A CEOâ€™s performance is generally measured on two things: share price and shareholder value. This is the plight of a business leader in a capitalist society, and most of his/her time is dedicated to these criteria. However there is a pain that is pulling business leaders away from their focus on these criteria: that of the Talent War. This is not surprising because running a business on capitalist notions does very little in keeping your brightest young talent – except make them jealous! Soon, share price and shareholder ROI will be meaningless unless a CEO is able to be a Talent Manager; a leader who fields, grows and retains the best young talent. And so a CEO, and his/her Board, should really reconsider the fervor with which they throw themselves to the capitalist dream. My hunch is that the business that will succeed in today and tomorrowâ€™s world is developing a greater interest in an environment where our brightest talent acknowledge their readiness to leave us, and choose to stay, rather than an all-out offense on short term profit and the bottom line. My stance is this: if you build it (the environment for bright young talent), they (share price, shareholder value) will come.
Our biggest pain
There are the important issues and then there are the urgent issues to be dealt with in business. Sadly, many businesses are great at addressing the urgent and then leaving the important for later â€? if later ever comes. And so we have to confront day-to-day pain in the form of quarterly results, share price fluctuations, investor confidence, media reports and operational constraints. The pain associated with these priorities is very deft at taking our eye off of the diffused pain of the talent war.
Many managers do not really know how to address the fact that their bright young talent is departing so quickly. Young talent is jumping ship quicker than older more â€˜loyalâ€™ generations. We feel the pain in recruiting the brightest young talent becoming futile because they will inevitably leave quicker than they came in. We are not suffering from a shortage of talent as the proponents of the â€˜skills shortageâ€™ would want us to believe. Rather, we are suffering from an inability to keep talent. These are the guys (and gals) who are calling the shots: you do not attract them, they attract you! This is a global trend â€? companies throughout the world are suffering similar pain.
So what do we do when talent leaves us? We hear leaders saying, â€šHR are the â€˜people peopleâ€™, let them sort this out. My job is to keep our organization alive!â€› In the end the responsibility for this problem should land in the lap of our leaders â€? our CEOs and managing directors. Too often the responsibility for Talent ends up in the dark recesses of HR Department where the paperwork trolls focus more on certification than talent.
Donâ€™t we see that keeping our organizations alive cannot be separated from keeping our people â€˜aliveâ€™? Perhaps this is where Capitalism can learn a little from Communism. Our businesses need to be environments that provide the capitalist dream â€? the offer of self-interest, wealth, development and ownership. But too often this dream is interpreted as an Individual Quest. But what can we learn from communities of talent? How does an organization really cater for hundreds of bright young stars without embracing communal aspects of inclusion, connectedness and care? Communities have vested interests â€? ownership cannot be individualistic. We all agree that greater performance comes from a sense of ownership in your work. So, how do we foster greater sense of ownership when we are so focused on share price and individual shareholder value? What about the whole?
Some of the answers to these questions lie in changing the way we approach talent. One of the boldest champions of talent is writer and management guru Tom Peters. He unashamedly proposes that our business leaders should be the best talent managers. He parallels todayâ€™s business leader with professional sport coaches.
A lesson from the world of sport â€Œ
Can business leaders learn from those in other disciplines? What about sport, a field dominated by talent and talent wars? Certainly, the success of the sports Coach is measured by acquisition of trophies. But on a more immediate level, they are judged by their people-skills: squad selections and so on. In a sense, his people-skills is actually his key measure! The trophies would not come but for the talent he fields.
A few years back sports men and women would turn for their country as a matter of pride and allegiance. But that is changing. Playing for loyalty is turning into a professional loyalty that demands sponsorships, high packages and high publicity. I am not knocking the old paradigm of loyalty but believe that the dynamics of sport have changed and that we need to stay on top of them. The older supporters cry out at this abomination â€? they criticize players for being self-centered and greedy. The reality, though, is that players are now professionals. Their job is to play, and as such will play by the rules of the game when it comes to talent, demand, packages and publicity.
The same thing is happening in the commercial talent war. A few years back, employees were loyal such that they became employees for life. Today however, employees are loyal to the extent that their package meets their desires and that their talent is on demand (oh, and that theyâ€™re working on noteworthy and passion-inspiring projects!).
So a Sports Coach is measured on results and managing the best talent. In the world of CEO evaluation, I see an imbalance. CEOs are not valued for their talent management skills and responsibilities. Need I say that with each day we trade, the trends of technology and globalization are rendering our rote work redundant? Need I say too that it will be your people that will keep your business alive in the future workplace?
At the moment you may have the strongest brand, lucrative share prices and dominant market share but if your people are not listed among those assets (with intent!) and your leadership evaluation criteria are not aligned to managing that talent superbly (the practice!), your company will lose the high position it enjoys today. Too often we hear leaders getting the intent right by listing their people as their most prized asset. However, this statement is met with disdain by our young talent because they know from experience that this intent is often only intent that lacks practice.
Where to from here?
The problem is that to develop the right environment and right measures for our CEOs, we have to re-look at our fervent approach to capitalism. We will need to re-evaluate our bias towards share price and bottom line and look more towards goodwill and culture as indicators of success. Why? The changes that are required in changing our environments will eat into our resources heavily, such that short-term profit is jeopardized.
So what is the good news? These changes, despite being initially taxing and burdensome, will create for you a longer lasting, noteworthy company in which talent â€˜stays the courseâ€™. In the long run, that what is needed to plug the hole through which our talent is draining.