Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Manage Your Talent

The Christian Bible tells a story of a master who gave three of his servants a sum of money and then went off travelling for several years.  When he returned, he asked them what they had done with the money.  Two had invested it and returned it with profits.  The third had buried it in the ground and returned the same amount as he had been given.  He was sacked.

Moral: try to improve yourself/your situation.  Don’t waste your talent.

How many organisations really know how to manage their talent?  They may know what they need, but do they know how to exploit what they have?  Many tend to confuse “Performance Management” with “Talent Management”.  The former is about managing the way your organisation achieves its goals through effective use of its resources (whilst taking into account the various “stakeholder interests” that affect it).  It includes managing the performance of employees - usually through setting performance targets (often badly managed).

Talent management is a totally different proposition.  When you interview candidates for jobs in your organisation, those who make it through are usually hired because they are perceived to have a skill set that will benefit the organisation, as well as being a good “fit” for the team.  As time progresses, this impression will be validated (or not) and people will fall by the proverbial wayside. 

Many organisations too often want people who walk, talk and sound like the ”ideal” organisation man or woman does.   Think of your impression of what a stereotypical teacher, banker, doctor or accountant should look and sound like and you’ll understand what I’m driving at.  I’ve seen advice columns where interviewees are advised to “dress the part” so that they “blend in”.  Humans are naturally a “herd animal” and tend to be wary of the one who stands out of the crowd (that’s how predators select their prey…)

The downside risk is that people who walk the same and talk the same will think the same - dangerous in an age when agility is becoming more important.  Everyone is an individual, and whilst many may display the traits that one may consider “desirable”, what you need are people who can see the trends, opportunities and problems coming. 

It doesn't mean encourage every “maverick” there is, nor to hire people who clearly aren’t suited for the organisation.  It does mean that you need to see what “extras” they may have.  These may come from skills developed through outside interests.  Clothing style can be changed, but above everything else don’t change who they are.

I once asked the HR department of a large bank if they had any idea of what constituted an ideal “corporate banker” or “compliance person” based on the copious amounts of data they collected on defined characteristics.  The answer was a deafening silence.   They had all this information about their talent, and hadn’t a clue how to use it…

If I were to hire an HR manager, the first question I’d ask is “What do you see as the difference between Talent Management and Performance Management”.  If they couldn’t answer, I’d move on.

In case you want to know how I’d answer, it would be along the lines of “Performance Management is moving the organisation to where it wants to be through people and resources.  Talent Management is making the best use of what I’ve got to achieve that.”

What would yours be?




I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Monday, 16 March 2015

Effective Engagement

Employee Engagement/Satisfaction surveys are becoming more common.  They’re designed to provide management with a one-off snapshot of the relationship between management and employees in an organisation.  Hopefully, this highlights potential disasters which can be averted or, at the very least, areas where improvements (not always obvious) can be made.

The problem with a number of the surveys that go out is that they define “engagement” in their own terms, usually along the lines of:
  • Approachability of management
  • Ability of management to listen
  • Interest of management in employees (career, etc)
  • Rewarding/interesting/challenging work
  • Compensation
  • Commitment to employees
  • Colleagues
  • Environment
  • Trust in management
…and other dimensions relating to involvement, commitment and productivity that may/may not actually be relevant to the business and industry in question.

In theory, employees who are more “engaged” should perform better and be less likely to leave than those who aren’t.  Studies have shown this to be the case, although one questions whether higher engagement is the cause of higher productivity or merely a correlation with it.

From a personal point of view, if I’m “happy” in my job, I’ll generally enjoy it more and be more productive as I don't notice that I’m “working”.  Taking this further, I know what I look for in an organisation in order to enjoy being there but my needs, whilst in many respects similar to my colleagues', will also differ wildly in others.  This can be due to:
  • Personal values
  • Education
  • Family values
  • Societal values

I wonder how many bank employees feel truly “engaged”, given the hammering that banks have been (and still are, in some cases) taking at the hands of politicians and the press.

So what does one do to “engage” employees?  To start with, treat them as human beings rather than “human resources”.  How often have we read in some organisation’s literature that its “most valuable resource is our people” only to see that these are just words.  Yes, you can’t treat everyone exactly the way they want to be treated, but just treating them as human beings would be a start.  Taking the view of “We pay them a salary” simply doesn’t work.  Other employers pay salaries as well - some pay better than you do…

Next, remember that your employees are capable of boosting business not just through training, pay and targets, but in the way they treat customers and each other.  A “great” organisation can be seen from the way it handles the people around it.

Then extend your “engagement” to your suppliers, customers, legal advisers, accountants and anyone else with whom you have contact (e.g. government inspectors).  Find out what they need from you to make their job (and, by extension, yours) easier.

Creating this culture needs a particular mind set that is prepared to be open, honest and willing to accept criticism.  This can only come from the very top.



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.


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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Doing Delegation Right

Delegation is empowering someone to act on your behalf or giving someone a task to perform.  Some people are masters at delegating.  Others struggle.  Having been on both sides of delegation, I’ve seen a number of things to do and to avoid.

To save time, I’m calling the person to whom the task is being delegated the “delegatee” and the person giving the task the “delegator”.

The Dos
  • Delegate only what you would be prepared to (and could) do yourself.
  • Take time when delegating.
  • Plan what, how and to whom you’ll delegate.
  • Pick the right delegatee.  If the task needs a French speaker, make sure they speak French.
  • Make sure that the delegatee has the knowledge and experience to perform the task (unless it’s being given as a challenge).
  • Make sure that the delegatee and others involved knows the limits of authority for the task.
  • Allow delegatees time to clarify and ask questions (ask “Is everything clear?”)
  • Treat delegation as a way of developing talent.
  • Treat delegation as a way of spreading workload.
  • Check from time to time that the delegate is “on course, on time”.

 The Don’ts
  • Assume people understand what you mean.  Check.  It saves time later.
  • Forget that, although you’ve delegated responsibility, accountability remains with you. 
  • Treat delegation as an easy way of avoiding tasks you don’t enjoy.
  • Treat delegation as an easy way of avoiding work altogether.
  • Treat delegation as a way to punish someone.
  • Show favouritism in choosing to whom to delegate.
  • Delegate the same task to two/more people; this results in confusion and lack of responsibility.

 I’ve heard managers try to get things “off their plate” as quickly as they can, telling the delegatee “Oh, just work it out yourself!”  or “do whatever you think right!” This is another way of saying “I’m not taking the blame for any of your decisions or mistakes.”  If you don't have the time to explain and clarify, don’t delegate. 

Expect to invest time at the start.  As you get used to delegating, and as people get used to you and your style, they will understand better how you like things done and how you work.  They will need less clarification as time goes on. 


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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