CEOs key to talent management

by 21 Aug 2007

TALENT MANAGEMENT should be as rigorous as any other business planning process, and it should be recognised as being as valuable to an organisation’s success as any other process, according to Robert Care, CEO of Arup Australasia.

Furthermore, HR should play a very important role in executing organisational strategy, and developing talent to achieve that aim, he said.

Speaking at a recent CEO Circle Quarterly Dinner, Care said that talent management is critical in ensuring an organisation meets its strategic goals.

“We frequently acknowledge that people are our most important resource. We say that, but just as often we manage our talent without a clearly articulated strategy or structure in place, and may not balance or align the needs of the individual with those of the organisation,” he said.

“Now the CEO of an organisation is ultimately responsible for the development of talent in that organisation, but everyone in an organisation needs to be aware of their role in identifying and nurturing that talent.

“To succeed in really developing your organisation’s talent pool I firmly believe that all involved need to be on board and understand the value of supporting our pool of talent.”

CEOs are fundamentally involved in talent management as part of their day-to-day responsibilities, whether they recognise it or not, he said.

“We may not call it ‘talent management’ but we do know that there are individuals at all levels of our organisations who show potential, individuals that we believe can take on new responsibilities and individuals who have demonstrated characteristics that we want in our organisation.”

Moreover, as leaders CEOs are always being observed and creating an example, he said. “Not unlike elite sportspeople – we may be paid to play a particular game, but our off-field behaviour can be used to judge our values. As CEOs, what we do in our day-to-day dealings with our people will carry as much weight as all our corporate plans and strategies.”

Leadership is not about making people follow you, according to Care, but it’s more about creating an environment in which employees can achieve their potential, and through that, benefit the organisation.

“In my opinion an effective leader leads for the good of the organisation, not to attract unquestioning loyalty and a cult following (although sometimes that may have its appeal),” he said.

Often talent management is seen as developing leadership, aimed only at the senior executive team. However, Care said it should encompass valuing and developing talent in all roles, at all levels of the organisation, as a successful organisation needs effective people in every role.

“Not everyone can become (or wants to be) CEO but each employee can develop in their roles or transition into new roles. If we want to keep them in the organisation, we must work with them to identify their skills, the opportunities open to them and what we can do to help them develop and achieve.”

In the current tight market for skilled people, particularly engineering, Care said there is an additional compelling business case for talent management: prospective employees can pick and choose where they want to work, and expectations of the workplace are changing.

“I believe that talent management at all levels provides a number of competitive advantages including improved customer and client relationships. It helps collaboration and cooperation throughout the organisation, and it improves retention rates, job satisfaction and productivity,” he said.

The costs of losing talent through poor management are many, according to Care – not the least being the impact on client relationships, recruitment and training costs and workplace morale and effectiveness. Arup’s staff turnover rate stands at around 11 per cent (about half the industry standard) while the figure for “regretted leavers” is less than 4 per cent.

The practice of internal talent management benefits through a tendency towards organic evolution; which means it is free from the hierarchies that exist in most organisations, according to Care.

Arup Australasia

Arup Australasia is a global design and business consulting firm with around 9,000 staff worldwide. It was founded just over three years ago and has grown organically, with no mergers or acquisitions. In the past two years, it has doubled its turnover. Locally, Robert Care, CEO of Arup Australasia, is responsible for a rapidly expanding team of 900 people located around Australia and a further 100 people in Singapore.

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