· 3 min read · Features

Just how much uncertainty can talented staff take, before it impacts on performance?


As we reach the half-year review time, I’m sure all line managers and HR managers are anticipating the inevitable questions from their staff – can I have a pay rise or promotion?

There's no doubt they are working hard for you during this turbulent time, the fact that your organisation is weathering this rough economic storm is testament to that, and you want to reward them for their hard work - but this type of reward is simply out of the question at the moment.

Just how much can your talented people take before it impacts on their performance? Before they either stop trying, or start looking for a new job?

Lane4 hosted a round-table discussion for business leaders, talent managers and HR professionals from seven large firms and two British sporting institutions, to explore talent management challenges, share best practice, and discuss the future of talent management. It was interesting to compare the art of talent identification, assessment and development between sport and business, and understand what each can learn from the other.

Whilst companies have been busy surviving the recession, a gap has developed between the wants and expectations of today's talent and what many employers currently offer. Faced with the reality of fewer upward promotions, limited pay rises and restricted bonuses, many employers feel as if they are fighting a war with no ammunition. Based on current research and insights from Business Leaders and Talent Managers in sport and business, our new white paper, authored by Lane4's head of research Zara Whysall - 'Talent Tactics: How can you plug the talent gap?' describes this changed talent environment and reveals the new talent tactics for succeeding within it.

The ground has shifted in talent management over recent years. New approaches are needed if we are to stop these cracks from becoming chasms. We need to re-discover what work really means for our talent; the constraints of new talent environments require us to challenge some core assumptions - especially who we consider our 'talent'.

One of the five talent tactics coming out from our paper is 'The End of Hi-Po?' Research suggests that labelling someone as 'high-potential' could be damaging, both to those WITH the label (who may become blinkered and risk-averse, working with a closed mindset in order to try and keep the label) and those WITHOUT the label (who could feel under-valued or rejected for not being in the elite group). If only a fraction of the workforce is labelled 'talented' (and afforded special development opportunities), the de-motivating effect on the remainder of the workforce may become self-fulfilling; they could ultimately lose the ambition to succeed since they aren't considered 'talented'.

Of course in sport there are very sophisticated methods and programmes to identify and develop talent - Team GB will be held up as an example of this at this Summer's Games - so would they ever re-think 'Hi-Po'? Despite the talent programmes that some athletes have been involved in since childhood, British sport is still open to so-called 'talent mavericks' - those people that weren't enrolled in programmes from a young age, or perhaps showed talent in another sport to begin with but, as they've matured, have been talent spotted for another. Seemingly unorthodox mavericks - who buck the trend and shirk organisational conventions - exist in many organisations. Talent mavericks bring different ideas and approaches, which can be invaluable. Since imitation and uniformity are unlikely to give you performance edge in this highly competitive environment, it may be time to find the mavericks in your organisation.

So, back to the half-year review. What can we say to our talented people to ensure they feel valued and motivated? Whilst money is important, it is meaningful and challenging work that really drives performance. We need to identify new ways to reward and motivate talent, using freedom-related work values like accountability and autonomy. Discuss future career development in terms of 'Career Lattice, not Ladder'. Ensure we can 'Stretch to Grow'- no matter how challenging the economic climate, we must be brave enough to take risks and provide stretch opportunities - supporting learning through smart failure.

It's time to challenge your view of talent - success can be achieved in many different ways, especially in this changed environment.

Adrian Moorhouse (pictured) is MD of Lane4

To view and download the full Talent Tactics White Paper, click here