Empowering Local Talent: Securing Sustainable Talent Growth
In looking forward to the upcoming Learning Café on the 29th of November in Dubai, I wanted to focus my comments this month on the topic that I will be addressing at the event; “Empowering Local Talent: Securing Sustainable (long-term) Talent Growth”. In many ways, the path towards developing sustainable, long-term talent growth parallels the path of most strategic level initiatives. It requires a deliberateness of action. At both the public policy and at the firm level, talent needs to not only be understood as a critical driver of long-term success, but also be treated as such.
While it would be both naïve and misleading for me to suggest that there is a “one size fits all” solution to solving the talent growth equation, like many seemingly intractable problems, the likelihood of success is often embedded in how we approach the problem. Based on our own observations and some of our preliminary qualitative research into the issue of sustainable talent growth, organizations generally accept and recognize that talent is a critical driver of long-term success. And yet, the acceptance of this viewpoint does not translate into action. As we continue our research into the factors that contribute to the breakdown between the intent to approach talent strategically and the observable reality of a piecemeal and reactive approach to talent growth, an emerging hypothesis is that the siloed, human resource business partner (HRBP) approach to talent has led to an overly narrow, internal focus on solving the talent growth equation. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the HRBP approach and that internally focused talent units are not necessary, they certainly are. What I am suggesting, however, is that the institutional structure of an HRBP approach is not well aligned to solving the long-term talent growth equation. This leads us to ask the question, what other potential approaches exists towards securing sustainable talent growth for the region?
One of our leading hypotheses for how to approach solving the talent growth equation, especially for the region, is to take an ecosystem approach. An ecosystem approach takes talent growth from being an isolated subject matter within the human resource function and space, and repositions talent growth in a broader environment and framework. Specifically, it embeds talent growth within a multi-stakeholder framework that is exposed to a multitude of internal and external forces that, both directly and indirectly, impact talent growth. In reframing talent growth thinking within an ecosystem framework, organizations and policy makers can add a critical level of breadth to their approach in solving the talent growth equation. While an ecosystem approach creates more complexity, it also enables the development of well informed and data driven strategies and actions. Moreover, this approach enables organizations to influence other stakeholders, and offers the opportunity for the development of shared outcomes.
As illustrated in Figure 1 below, there are two key macro level forces (Demographics and Government Policy and Regulations) and two key micro level (Training and Development and Management Practices) forces that significantly impact the characteristics of any given talent growth ecosystem. For the purposes of this column, I will focus on the two macro level forces only.
Figure 1: Simplified Talent Ecosystem
The first key macro level force that requires our attention is demographics. Within a talent growth ecosystem, understanding the demographic characteristics and trends provides data driven insights into the current and future attributes of the ecosystem’s natural resource base. This data rich approach not only enables the development of actionable and measurable short to medium term interventions, it also enables a much longer-term planning approach. In putting an ecosystem approach into practice, the best organizations map their talent and competency needs against the demographic data and trends driven by the ecosystem.
A current case in point to illustrate the value of an ecosystem approach is Brexit. As an external influence, Brexit is fundamentally changing the demographics of Britain’s talent ecosystem by limiting (and perhaps eliminating) the access Britain based firms have to talent in Continental Europe. The attributes and characteristics of continental European talent are different from British talent. One difference, for example, is where Britain, post Brexit, lies on a monolingual-multilingual continuum. When it comes to Britain’s current position in the continuum, the free flow of talent between continental Europe and Britain represents a very different demographic picture along the monolingual-multilingual continuum than a post Brexit Britain would. This expected change in the demographic attributes in Britain influences the talent growth equation for firms operating in Britain.
In carrying this demographic change along the monolingual-multilingual continuum forward into the second key macro-level force, government policy and regulations, many organizations may choose to just focus on immigration and work visa policy to develop solutions towards securing the long-term talent they require. However, an ecosystem approach, by establishing a framework that situations the analysis within a multi-stakeholder approach, forces an organization to take a more nuanced and detailed view of government policy and regulations. In the example of Brexit given here, in addition to visa and immigration policy, an ecosystem approach may lead organizations to examine education policy, especially as it relates to language education and training, as part of their talent growth strategy.
An ecosystem approach to talent growth provides a solid framework for developing data driven insights that integrate the multitude of forces and stakeholders that impact the talent growth equation. When it comes to securing sustainable talent growth, there is much wisdom in the African saying:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
An ecosystem approach provides a great framework for approaching the issue of sustainable talent growth together.