Business leaders face real challenges in understanding the nature of the talent they will need to secure future competitive advantage and how they will need to adapt to get the best out of the next generation of talent.
At a recent PA-hosted discussion, Lesley Uren (PA’s talent management expert), highlighted how, traditionally, we have tended to focus on the value of superstar leaders who can turn a business around. However, a hard-headed look at who really creates value shows that organisations also need subject specialists to secure competitive advantage. That then means they need a different approach to talent management to identify which types of talent they need and where they can secure its supply, and then to make sure they nurture these value creators over the long term.
HR departments will have a critical role in meeting this talent management challenge and will need to find new ways to help the business manage opportunities and talent better. That will also mean supporting the business in hiring potential talent and then retaining those talented people.
At the same time, leaders will need to be thinking about how the workforce will change as a new generation reaches working age.
The leading neuroscientist, Baroness Susan Greenfield gave her perspective on those challenges. She argued that 21st century cyber-culture is unprecedented in both the pace of change it is bringing and the impact it is having on our behaviour. She outlined that some of that is good, for example, computer gamers have higher mental agility and better coordination and social networking can provide greater openness and connections between people. However, she also outlined how excessive use of technology changes our brains and can lead to behaviour that is potentially damaging to a company. Extensive time in front of a screen can reduce empathy; encourage instant gratification; increase risk taking; and lead to a focus on facts not knowledge.
However, it is in our hands to manage these risks and challenges. Cyber culture can bring opportunities to create value from our people. Effective use of social networking technology can break down practical and hierarchical barriers and help senior people access ideas and really understand their organisations. This needs to be in addition to face-to-face interactions, not a substitute and we should not replace in depth communications with people in the workforce with broad but shallow connections.
Securing the right talent and then making sure that the new generation of workers add value requires leadership. This can be as simple as setting rules on the use of social networking in the organisation or talking to colleagues rather than using email. It means being clear about a company culture and then leading by example.
We can maximise the potential of the emerging digital native workforce but it will require a clear sighted focus on avoiding the dangers and securing the value, in other words effective talent management.