How to Manage Talent – 7 Tips

It’s great when you realise that you have talented people in your organisation who show potential to do even more amazing things in future. But do you know how to harness that potential? Maybe you already have some concerns about how you can keep them motivated.

You might be concerned that:

  • they will leave if you don’t develop them
  • they’re great at what they do but not yet ready for promotion
  • the next time a more senior position becomes vacant you may have to recruit externally and risk upsetting your best people
  • they are specialists in their own area but lack broader business experience.

Does this sound familiar?


How do you Harness the Potential in your Organisation?

If you would like to develop your most talented people but don’t have a massive budget or a Talent Programme, then read on. And if you do work in an organisation that already has a Talent Programme and a generous budget, don’t stop reading! Use this as a sanity check to make sure you’re spending your time and budget wisely.

7 Top Tips for Managing Talent

I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in a number of talent programmes in a variety of organisations and the ones I’ve been most impressed with are the ones that follow these 7 tips:

1. Clarify Organisational Needs
Before you launch into developing your most talented people, it’s worth considering what the business needs of the future are. What type of leaders and managers will be important? How will they need to behave and what will they need to know and do? Will you need people with specialist skills or people with a breadth of experience across the business?


And even if you will need technical specialists, don’t underestimate the importance of business and interpersonal skills. You’ll need people that have a sound understanding of the business context who can communicate, influence, build relationships and get things done.

I’ve seen organisations put too much emphasis on technical skills and then, when their ‘talent’ is promoted, they struggle with managing the people dynamics and working at a strategic level.

2. Identify the Talent in your Organisation
How can you make sure that you focus your time, effort and resources on the right people? How do you differentiate those with potential from those who are simply good at what they do? One way is to assess each person against three criteria:

  • Commitment – how have they demonstrated this and what’s been the impact?
  • Career Aspirations – what are they and how do they fit with the organisation’s future needs?
  • Capability – do they regularly demonstrate the capability to do more and, if so, how?


3. Manage Expectations
One of the challenges of identifying people as ‘talent’ and letting them know, is that they can become complacent and believe that the organisation will ‘sort out’ their career for them. It’s really important that you communicate expectations at the outset. How much time and effort do you expect them to put into their own development? What specifically will they need to do? And, of course, what can they expect in return?

4. Provide Development Opportunities
You might not have a large budget, or even any budget at all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide development opportunities. Using the requirements you’ve already identified, consider how they might develop skills, competencies, knowledge and experience. Suggestions to our clients include:

  • taking responsibility for a new member of staff
  • taking on additional responsibilities aligned to their development needs
  • shadowing people in other functions
  • attending seminars and conferences
  • joining a cross functional project team
  • leading a project focused on a specific development area
  • researching, internally and externally, and presenting conclusions – a presentation or a report.

It’s also helpful to make sure that the learning is incremental so each successive opportunity builds on previous learning and becomes increasingly challenging.


5. Supporting their Development
Whilst it’s important that the individual takes responsibility for their own development, it’s almost certain they will find themselves facing new situations or stepping outside of their comfort zone and in need of some help along the way. So, who’s the best person to provide this help? The line manager? HR? Yes, of course, but there are other support systems that can be helpful too. We suggest:

  • a Mentor – so they have someone more senior outside of their own immediate work area to provide guidance and challenge
  • a Learning Partner – perhaps someone on the same development path
  • a Coach – this could be the mentor, although someone else to help think through challenges can be helpful.


6. Reviewing and Assessing Progress
You’ll need to help them check progress and keep on track. If you’ve agreed objectives at the outset, this is a good starting point. It’s helpful to create opportunities for them to discuss challenges and share experiences. One of the Talent Programmes I’m involved in requires the participants to each take responsibility for gathering information about the organisation and industry; share this information and put together a joint presentation on what they have learnt.

You can also ask participants to self-assess against the talent requirements and support this with 360o feedback from key stakeholders.

7. Maximising the Return on Investment
Finally, you’ll need to think about the return on investment. Even if you don’t have a large budget, there will be significant time and resource costs involved, plus ‘off the job’ time for the participant.

Another Talent Programme I support has involved the participants in identifying how they will maximise the return on investment. They will report on this at the mid point and then at the end of the programme.

I hope these tips are helpful in considering how you’ll develop the talent in your organisation.

Are you involved in developing talent? If so, what have you learnt and what are your top tips? Please share your ideas in the comments box below. Look out for next month’s blog on the art of Delegation.

Posted by Julie Turner

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