Although the necessity for attracting, retaining, and motivating talent is an old challenge for all competitive organisations, only in the last decade has this theme been getting increased attention as a field of study. The objective of this article is to introduce a new concept of ‘Talenting’ in its multifaceted framework composed of the 7 H-metaphors: Hiring, Health, Happiness, Hygiene, Head, Heart and Hand. Very different from the traditional models of Talent Management, it is argued that focusing on the process rather than exclusively on the person can facilitate the making of a consistent and sustainable high achiever.
The economic crisis in European countries, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and more recently France, leads to the search and the emergence of many new themes as a focus of interest. It is interesting to find that both in difficult times (in terms of shortage of money, shrinkage in purchasing power, or high rates of unemployment), as well as in affluent times, the issue of talent comes to play. Throughout history, talented individuals have always risen above the known limits of their time. People can make a difference when they have the competences and dare to believe in creating advantages for themselves, their organisations, their communities and their future.
There is no doubt that organisations now need talented managers, core employees and innovative ideas that were not as critical in other times and contexts. Several authors propose that we are entering the era of the ‘war over talent’.1 Consequently, Talent Management (TM) appears to have become one of the new hot topics and is most likely to continue to attract attention during the coming decade. A web search of the term ‘talent management’ conducted these days (May 2013) encountered over 161 million hits, and if we limit the search to ‘Talent Management – HR’, we still find over 46,000,000 hits. This is a clear indication that the concept is becoming increasingly popular. Nonetheless, we don’t have ‘a single consistent or concise definition of talent management’2. Perhaps this strange fact can be understood due to the fact that a blend of non-academics (i.e. consultants, and managers) as well as academic scholars are interested in the concept. We argue that time has come to separate the wheat from the chaff, and thus, in this article, we propose a concept that goes beyond the traditional TM.[ms-protect-content id=”9932″]
One may ask: why introduce a process model rather than the traditional model to deal with TM? We argue that the focus should be on the process of how someone works to become a high achiever, and makes a difference in the global economy, instead of the content or traits of a gifted person. Traditionally the word, ‘talent’ has been referred in the West as to ‘those who have been identified as having the potential to reach high levels of achievement.’ In the Japanese language, however, the word ‘talent’ is represented through the symbol of kanji: (saino). The first part of the kanji means ‘genius, smart, talent’ and the age suffix, and the second part means ‘ability, accomplishment’. Thus, the Japanese word does not suggest the notion of innateness; the emphasis is on talent as an accomplishment and is seen as the product of years of striving to attain perfection.
There is no doubt that people who have the potential often achieve results or reach high performance. However, when we talk to many senior managers they often tell us that their high potentials fail to live up to expectations. Potential does not always equal performance, which is what organisations are really interested in. Consequently, we propose to work with the concept of ‘Talenting’, which is built around the following underlying assumptions:
• The ability to sustain accomplishment is not static – it is dynamic and variable.
• The ability to sustain accomplishment is not predetermined – it is contingent.
• The ability to sustain accomplishment does not rely on simple cause-and-effect – it is configurational: a multivariate process.
• The ability to sustain accomplishment in large part depends on the individual’s ability, but also on the organisational support system.
• The ability to sustain accomplishment depends on a culture of trust rather than a culture of control. We argue that a shift in paradigm is needed. The old paradigm as cited by Dolan (2011) is built around the notion that trust is good but control is better, while the new paradigm suggests that control is good but trust is much better3.Let us begin by focusing on the talent pool. Keeping a high quantity of high potential employees is not sufficient; it is important to support and motivate the employees even when they are not performing at their best. Moreover, high performers are likely to leave companies where they feel underdeveloped, undervalued and/or underpaid. Managing a talented person is not an easy job. Often, great talent means lots of trouble. Talented people expect to be treated and managed differently. Thus, it is necessary to develop a distinct organisational culture or subculture related to the management of the talent pool. Some key ingredients in such culture include trust, teamwork and other appropriate synergetic components leading to collaboration and coevolution4. Analysis of the best-practices and successes of companies such as Toyota, Whole Foods and Southwest Airlines, shows that a culture based on values that put employees first and in a sequence clients and shareholders, represents a difficult to imitate process even for well-organised competitors. The fundamental question related to culture has to do with the configuration of the shared values5. Dolan and colleagues have proposed a model composed of three axes that can be used to analyse an organisational culture. It also facilitates the connection between the values and the strategy. The 3Es triaxial model is composed of the following value axes: (i) economic-pragmatic, (ii) ethical-social (iii) emotional-developmental. The first group of values are related to the financial, economic and productivity standards of any commercial business. The second group of values is related to the social aspects of the work environment such as honesty, integrity, respect and loyalty that facilitate a sustainable relationship and collaboration in the medium and long term. The last group of values is essential for creating impetus for action6. They are values related to intrinsic motivation: optimism, passion and perceived freedom. Not sharing these values may hinder initiative, innovation as well as organisational commitment7.
