The talent-powered organization is an organization that invests in building distinctive capabilities in managing talent to produce extraordinary results for the organization. Talent-powered organizations are adept at defining talent needs, discovering diverse sources of talent, developing the organization’s individual and collective talents, and deploying talent in ways that engage and align people around a compelling set of objectives. When these talent management capabilities are highly integrated, aligned with the organization’s business strategy and embedded in its operations, they constitute a distinctive organizational capability and a source of lasting competitive advantage.
Talent-powered organizations nurture this distinctive capability in talent management alongside the other distinctive capabilities that underpin the organization’s formula for success, allowing talent power to propel the organization to high performance.
Organizations such as Best Buy, Starbucks, Google, Marriott, Microsoft, UPS and Accenture have figured out how to build and leverage talent power to achieve extraordinary success. Every organization can build the talent power necessary for success in the new economic world.
Five Talent Imperatives
There is no simple formula for becoming a talent-powered organization, but among the core tenets of talent-powered organizations, five principles stand out. These imperatives can help you navigate your way to success and become a truly talent-powered organization:
- Talent is the single most important force creating strategic value for your organization. Strong leadership involvement in talent management is absolutely necessary to create a talent-powered organization. Leaders must demonstrate understanding of the key components of their strategies that depend on developing and using talent to gain sustainable competitive advantage. They need to identify the distinctive competencies they need to nurture and grow, and to think about talent holistically, aware of how it underpins every effort by every part of their organization to fulfill its strategic goals.
- Diversity is your biggest asset. The extraordinary complexity and multiple paradoxes embodied in today’s global talent market — especially the combination of local scarcity and global abundance — have created talent pools of unprecedented diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, geography, work arrangements, attitudes and career expectations. Your organization can accept diversity as a forced response to labor market pressures or new regulation, or it can embrace and leverage diversity deliberately as a means for competitive gain. To achieve this, you will need to be able to attract and retain more diverse talent than you have in the past.
- Learning and skills development are critical organizational competencies. The knowledge economy constantly redefines the skills it demands from the work force. It requires ever-greater competencies associated with information technology; it turns the ability and the willingness to learn into cherished qualities. A talent-powered organization is both a “learning” and a “teaching” organization: It has mastered how to invest in learning and development and knowledge-management capabilities, and how to use them to accelerate skills building and improve competitiveness in all its critical work forces. It has also inculcated a culture of knowledge sharing and teaching.
- Engagement is the key to high performance. Engagement is a combination of heart and mind. People who are engaged exhibit a high level of energy and emotional connection in their work. They invest additional effort, and persist in their efforts despite challenges or setbacks. They are dedicated because their work is meaningful and provides them with ample opportunity to use and develop their competencies and strengths. To understand engagement, you must recognize that different segments of the work force have different needs, aspirations and expectations.
- Talent multiplication is everyone’s job. In talent-multiplying organizations, everyone assumes responsibility for developing and nurturing talent. The HR function provides much of the enabling processes and support for talent management, but is not ultimately responsible. HR should also provide the information to the organization to ensure that it understands the talent issues and challenges, the investments in talent, and progress on performance improvement. It should be a source of expertise in talent management and development.
Your organization’s survival depends on the ability to discover, develop and deploy talent of every kind. This is the new competitive paradigm, and the challenge is different from anything your organization has faced before. It demands a new mindset — inspired by new leadership, informed by new strategy, supported by new expertise. We are entering a new Age of Talent, and we must move beyond the oft-quoted platitude of “people are our most important assets” to meaning it and doing something about it.