Are you creating Talent Tribes?

Culture Change

3rd September, 2018

How many of your front-line people managers see talent management as part of their job role and do any of them have it in their job description or performance targets?

“You remind me of myself 20 years ago”. I often wonder how many times this sort of statement is thought of by managers during talent reviews when considering someone as high potential? Like it or not the world of talent management is still very distinctly tribal in many aspects driven by a deep need within our human DNA to survive and thrive with likeminded people. By recruiting, developing and promoting people who are the same as ourselves we could be in danger of creating a ‘Talent Tribe’.

In my recent article I discussed the dangers of using talent tools, such as the 9-box grid, when the data they produce is based more on the rater’s own idiosyncrasies and bias rather than the actual performance and potential of the person in question [Time to move on from the 9-box grid].

What’s wrong with a tribal approach to talent management?

There’s often a huge assumption in talent strategies that the data is good in the first place. While the performance results can be justified, by whether someone did or didn’t achieve what they were meant to do, the scores around potential can be a minefield of bias, favouritism and protectionism.

This is often due to the sole responsibility being given to the line manager to complete the process without any challenge or discussion.

To get a clear view on the strength of your organisational talent capability a collaborative approach across all areas of the business needs to be taken.

By using traditional talent methods such as talent pipelines we can often only silo our talent resulting in hiding people with great potential away from the rest of the organisation. A collaborative and transparent approach to talent pooling has to be the way forward.

What’s wrong with a tribal approach to talent development?

The majority of talent budgets I have either been in charge of or worked with have had the highest percentage of spend focused on top talent. A natural inclination once high potential talent (HIPO) has been identified is to send them off on a costly development journey but, what about everyone else?

If we take the talent pool approach of having a broader view of the organisations entire talent capability then we need to consider more cost-effective approaches to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to develop any level of potential they may have.

Managers as Talent Managers

How many of your front-line people managers see talent management as part of their job role? And do any of them have it in their job description or performance targets?

For me Talent Management has always been about working in a true transparent partnership between HR and the operational functions of the business towards achieving its overall strategy and targets. A switch in focus of equal budget spend on developing people managers will only go to enhance the quality of the HIPOs you are also developing.

By introducing bias awareness and career coaching development we can then support, and even incentivise, our managers to move on from building their own tribes to building a true talent pool fit for the future.

For more details on my new Talent Diagnostic offering and how I can help transform your Talent Strategy please email Matt Williams, ‘The Talent Coach’ at

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