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Talent management and sustainable business success


Many companies are now pursuing ‘sustainability’ as part of their business strategy. This prompts me to ask: Why aren’t companies’ management development programmes under greater scrutiny, when nurturing talent is one of the determining factors in an organisation’s sustainable success?

The more I learn about businesses’ managerial development programmes, the more I see that there needs to be less of a focus on improving managers’ performance in their current roles, and more on professional development in relation to, and preparation for, advancements to future roles. A mistaken focus on ‘horizontal’ rather than ‘vertical’ development means that, too often, promotions are handed out to the most salient current performers, and not to those who show potential for future, more complex job roles.

This is neither in the interest of sustainability nor conducive to business success. Why?

1) Those who get the promotions are often ill-equipped for their roles as they have been given insufficient support.

2) Those that have real potential for future roles are too often overlooked because of inadequate assessment processes and criteria.

3) Managers have a vested interest in keeping strong subordinate performers in situ and slowing their development for fear of losing effective people from their teams .

The solution: In the interest of sustainability…

For management development efforts to contribute effectively to organisational stability, the business needs to be strong in the following areas:

1) Linking talent management initiatives to the design of business strategy.

2) Assessment of potential in management / leadership in a consistent way across the organisation.

3) Supporting ‘vertical’, as opposed to ‘horizontal’, development.

Achieving competitive advantage in such areas is not easy. Unfortunately, despite all the effort and money that organisations have devoted towards leadership development, competency modelling and 360 surveys in the last 20 years, the results in terms of employee engagement, organisational performance and sustainability are not obvious. If organisations are to achieve their sustainability and business goals, they need to reflect on what works and what doesn’t work in managerial development programmes, and how potential talent can be assessed accurately and consistently.

So, tell me how strong the talent management systems are in your business and I will tell you how sustainable your organisation is likely to be.