The framework for ‘Talenting’ represents an extension and broadening of the 3Es tri-axial model. We argue that it sets the roadmap to a new way of understanding TM. Figure 1 depicts this model in a schematic manner.
The 7 Hs framework: the premises for stimulating a sustainable talent pool
The framework of Talenting is composed by a configuration of seven core values, which we have labelled the 7 Hs: Hiring, Health, Happiness, Hygiene, Head, Heart and Hand. All these are important for keeping the talent pool in the high performance zone.
• Hiring – A continuous process of hiring talented people is critical. While it is not the exclusive step, it is definitely important in the ‘war for talent’. The talent shortage doesn’t only affect the transnational companies, but also the local companies due to the retirement of talented older people.
• Health – The active promotion of a healthy workforce is a key concept. Supermen or women that produce daily miracles of high level and incredible output, are not sustainable, and not healthy. The pressure for economic results and productivity has produced new phenomena such as karoshi or ‘death from over-work’ in Asian countries, and burnout, suicides and many other diseases amongst talented employees in the Western part of the globe. Although the relationship between workplace strain and the job performance is complex, study after study shows its negative effects in the medium and long term8. However, simply adding ‘Health’ is not sufficient to improve the quality of the working environment and life, it is necessary to add ‘Happiness’ too.
• Happiness – This is a kind of fuel that energises, motivates and creates a good climate of collaboration and partnership among the stakeholders. Although the relationship between workplace productivity and happiness may seem a bit strange, more and more people propose that converting the workplace into an environment of playfulness has many advantages both in terms of productivity and performance. Moreover, if we substitute the word ‘happiness’ for ‘meaningful jobs and playfulness’ it produces satisfaction and the happy worker will indeed become a more productive worker. Organisations adhering to happiness will find Confucius’s words ring true: ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’.
• Hygiene – This is an old concept from the motivational theory of Frederick Herzberg. In essence it refers to those work conditions that are necessary, but not exceptional enough to attract and retain talent. These conditions help create a competitive workplace by offering rewards commensurate with productivity and providing training and career plans for people to grow professionally. Without them, talented employees would look elsewhere to develop their career.
Furthermore, career opportunities and other rewards should be carefully studied because high achievers may easily become disillusioned if they are asked to fill roles with limited scope for the applications of their talent. Interestingly enough, an emerging factor of a purposeful work in the 21st century can be found outside the realms of the company: employees want to add value to society by engaging in volunteering programmes or even Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.
The first 4 Hs are all related to the organisation and its systems and are important for supporting the talent pool, but it also affects other stakeholders. The last 3 Hs presented hereafter are more metaphoric as they relate to the individual and his or her dedication to the organisation: Head, Heart and Hand in supporting the mission and vision of the latter.
• Head – The organisation needs to create a rational connection with the individual through the formal or instrumental rationality mode. People need to understand the logic behind their reasons for working. Providing an answer to this simple question can be time consuming and complex, because our reasons for working are not limited to an economic perspective alone. We can develop the ‘Head’ through the company’ shared vision and purpose for the coming years. It may seem a kind of Messianic work, but only by adhering to a shared vision and dream can work collaboration really happen.
