Investing in Talent

Ever played Fantasy Football? Well, whether you’re interested in soccer or not, bear with me on this one.  Imagine that you’ve just signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for £100 million. OK, if you’re really not into the beautiful game, it might be easier to think of David Beckham in his heyday (only better). You’ve just signed this amazing player and you send him out onto the pitch (a bobbly school playing field) wearing slippers!

Anything wrong with this picture? Even to the football virgin, this must look like a bad idea – a massive waste of talent. Well, that’s how a lot of businesses treat their staff or, what from now on I’m going to call their talent.  If you don’t value and invest in them, you’re no better than the hapless manager who’s just sent Ronaldo scurrying back to Spain.

Talent is potentially any organisation’s greatest asset.  In fact it’s a real Unique Selling Point, because every person is unique and can’t be replicated, unlike other aspects of your business. Despite Intellectual Property law, ideas can be reproduced in different guises and protecting this asset can be costly and time-consuming. But nobody’s going to steal your talent unless you’re careless enough to undervalue them and make it easy for them to flit off to somebody who ‘s going to look after them better.

But, while this may seem blindingly obvious, carelessness abounds and plenty of your rivals and competitors are failing to see the wisdom in this.

On a wider basis, the UK economy has massive issues with the productivity of its workforce. Assessing the challenges facing us post-Brexit, Tom Kibasi, Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research and Chair of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, wrote recently in The Observer: “there is nothing progressive about declining to invest in skills in this country.” He goes on to say: “Since the financial crisis, productivity growth in the British economy has stalled, leading to a stagnation in living standards for the majority of households.”

Kibasi cites productivity as one of the major problems facing the UK in the coming years. On a more local level, the Social Enterprise sector doesn’t easily attract talent due to perceptions and a limited ability to pay salaries (although promisingly the so-called Generation Y are much more switched on to ethical trading, so we will hopefully see this change).

If the term ‘talent’ isn’t an easily understood one, how about the word ‘culture’? Organisations often suffer from a lack of enterprising culture; at Bubble Chamber we hear a lot from social enterprises about the difficulties of introducing a truly entrepreneurial spirit throughout the business and this can hinder the ability to grow. It also contributes to poor productivity. Spending on recruitment but not investing (a key word here) in the development and retention of talent can be a real inhibitor to growth.

So, the micro picture reflects the macro one that Tom Kibasi describes in his Observer article. If we really see talent as our biggest asset, yet it is not delivering the desired productivity and has myriad other issues associated with it, what can we do about it?

The answer is simple: Develop a Talent Strategy

This has three key elements:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Development
  3. And last but not least, Retention

I’d encourage you to watch our video, which is part of Bubble Chamber’s Video Curriculum, for a simple introduction to this.

It’s vital that this is seen as an investment and not a cost, if organisations are to really address the urgent issue of productivity. People are people but they are much more – they are the talent that is your richest resource, with the skills and values to take your organisation where you want it to go.

Your talent strategy is an essential part of developing an enterprising culture and, if you’re not already addressing it, you should be.

To get an overview of our whole curriculum, and how Talent Strategy fits in, watch the video here.

And do get in touch if you want to discuss any of these ideas further.


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