The 'time-bomb issue' within Australian companies

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Some Australian companies are at risk of stunting their growth prospects because they are more concerned with how their employees are performing right now versus what they might be able to deliver into the future.

That’s according to a just-released research report that looks at best practice in talent management in Australia’s corporate sector. A pervasive ‘here and now’ attitude towards employee performance is at odds with talk of innovation and plans for strategic growth.

The report, Best Practice In Practice Talent Management was jointly produced by Melbourne-based workplace psychology company, Psylutions, and Curve Group, a business improvement consulting firm. When it comes to employee selection and development, an overreliance on an employee’s current ability to perform – versus a lack of attention given to their growth potential – is an insidious issue. It might not conceivably show up until further down the track, and by that stage, it may well have become a major problem, Psylutions director and consulting psychologist, Prue Laurence, said.

“Imagine that a company executes its growth plans only to find it hasn’t got the talent required to keep up with the changing demands of the business. Then there is the possibility some companies haven’t got the right staff in place in the first instance to be able to implement those growth plans,” Laurence said. The issue might have major implications, especially if they operate in industries where the war for talent is hot. “You could say this situation represents a possible time-bomb issue in some organisations,” she added.

According to Laurence, large companies and organisations in Australia invest considerable time and effort in assessing the suitability of graduate candidates before making any hiring decisions. The problems arise when people are in the system and operating at management level, and the emphasis swings from potential to current-day performance.

Where to from here?

Laurence said companies should be spending at least 50% of their talent management efforts focusing on current performance, and 50% on their potential to lead, think and execute. From interviews to workplace simulations and psychometric tests, employees should be assessed for people leadership, task leadership and self-leadership skills.

  • Prue Laurence on 10/12/2012 4:16:19 PM

    Full white paper and summary report are available at

  • Tony Griffiths on 10/12/2012 4:22:52 PM

    Good information Pru and good timing given the preponderance of Performance Mapping sessions happening at this time of year.

  • Erica Collins on 10/12/2012 4:36:00 PM

    My experience is consistent with these findings. Whilst employers bemoan a lack of talent, they are not willing to accept candidates with demonstrated potential only past achievements. This increases the risk that the role will lack sufficient challenge and the successful candidate will outgrow the role sooner = disengagement on every level.

  • Rob Wise - Wise Recruitment on 10/12/2012 4:50:17 PM

    The looming baby boomer talent shortage should give all serious minded business managers reason to pause and contemplate engagement strategies the sort that this research points to. It will be one of those key strategies for business success as the decade progresses.

  • Adrian Baker - Experis on 10/12/2012 5:29:35 PM

    Good to see you in the news Pru. Hope it's valuable and taken on board as like-for-like only recruitment (internal or external) is still tempting for managers given the speed at which organisations expect ROI on their people post GFC.

  • MM on 8/01/2013 3:11:10 PM

    From experience, most companies are loath to spend any money on education that will improve the person's skills beyond what is immediately needed in the workplace for fear of upskilling a person who might then decide to leave and take that new skill with them. And this is despite a lot of research saying that upskilling employees is a great talent retention tool.

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