The talent beneath

by 25 Jun 2009

By Sarah O’Carroll

Building a talent database of employees can help not only engage staff but assist companies which are going through restructuring and redeployment, according to HR experts.

Companies often don’t tap into their employees’ talents and therefore do not know the wealth of both professional and personal skills they have within their company, according to Ken Robinson, internationally acclaimed leader in creativity, human capacity and innovation.

“The key is to match people up with something they have a flair for,” said Robinson. “A lot of people get locked into their job descriptions and often have a lot more to offer a company than what is on the terms of their contract” he said.

Franco Gandolfi, professor of management, Regent University in Virginia US, also said a talent database was a useful tool to help employers internally find the skills they need.

“You’d be very surprised at the skills and talent level beneath the surface of an organisation,” said Gandolfi. “And these skills often largely go unnoticed.”

Therefore, he said, a skills database could be an essential tool for managers who are looking to redeploy and save costs on recruiting new people.

Building an internal market for talent can be done in a number of ways such as simply asking employees what they enjoy doing, creating an on-site university, and building a skills database.

Robinson gave the example of NAMM (the National Association of Music Manufacturers), based in the UK. When the company conducted a survey of how many of the employees played a musical instrument only 15 per cent said they did. However when they asked how many people wanted to play an instrument almost 100 per cent responded that they would like to.

“What NAMM did then was bring their employees to where the musical instruments were stored, asked them to pick an instrument, and then they paid for lessons,” said Robinson. “They now have a company orchestra and it has seriously boosted morale.”

Pixar, the animation company, is another example of an organisation reaping the benefits of identifying and nurturing talent. They have set up a Pixar university where they offer year-long workshops, courses and seminars on a range of topics.

Employees within the company are then allowed to spend four hours a week of salary time at the Pixar university.

“It has several positive effects,” said Robinson. “It keeps people’s minds alive and a constant flow of ideas coming into the company. It creates a culture of learning and creativity and also people keep meeting from across the organisation.”

Robinson , who authored the book The Element, said that only through finding something you love and are good at will you be “in your element” and this is the key, he said, to having engaged workers.

“When they’re in their element they’re doing things that they are naturally good at,” he said. “But it’s not enough to do be doing something you’re just good at; companies should aim for their people to be doing something they actually like.”

Employers should look really closely at how people are matched to the jobs they do, he said, and whether the jobs they are being employed to do are the ones they are best suited to.

“People aren’t just employees; they have lives and aspirations and some of them find it in their work and some don’t. But, the more of it that’s available to the organisation the better,” said Robinson. “It’s about creating a creative culture.

"And that means knowing who you have in the organisation, who’s there, what they have to offer and what excites them.”


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