It’s time for a revolution in talent development. For generations, organizations have managed talent development. They’ve figured out who the HiPo’s (high potentials) are and focused resources on them. “Trickle down” talent development has shortchanged the rest and created a huge class of PoPo’s (passed over and pissed off). In short, scarcity thinking has limited what people and organizations imagine is possible.
Further, we hear leaders talk about driving down corporate objectives through talent development as if people were cattle. Well, hello! Most people don’t want to be told what to do. Even those who say they do often resist direction.
It’s little surprise that over 71% of American workers responding to a Gallup poll report that they are “not engaged” in work or “actively disengaged.” What’s worse is that high levels of disengagement have persisted for more than decade, in both good economies and bad. In short, there’s a systemic problem with how organizations engage their talent. Our own surveys of thousands of people reveal that even high performers in excellent organizations have 30% to 40% of their talent untapped. It’s time for a change.
Let talent bubble up. Shift from “trickle down” to “bubble up” talent development. That’s right; it’s putting the keys to talent development in the hands of the people who have the talent. This tracks a fundamental cultural shift of people taking charge of many aspects of their lives, from booking their own airplane reservations to buying and selling stocks. People want to be in charge of what’s important to them, when they have the tools to do it. So, how can “bubble up” talent development work for both employees and their organizations?
Catalyze employee self-motivation. The first key engages the fundamental source of motivation: employee self-motivation. Instead of viewing managers as “cattle drivers,” think of them as “catalysts” who act to accelerate thinking and precipitate results without taking initiative and responsibility away from team members. This shifts from a command-control culture to a take-charge culture. The latest insights from neuroscience and psychology provide guidance on how to accomplish this successfully. We’ve found that a carefully structured conversation that keeps the participant in his or better thinking and in charge of the choices proves useful for 90% or more of the participants and “very useful” and even “major breakthroughs” in 20% to 30% of the situations. The great benefit is that employees don’t have to wait for a supervisor or manager. They can follow the steps and enjoy the value of a 45-minute Talent Catalyst Conversation with one another. Thus, all team members with an interest in their talent and a willingness to be generous listeners for one another can participate. This breaks down the barriers to access.
Accelerate through obstacles. The second key transforms how team members think about obstacles. Indeed, as with sailboats that head up into the wind and travel faster than the wind itself, team members can leverage tools to turn obstacles into springboards for success. Such tools include accessing inner qualities (for example, curiosity, generosity, and assertiveness), mashing up the untapped resources before them to create more out of what’s available, and “speed planning” that sketches out talent action plans in less than 15 minutes to gain results quickly.
Multiply the payoffs for yourself and others. The third key invites team members to translate their knowledge and skills into enduring career assets. They transform the ideas in their heads into tangible value. For example, a staff member who wanted to become a supervisor documented guidelines for giving performance feedback. She showed concretely what she learned from best practices as well as her own experience in both mock situations and project settings. These became the proof points for her brand: “candid, constructive feedback that brings out the best in you.” As a result, she landed the supervisory job and provided a valuable, tangible asset to the organization for first-time supervisors.
Opportunities abound to unlock the talent within today’s workforce. The keys are at hand. The perfect moment is now.