• Heart – With the heart, it is possible to create an emotional connection between the professional and the organisation. When a person is emotionally connected to the organisation, the boss, the supervisor or the team, the flow of ideas and even the work in progress seems to occur more fluently. Even though the technical skills are crucial and will be for a long time, the ability to understand a person’s feelings and situation is a sine qua non condition of effective leadership. Leaders need a good vision and strong head (the traditional image of the big strategist), but also the heart and the hands to put things at work correctly.
• Hand – This represent the capacity to move from the planned action to the achievement of results: the entrepreneurial portion of the talent. The capacity to mobilise resources, people, and energy to bring about concrete results.
The 8th H: Hope and Coevolution
How can leadership in a company develop a culture of continuous hope for its talented employees? Dolan and Altman (2012) argue that this type of hope should be the task of inspirational leaders. Leaders who know how to embed the three famous ’spires’ of great leadership and bring it to the work place: Aspire, Perspire and Inspire9. Aspire relates to influencing other people. Perspire is related to hard work that achieves results and gives an example. And the last one, inspiration, refers to the spiritual connection between a person and the cosmos; the superior force and intelligence that can support man in his journey. Yet, for Aristotle ‘Hope is a waking dream’ and we certainly need it to further the development of the organisation. Although the focus of Talenting lies on the talent pool, its objective is to help and disseminate talent across the entire organisation.
This is the basis for our concept of coevolution. The term ‘coevolution’ is used to describe cases where two (or more) species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution, mainly in a positive way or a ‘win-win’ situation. Talenting is a way to achieve the development of the entire organisation through the creation of a strong and powerful subculture that can generate hope and progressive improvements in continuous and intermittent changes. Collaboration, synergy and mutual learning are some of the results expected from the Talenting process because the means may be the talent pool, but the end is the organisation. With Talenting and coevolution, we can create virtuous circles and achieve a cycle of success instead of a cycle of failure.
The process of coevolution and the virtuous circle represent a struggle for Talenting over time. This is important, because the process of Talenting is not an isolated act. On the contrary, it requires time and patience, investments and discipline. It is easier to see these necessities in the sports or arts industries, or in the case of a father helping his son develop certain abilities or a professor with his students. Results do not come overnight.
The focus of Talenting is to help the organisation and respective HR department to offer conditions to professionals that enable them to sustain their performance over time. Keeping a high level of high potential employees is not sufficient for the organisation to compete in this turbulent and chaotic time. We argue that it is imperative to support and motivate the employees even when they are not producing at peak performance. Situations such as stress outside work, like problems with family or friends, may spill over and temporarily effect performance. The challenge of retaining talented people and sustaining high achievement is so important that it is worthwhile to offer coaching or employee assistant programmes to these talented individuals in order to reach excellent performance, rather than simply getting rid of them. The process of being talented, in a sense, is much more humanistic than a simple metric of adjusting goals and rewards. The 7 Hs of Talenting attempt to integrate some variables in a multifaceted framework that influence the talent pool and performance. Beyond the 7 Hs lies the concept of coevolution and the aspiration for an 8th H – Hope. With these, Talenting does not stay restricted to a small part of the organisation or a limited period of time. The dissemination of talents across the entire organisation and the mindset of excellence and high achievement are essential to compete in the 21st century.
About the Authors|
Simon L. Dolan is the holder of the Future of Work Chair in ESADE Business School, Barcelona. He has a Ph.D from Carlson Graduate School of Management (The University of Minnesota). He is a prolific writer (with over 58 books in multiple editions and multiple languages) on issues of HR, Work psychology, Coaching and Culture reengineering. [email protected]
Paulo Hayashi Jr. is an assistant professor at Unicamp – University of Campinas (Brazil). He received his Ph.D from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul -UFRGS (Brazil). During 2012 he was a visiting post-doctoral scholar at the Future of Work Chair – ESADE (Ramon Llull University). He is interested in strategy, strategic human resource management and organisational theory. [email protected]
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6. Dolan, Garcia, & Richely,( 2006), Op.Cit.; Dolan, (2011), Op.Cit.
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9. Dolan (2011) op.cit.; Kaushik, Three “spire´s” of great leadership. http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/three-spires-of-great-leadership/