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October 14, 2009

Of Effective Talent Management Strategies

Global banking trends now clearly indicate that the time is to manage and grow in size aiming at larger business gain, market share, expertise and more customers. Financial experts opine that some small banks may survive as niche operators, while middle ones would either find a partner or expect to be out of business and the larger banks would be visionaries as they have acted as per the need of the hour. A recent survey (The Economist’s Consulting Wing) finds that smaller US banks are operating more efficiently than larger ones as far as the profit front is concerned. Size does not impress the market — the feeling is that bigger institutions try to outgrow rivals by acquiring or merging.

How does the process works — big or small? This depends not only on acquiring the talent pool but also on retaining them in the business. It is a reality that the more pro-actively an organization comes up with effective, well-tailored possibilities, the more appealing it will be as an employer. Providing for personnel development is becoming an increasingly important element in corporate efforts to attract and retain talent especially at the higher levels. Undoubtedly, the target today is to achieve competitiveness through the knowledge worker. Talent is one of the crucial assets of every organization facing an era of accelerating changes and competition. Skills, insight, commitment of individuals as well as the very teams are the raw materials of innovation, service and agility, which means the disciplines of sourcing, developing, retaining as well as motivating high-quality people — exactly areas which are realistically becoming the key differentiators of success with talent management moving to the centre of strategy formulation.

Global leadership essentially calls for global skills. Today’s business culture demands leaders who are true innovators. They challenge virtually the traditional thoughts — using both sides of the brain. They remain the most sought-after persons. The mantra is: succeed in business and stay ahead of the competition, constantly expanding the network, and by means of seamless connections to other parts of the world via your hubs. The best entertainment in the world, as rightly said, is the world. So before the war is over and you lose it, it is high time that talents were structured properly. Setting a rigid rule may in all probability be counterproductive — one size does not fit all. The same formula for rank and file remains good in paper alone — efficient but not effective — which is obvious. It may not fit in with the individual’s wishes and of course motivation. Talents, on the other hand, become increasingly aware of the importance of their development in improving their value in the market place. Whose loss will it be ultimately? When catastrophe appears on the scene, you employer — public sector minnow — could find that things are so different and it is so difficult to manage the crisis.

Close communication between talents and employers could certainly be a step forward towards retaining them in the organization and at the same time in adding value to the organization’s and talent’s future growth process. It benefits the organization by making the talents more capable and at the same time fulfilled, which in turn will increase the employees’ commitment and contribution to the organization by many folds. They are likely to have a better balance between what they are doing outside of work and their work interests.

The assessment is also very much realistic: the cost of replacing an individual is usually around three times the salary, and especially when some talents are high performers, not only are you — the employer — losing high performance, but high performance might as well be going to one of your competitors!

In fact, industrial relation aspects offer new and renovated exercises as far as organizational relations between two interest groups are concerned — such as between the management and the knowledge worker. This relationship has to cater to individual human resources in their individual characteristics as well as a collective group. Mutual confidence is gained through interaction with all concerned in an organization. And this would pave the way for successful conflict management. This requires top priority as the organized sector work force has gone up from three to six million to 15 million as at present, while the industrial work force has grown to five million now compared to two million in 1947.

So far as human resource development is concerned, it refers to the very process, distinguished from mere personnel functions, where the employees are helped in a continuous and planned manner to acquire and sharpen capabilities, and develop an organizational culture whereupon the employees are continuously helped by performed planning, feedback, training, periodic performance rating vis-a-vis developmental needs and creation of development opportunities through job rotation/training/responsibility definitions and such other mechanisms.

Thus organizational development means a process of planning and implementing systematic changes designed to improve organizational effectiveness. As avenues for work deployment galore, the reallocation of duties and necessary training/motivation/inclination factors naturally come to the fore. The most important ingredient which thus emerges is the very adult-to-adult contractual principle. There is no doubt that conflict management continues to be the most formidable task. A creative approach to this aspect would be to demonstrate the confidence and fearlessness to face it.

Business projections, therefore, must have to take in their fold the nature of work/workload/return — from taking up the venture (for instance, formation of team for internal control system/recovery/investment/IT etc) to how much drift from existing equilibrium would be there (for instance, works arising out of sudden spurt in retail lending, training requirements etc). Redeployment/modification/innovation may be of use by strengthening the research and development wing and appreciating regional peculiarities in relation to activity generation based on regional dimensions — functionally, spatially, hierarchically and temporally.

It is an established fact that success — whether as a manager, a leader or as an individual performer — does not come to those who aspire well-roundedness, breadth and balance. The reverse is the reality. Success comes most readily to those who reject balance, who instead pursue strategies that are intentionally imbalanced. This focus, this willingness to apply disproportionate pressure in a few selected areas of our working life, would not leave you brittle and narrow. Counter-intuitively, such lopsided focus actually increases your capacity and fuels your resilience, Marcus Buchingham nicely observed. In fact a number of interlinked factors combine to produce a good manager. Elevate a manager from good to great. It is better not to end up discouraging employees to such an extent that they quit, either physically or psychologically. Better not to ignore them when they excel, nor ridicule their ideas.

Dr BK Mukhopadhyay


(The writer is a noted management economist)

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