24.01.2013

Talentism

Fresh thoughts from a really interesting morning discussion this week… Aida Consulting arranged a people-centric seminar where the opening context was management & leadership and what kind of trends and tensions impact them. This was narrowed down to leadership and how to best lead “Z” and “Y” generations – with a deep dive into was talent or more precisely a phenomenon dubbed talentism – as an ism, how to manage it, how to deal with it and how to coach it. Having been in professional services almost my entire career, I welcomed this choice of focus. I won’t review the whole agenda, instead I’ll carve out the bits I felt personally most relevant.

There are several macro trends amplifying talentism; demographic change, structural changes and turbulence in the economy, technological change, activity of talents themselves and internationalization.  My loose interpretation of talentism is associated with the phenomenon where talented people become the pivotal element in human resource decision making and investment – and the talented know this. The labor market, at least for the most-talented-segment has become a sellers’ market. Which underlying macro-drivers impact the talent market – the majority of the participants voted for economic and structural factors, I cast my vote more for the dynamics of the talented themselves – their aspirations and choices that affect their career moves and choice of employer. Previous experience suggests these are more prone to personal ambition, which admittedly are influenced by global trends.

Instead of these macro drivers, I would suggest that at least in professional services and in specialized companies like Bilot, who need to attract the best-of-the-best (in addition to young unpolished gems). Of course my observations are filtered through a different lens than compared to peers e.g. from entities 100x the size of Bilot or from an entirely different industry. We see some other drivers perhaps more relevant. By this I mean their continuous drive and strive for seeking new challenges that match the talents’ potential. The talents attracted to us are those who feel we can provide an environment of continuous learning and development. These puts pressure on the company as we need to stay ahead of the game at all times. We also see the need to manage talent outside of the company – this coincidently was also mentioned in the seminar as an arising trend. There is a true need to collaborate with potential recruits, students and those still wondering what they want to do “as grown-ups”.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, in my view – also explains talentism. It helps us understand, that greed and self-centricity are not factors that explain the phenomenon. It is only natural that one’s appetite gets bigger when lower grade of need is satisfied. The key is that it in this case we should not see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs only as a vertical ladder – there is also a horizontal dimension. Companies who are able to understand the mind of the talented are able to attract them. Retention is then more about successful long-term career planning and in smaller companies, especially those following an aggressive growth trajectory,  organizational design and provision of suitable career paths are important.

The second keynote, was a truly inspiring and interesting living example of a leader-of-talents, Petteri Nykky, head coach of the Swiss floorball national team, decorated with two world-championships at the helm of the Finnish floorball team and bronze for the Swiss team in 2012. His approach to managing talent is clearly very humane but with a very firm grip on realities – there are no short-cuts and hard-work usually pays off. He underlined a couple of theses, which resonated well with Bilot’s mental landscape – commitment, passion, spirit and atmosphere.

At the end of the day, talented athletes are no different than talented consultants – they are not superhuman and need to set their targets high and need the support of coaching and fellow-team-mates and an appropriate psychological and mental climate to hit the targets.

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Mika Tanner

Bilot Alumni