Nyenrode researcher Ronald Visser talks about the importance of talent management and the role that mobility within organizations can play in relation to getting the best out of talent.
According to Visser learning experiences are usually comprised of three elements: challenge, assessment and support.
While traditional HRD interventions primarily focus on learning support and assessment, meaningful challenge is generally more difficult to facilitate outside the context of day-to-day work. Internal mobility, however, can indeed offer these essential developmental challenges.
‘Mobility can be an effective tool in talent management when it enables people to face the correct challenges in line with their personal aspirations and career ambitions. There is still a world to win in matching the desires of talents with actual possibilities within organizations’, Visser notes. ‘People increasingly indicate that they want internal mobility. But as today’s organizations are forced by competitive pressures to be lean and mean, many of the intermediate management levels that are very interesting from a developmental perspective are disappearing. This sometimes implies a loss of critical development opportunities. In some instances, however, the actual tasks still have to be executed and are devolved to lower positions in the organizations. Elements from those traditional jobs provide interesting and stretching chances for people at those levels. The work demands are nowadays less static than before. One can notice that organizations generally have more possibilities to be flexible in allocating certain tasks. Employees in turn will benefit from this flexibility in terms of development and career progression.’
Haig R. Nalbantian and Richard A. Guzzo contest that best-practice thinking in leadership development embraces mobility for managers: Rotate your up-and-comers through various functions and units and you’ll give them a chance to round out their skills and prepare for general management. And they go on to say: “Mobility is a legitimate tool that can benefit both the manager and the workplace—but only when the right facts guide decisions about the frequency and nature of moves, in an equation that’s different in every enterprise.”
According to Visser ‘talent management is commonly viewed as the integrated set of activities that organizations undertake to attract people who can make the difference, to develop and deploy this talent effectively and efficiently, while in the process getting them more engaged and thereby creating a sustainable employment relation based on mutually added value. Talent management is one of the means to control the inflow and outflow of talented people in organizations, but is definitely more encompassing than HR planning.’
‘The talent issue is not just a challenge of quantities’, Visser argues, ‘it is in essence a qualitative problem. Numerical shortages of talent are the primary symptom of a lack in labor and knowledge productivity. Just viewing the ‘war for talent’ in terms of vacancies is too narrow-minded. Compare it with a water bed’, Visser explains. ‘If one organization or industry solely polishes its compensation and fringe benefits and thereby becomes more attractive the problems will shift to other organizations or industries. Only if we search for ways to get the best out of people can lasting solutions be found. This requires a fundamentally different approach, which will eventually be more sustainable. If we can achieve that, and employees excel and thereby become 10 to 15 per cent more productive, very little would remain of the labor shortage.’
Learning and development
According to Visser learning is key in talent management. ‘On the one hand the qualities, knowledge and skills of people are enhanced, on the other hand my previous research studies illustrate that rich learning landscapes improve the employees’ work attitudes. So investing in development is a two-edged sword: It improves skills of workers while supporting their vitality and their desire to give their best. Future research needs to explore in more depth under which conditions and for which workers learning opportunities are most beneficial. This should give organizations more grip on how they can design learning environments more efficiently and effectively. It is all about ensuring that people are being involved with, and inspired by, their work and giving them conditions to excel. In offering opportunities to develop and to engage workers, it is very important to diversify: One size simply does not fit all! Tailoring employment relations is a crystal clear sign to talents that you value and appreciate them. And this caring and supportive attitude will not remain unnoticed by talent!’
Every organization needs tailor-made solutions for talent management, Visser continues. ‘In general terms it is important to opt for segmentation; which possibilities do we as an organization offer to which people in which phase of their careers and why? If you gain a thorough understanding of the ambitions and aspirations of talent and offer them clarity on the available opportunities, you can optimize the match between the organization and the individual. Then people know exactly what they are getting into and the chances are bigger they will be retained within the organization, simply because the match is better. Although this may sound easy, the gap between the rhetoric and reality in most organizations illustrates that this is a daunting challenge.’
To recruit and retain the right people for the right jobs, the quality and nature of work becomes more important. ‘Job characteristics are becoming significant and crucial aspects of employment experience. And this especially applies to the new generation’, Visser says. According to Visser an important question in talent management is: ‘Does the job impose the boundaries for someone’s talent, or is it the other way around? As Peter Drucker once noted: In the past people served the system, in the future the system should serve the people. If an organization can be flexible enough to let talent define the boundaries of the job, it can really benefit from the full potential of people. Then it can really take giant leaps in increasing labor and knowledge productivity.’
Visser concludes: ‘Parts of both objective and subjective career success can be ascribed to the efficacy you have in your abilities and the belief that you can develop and build forth on these abilities. The main conclusion we present in the epilogue of this spring edition of Develop is that talent development is all about enhancing talents’ abilities, channeling their desires, creating meaningful opportunities and supporting their belief in themselves that they can make the difference.’