Think people not talent.

January 24, 2017    Ann Clarke     ,

For decades HR professionals and business leaders have spoken about talent management and the need to find and keep the right staff and develop skills and resource internally. But more recently there’s been a change that recognises the more tangible and personal aspect of the workforce – it’s now referred to as people management.

It’s more than just a change of expression though, it’s a changing acceptance that the war for talent should be seen in more human terms. The need for talent still remains of course, and the search for it is certainly still on, but in renaming the challenge it has cast the spotlight on the importance of employee engagement, empowerment and environment in the modern age.

Managing talent is replaced with engaging people. It makes a distinct shift from the more passive and self-assured former, to the more dynamic and conversational latter. Perhaps the biggest differences are that people management is more concerned with improving individual performance and contribution through empowerment, coaching and management of individuals. Within this it’s necessary to look at environment too – for a positive working culture and environment allows people to perform to their best in a trusted, inspiring and supportive way.

Talent management of old was much more concentrated on identifying and incentivising top talent and in looking at ‘the talented’ as a group that can add value to the organisation’s objectives. Today’s employees, particularly the younger generations, demand something quite different.

Millennials want autonomy, flexibility and mobility. They have turned the old idea of ‘what you can do for your employer’ on its head and made it more about what a company can do for its employees. Recognising this shift will certainly help businesses to compete and fight in the war for talent. The brightest and best are in high demand and short supply. Without a clear people-focused culture, the most talented individuals will overlook you in favour of an empowered and engaged employee environment elsewhere.

Effective people management relies on three core principles – context, behaviour and creativity. A business that understands its own culture and social system as well as the people and personalities best suited to it, has a strong foundation for a people management ethos. Understanding your own business’s context will enhance your recruitment and retention programme.

All too often it’s the people already known to management that find themselves on the path for promotion and new challenges. People management relies on smart managers who will work to give exposure to the brightest and best, regardless of whether they’re the most vocal or high profile. Make this practice become standard behaviour in your organisation.

The other component of modern people management is creativity and the ability to give workers the freedom to devise their own approaches to solving problems and completing tasks. Compliance is no longer the driving force of effective workspaces. Permission to think freely is at the heart of effective people focused businesses.

Whether you’re a HR professional, a chief executive or a team leader, it’s important to acknowledge and understand this shift as more than one of semantics. Today’s knowledge economy demands something quite different – compliance has been replaced with trust, autonomy, collaboration and engagement. It’s these qualities that make up the DNA of modern, thriving and attractive businesses.

To find out more about the war for talent and how to attract and retain the best talent, download our War for talent whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice:



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