Is ‘Talent’ demoralizing your team?

‘Talent’ is now so common it is no longer a buzz word. HR departments around the world support ‘talented’ staff with life-changing talent development programmes.As a result of it’s increasing use, talent development potential pitfalls do need exploring. So below we ask some contentious questions to open up discussion. 

Contentious questions

What does ‘talent’ mean for psychological safety in teams? Furthermore what does ‘talent’ mean for inclusive leadership? This leads to asking
what does ‘talent’ mean for those who are not identified as ‘talent’? We ask these questions simply to explore potential talent development issues.  We are not assuming what anyone feels or how any one individual responds, the above questions are a way of testing how robust your system is. 

No doubt leaders and talent development departments have already invested resources into confirmation bias learning for managers and leaders. We personally know leaders who are actively investing more resources into creating a fair and inclusive talent identification process.

Potential pitfalls

If organisations have not created a fair process, then the potential repercussions are:

  • Organisational ‘justice’ is diminished. “Why do the chosen ones get all the training around here”?
  • A culture of learning is more challenging to establish “What’s the point in development if promotion isn’t on the cards for me?”
  • Engagement and psychological safety declines in the wider team – “if I speak out I may reduce my chances of getting on the talent development programme” or, “if I speak out, what’s the point, they won’t listen to little old not-talented me.”
  •  Individual productivity and confidence may decline – “Why wasn’t I picked? Am I not talented enough?” or, “I am not important enough so why bother putting in the extra?”

So, what can you do to ensure talent development initiatives avoid such pitfalls?

A few ideas:

  • Ensure processes/policies are transparent. Inclusion in ‘Talent’ programs depends on how they are run not what they are called
  • Consider different routes for internal progression, being talented is not just about showing early ‘typical’ leadership traits
  • Consider an aspiring talent option
  • Give individuals the opportunity to apply independently of management sponsorship
  • Use a 360-degree approach in looking at ‘evidence’
  • Take additional steps to making sure minority groups are represented in each cohort – meaningfully
  • Offer inclusive leadership training – it’s all about pausing and thinking about the less obvious candidates and decisions at times
  • Assess existing psychological safety levels on your teams
  • Create clear actionable steps to getting on any development programme
  • Make personal development and mindset resources available to all
  • Value mindset not just experience. Mindset can make all the difference to internalizing ‘talent’ decisions and being determined to ‘make it’.

One final question. Would you recruit anyone who wasn’t potentially talented?

With thanks to Binna Kandola for his research around inclusion and organisational justice. 

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