Top of mind are some of the questions you might expect: How well are we identifying and growing talent, and once we do, how good a job are we doing retaining that talent?
The assumption has long been that amassing a pool of talented employees was a good path toward enhanced productivity and innovation. Some recent research has challenged parts of that assumption. Instead, the argument is for a more nuanced understanding of how talent is “deployed” and positioned for success.
Research, from a report by Bain & Company, compared top-performing organizations against average ones. The total amount of talent, hovering around 15% of the total workforce, was similar for both.
Where they diverged was in the specific distributions, or “people deployment,” of those talented employees. Successful companies clustered more of their talent around critical business functions and roles, while less successful companies emphasized a more even distribution across functions.
The report stopped short of fully explaining the mechanism behind why such clustering might work, but there are a few possibilities.
First, success might be a pure numbers game, where more is simply better. Having more talented employees contributing in core areas would naturally lead to greater output or creativity in those areas, and drive greater overall business performance. Somehow, this feels like only a slight improvement over the initial assumption.
A second explanation suggests that teams and networks of talent drive success. When talented employees are clustered around critical areas, there are more opportunities for those networks to grow, for collaboration to occur, and for relational ties to strengthen. If one talented employee can have a large impact on a core area, then the impact of a team of talented employees might be exponentially greater.
As with all things, the likely explanation is a combination of both factors, the relative impact being a good question for future research. In the meantime, tools already available to organizations and their business leaders could provide some valuable insight.
Leaders can gain visibility into these talent networks in real time, through the analytics capabilities of a social recognition platform combined with insights from talent assessments and feedback conversations. They can pinpoint where interactions and collaborations are having impact, through existing teams as well as less formal collaborations that would otherwise be hidden from view.
Social recognition could be a powerful tool to help organizations more effectively leverage their existing talent and provide opportunities for growth and development.
How is your organization leveraging its talent to produce optimal results?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.