Simon Terry

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Your Future Talent is in Your Networks

Focus on your networks. Your future talent is in your organisation’s networks.

Few organisations have all the talent they want or they need to cope with future changes. If you are lucky and have managed your people well, you will have enough talented people to get by. When you start to focus on talent, you quickly realise that the answer to managing talent is not to manage within hierarchy. Managing talent within a hierarchy will only get you so far.  The answer to great talent lies in managing the talent in your network and draw them closer to your organisation. 

Manage your network, offer your organisation as a network knowledge hub and you can attract the talent needed to develop new capabilities for your organisation.

No Hierarchy Has Enough Talent

Great organisations invest in developing their people for the future. But rapid change makes that an exercise of great challenges. Just as organisations can no longer keep up with the change of the network economy, they can no longer keep up with the network’s ability to build new capabilities:

  • New information: Your network knows what your organisation does not. Opening your organisation to its network allows you to learn and share more information with your people. This learning is critical in filling blindspots and generating insights.
  • Diverse Experiences: Your organisation does what it does best. That experience must be less rich than the networks around your organisation. The rest of the networks are developing richly diverse experiences with new learning.  Some small part of that experience might be of value in future. Think of rich diversity of experience as experiments you don’t have to pay to run. However, you will want to watch the outcomes carefully to know where to look when you need.
  • Diverse Capabilities: New strategies demand new capabilities that differ from those of the past. These can be learned slowly. Often it is hard work for them to be bought or borrowed when needed urgently to meet the pace of change.
  • Rich Interactions: Your organisation may need new information, new customers, new distribution channels or new suppliers for its new strategy. Who is building those networks and connections now? How can you leverage their work rather than rebuild it all yourself at a cost of money and time? Even if you are going to build it, who can do that for you?

Your Network is a Rich Source of Talent

The talent to propel your business can be found in many places around your organisation.

  • Competitors, Suppliers and Partners: Do you know who is helping others with the capabilities that you need to succeed? Individuals with the critical capabilities for your business can be found in your organisation’s competitors, suppliers and partners.
  • Other leaders: In times of change, it is likely that the capabilities are best found in leaders from other industries or individuals with different & unique sets of experiences. Have you gone looking in new and different places?
  • Employees: Your employees often know people with the right skills and experience.  Their friends and networks will often be talented people just like them. Do you engage these people?
  • Customers: Passionate customers intimately understand your products, processes and experiences. They can be the ultimate advocates and champions for your business. When did you last consider hiring or exchanging talent with a customer?
  • Community: If your business has a physical location, then there is a good chance that the attractiveness of that community plays a large part in the appeal of your organisation to potential employees. Play a role in that community to make it a better place to live.  Help make your comment a knowledge hub.  Through those interactions will also get a change to understand the talent in your local markets.

Now the talent is there. What have you done about it?

From Acquisition to Attraction

In the hierarchical model of talent, the language is that of command and control:

  • talent is acquired (often at great cost and temporarily)
  • talent is owned (though the talent likely disagrees)
  • talent is deployed (often over the career goals of the talent)
  • talent is managed (but the talent may or may not participate fully)
  • talent is developed (when the talent engages in learning anything)

The parentheses highlight the choices that talented have in a highly networked economy. That choice does not favour command and control. The barriers to information, choice and change for talented people continue to fall. Organisational change has broken traditional loyalty-career trade-offs.  New models of organisations and new flexibility of working make a traditional hierarchical organisational career highly unlikely.

In a networked model of talent, the focus needs to be attraction – Can we access the required talent when we need for as long as we need? This opens new focuses in the management of talent:

  • Knowledge: Do we know where that talent is in our networks?
  • Connection: Have we made a connection with our target talent now for the future?
  • Exchange: How have we shared value with those talented people in our networks we might need in future? How do we make our organisation a hub?
  • Attraction: What can we do to draw them closer to our organisation? How can we encourage them to share with us and enhance our attraction as a hub of the network? How can we accelerate the rate of this sharing?

When we shift to a network model, we may never own the talent we need. There are all sorts of flexible models that may allow the organisation to buy, borrow or partner with individuals to use their capabilities to meet the goals of the organisation. The best talent for the job may only be available or needed on a temporary basis.

Make your organisation an attractive knowledge hub and you can benefit form the dynamic talents of a vibrant network.


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