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Do you manage your talent? Employee retention and development.

Do you manage your talent? Employee retention and development

Mounting global competition and changing demographics mean that the battle to attract and retain star talent has never been fiercer. Yet a survey by Cranfield School of Management and recruitment-outsourcing specialist Capital Consulting reveals that, mainly because of lack of financial investment (51%) and insufficient senior-management support (40%), only 41% of British businesses are strategically managing their star talent.

While businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the growing importance of attracting the best available talent from the marketplace, they often fall short when it comes to following through on development, retention and allowing talented people to reach their potential.

Smedley (People Management; 1 Nov 2007) describes a company that is bucking the trend. UK defence firm BAE Systems focuses on identifying, building and capitalizing upon the strengths of the employees it already has. The reasoning behind such ‘strengths-based management’ is simple. Why try to convert, for example, a talented designer into a follower of rigid systems and protocols, when it would be far more efficient to leave the systems to the specialist and allow the designer to get on with creating fantastic designs?

Of course, HR specialists must take the time to work closely with each employee, teasing out the tasks that he or she enjoys most and performs best. But creating an effective strengths-based management system has the potential to make HR specialists the organizational heroes because of the ever-growing impact it will have on business performance and profitability.

Take employee retention, for example. An employee who is able to practise his or her particular skills, and who feels valued for them, will be less likely to leave the company than one who feels thwarted at every turn. Borton (Management Services; Autumn 2007) illustrates clearly how increasing job duration in an environment of high employee turnover can increase both productivity and quality. But the author also makes the point that high job retention demands extra effort from HR specialists, who must continuously update reports about each individual member of the workforce to ensure that he or she is being adequately recognized and rewarded and to ensure that his or her long-term goals with the organization are recognized and acted upon.

Or take the knotty problem of ‘presenteeism’. A US survey by D’Abate and Eddy (Human Resource Development Quarterly; Autumn 2007), reveals that office workers spend an average 6.48 hours a week on such non-work activities as making home-related telephone calls, playing computer games, talking with colleagues about leisure-related activities and shopping from work using the internet or telephone. Employees who are truly engrossed in work that fascinates them are much less likely to spend work time in such ‘private’ activities – with a consequent boost to organizational productivity.

Jeremy Tipper, Capital Consulting group managing director, concludes: ‘The changing nature of UK and global economies and the demographics that lead to a shrinking talent pool entering the workforce will really begin to bite over the next three to five years. Acquiring and keeping people is already very important, and will only become more so. How good you are at managing talent will become a crucial factor in whether you are a winner or a loser in terms of competitive advantage.’