning provides a way to allow people to have challenging experiences outside of their normal context to develop different capabilities.

Going forwards, companies that provide ongoing learning opportunities to talent will have the best chance of attracting and retaining highly sought-after individuals as part of the workforce on demand.

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