Looking for Potential in the Wrong Places

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Looking for Potential in the Wrong Places

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Authors Don Maruska and Jay Perry challenge traditional methods for identifying high-potential employees and developing their talent. In their new book, the authors argue that talent development can extend to all members of an organization at all levels and not just a select few elites.To help us with some of the factors we need to be aware of, Don and Jay compiled this list of Five Ways "Traditional" Talent Development Programs Remain Ineffective In Actually Locating and Developing Talent:

1. They apply an outmoded, mechanistic view of people and organizations. The organization-employee relationship has undergone, and continues to undergo, a profound evolutionary and generational shift. Thinking of organizations as machines and people as filling slots in them doesn’t fit with today’s fast-paced innovation economy. Employees at all levels need to take personal initiative and be nimble and creative. Younger generations are accustomed to being more independent and are able and eager to find needed information and create applications.

2. They try to “drive” results from the top down. The idea of driving behavior as if people were cattle isn't effective and promotes a culture of dependence. Such strategies focus on what management or the organization is doing to fire up its employees. The reality is that employees have the talent. Workers need a culture that encourages them to discover it and the self-motivation to apply it.

3. They focus on “high-potential” candidates and ignore others. When talent development comes from the top down, management’s available time and resources limit its scope. As a result, resources focus on “high potentials.” Picking a few winners among a large workforce creates an “us-them” dynamic, which undermines engagement and diminishes critically-needed contributions from everyone else.

4. They create transactional relationships, which prompt employees to withhold rather than offer their best. The cash for tasks approach to encouraging employees to apply their talents triggers fearful behavior. In that kind of environment, people are loathe to take risks and often keep knowledge and inventive practices to themselves in order to keep a competitive edge. Everything is a negotiation that no worker wants to lose.

5. High levels of disengagement and unused talent remain. If traditional approaches were working, we’d see better results. Instead, levels of disengagement remain persistently high. Based upon a Gallup survey of U.S. workers in 2011, 95 million employees are not engaged or actively disengaged. What’s more, even high performers in excellent organizations tell us that 30 to 40 percent of their talent remains untapped. Since people don’t join organizations with the intention of being unhappy or unfulfilled, it’s time for a change.