THE BLOG
15/11/2013 06:50 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Managing the Talent Shift

For any leader, overseeing a group of talented individuals functioning as one unit, underpinned by a synergy of ideas, passion and motivation, is a wonderful thing to behold. Particularly as it can be so difficult to get the talent mix right.

Interestingly, according to PWC's 16th Annual Global CEO Survey (released in January this year) 77% of CEOs surveyed said they planned to alter their approach to talent management. That's a significant percentage, but what really struck me was that talent management has been identified as a main target for strategic change in PWC's six previous surveys. Seemingly, many leaders continue to struggle with the implementation of their talent strategies. Why is this?

To me, the winds of change have fanned us into a new era of talent management: one where there is a greater emphasis on the individual employee's skill set. Business is increasingly becoming about managing a team of champions, as opposed to the champion team.

The traditional team dynamic of 30 years ago - which I remember well as a Baby Boomer - isn't the same as today. A key reason for this is because it's become increasingly uncommon for people to spend their careers at one, two or even three organisations. I have many acquaintances in their early thirties who have already worked in six or seven different organisations.

Like we see in professional team sport, increasingly business leaders will have to manage an accelerated treadmill of highly skilled people for shorter periods of time. Recruitment of these players will become increasingly competitive, and retention increasingly short-term. This elevated level of staff turnover will of course impact teams and internal culture, so business leaders must ask themselves: how will they manage this new way?

Personally I can relate to it. As a young man the traditional team dynamic, working as part of a collective within a hierarchy fuelled by process didn't come naturally to me. Although there was mutual respect and fondness with most of my colleagues, I never really fit in to the team dynamic in a symmetrical sense. I was better going at it alone. The great irony is now that I am a CEO, it is my responsibility to manage multiple professionals and create a team environment that coordinates us to a common goal. So, in the traditional sense, I've learned to become a team player, but I've always underpinned this with a strong focus on individual skills and ability.

Overall, I feel this approach inspires an environment of healthy competition, one brimming with creativity and new ideas. It's a leadership mindset that drives a nimble, responsive structure that's capable of identifying - and utilising - talent, for the good of the organisation. And it seems to work particularly well for younger employees who feel empowered by this freedom to prove themselves: not be overshadowed by a boss or more senior colleagues.

Forgive me if this next statement comes across as a bit conceited, but this is what I've always told my leadership team: most people in the world respond to the universe, I prefer to create it - I'm lonely, come and join me. It's remarkable the sort of reactions and behaviours this statement elicits.

But, like the majority of leaders would understand, leadership styles are never a one size fits all solution. While some people thrive in this culture of independence, others would prefer the traditional team approach: shared duties based on hierarchy, as many people from my generation would be familiar with. So the challenge for me has been to ensure processes, respect for roles and positions, are not undermined by my emphasis on free-thinking.

Encouraging individuals at all levels to be all that they can be, enabling them to freely express themselves and their ideas, may sound a little chaotic, but it's always worked for me. I believe employees increasingly expect to work in this kind of environment, so it's important for business leaders to focus on talent management strategies that meet this expectation.