The McKinsey report, “Making Talent A Strategic Priority”, based on a November 2007 survey of business leaders, concludes that the most significant global trend affecting their businesses is the competition for people who can help them achieve their strategic goals. The report argues that demographic factors (primarily the retirement of baby-boomers and low number of qualified people entering the workforce) are creating a situation in which it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit, motivate, and retain talented employees. The solution, they suggest, is to be more strategic about developing people throughout the organization. The authors write:

Companies must therefore address the needs of talent at all levels of the organization. Unsung segments—frontline staff, technical specialists, even the indirect workforce, such as people who work for suppliers, contractors, and joint-venture partners—are often as critical to overall success as A players. Experience suggests that an exclusive focus on top players can damage the morale of the rest of the organization and, as a result, overall performance.

I agree, but I would go further in saying that these leaders should assume that everyone in their organizations has “talent” or the potential to be talented. The problem is that they can’t know what someone might contribute to organizational success based on an annual, perfunctory performance review, which is the typical MO of most companies. The typical worker doesn’t know how she/he fits into the future of the company, how her/his role is viewed by management, and what she/he needs to do to become a successful player in the wider organization. These gaps in information must be addressed first before you can match the right people with the right tasks. Not everyone will become a star, but everyone can help illuminate the path to organizational success.

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