Talent and careers, two sides of the same coin

Laura Walker shares her top 25 years of insights in talent and development for reputable businesses in six different sectors. She addresses:

  • The top three priorities of talent and career for any organization
  • The most common tensions that exist
  • The main advantages of a coherent approach
  • Practical steps that leaders and human resources can take

The top three priorities in talent and career for any organization

Not everyone will use the same words, but in my experience, there are always the same three priorities for each organization:

talent Career
Do we have a strong sequence where we need it most?

  • Senior leaders
  • Key positions (not hierarchies)
Do we have a compelling career offer that we live by?
Are we building the capabilities we need to succeed as a business? Do the building blocks exist to be able to navigate a career?

  • A clear framework
  • How-to resources are accessible
Do we have healthy and varied piping? Are career conversations fascinating and influential?

  • People and managers with ability and self-confidence

There are real similarities between the priorities of talent and career – both need future focus, both need real business impact, both need strong and effective processes.

But there are also two important differences. First, the parties most interested in these agendas are very different. Councils and senior executives care most about talent, while employees care most about careers. Second, the scope of work is usually quite different. The focus of talent is usually on the capital T-shape – that is, the most senior leaders, and deploying the organization to key positions or high potentials. A career, on the other hand, is relevant to the entire organization.

Although they have common interests, talent and career can often go in different directions.

What are the most common tensions?

At some point, all organizations will face one or more of these four leading tensions. They appear in questions of strategy, proposal, processes, messages and support.

included without me
global native
In business leadership In personal transport
width depth

Many advocate an inclusive agenda, but have an exclusive approach in practice – paying close attention to high potentials, certain key positions or their best performance. They invest much more in talent programs than in career programs – spending disproportionately on early careers and outside candidates, ignoring existing and mid-career employees.

Similarly, many businesses advocate a global or enterprise-level approach and say they want people to move around. In reality, however, most people have local career conversations with their managers who do not feel confident in helping people navigate a global or broader career. Crossing borders between business areas is difficult and relatively few manage it.

Businesses end up trying between two valid but contradictory positions. It’s so tempting to please both, but in reality, one will always win. A clear strategic choice can reduce dizziness considerably.

The main advantages of a coherent approach

There are three types of coherent approach benefit: strategic, operational and experiential.

Larger businesses often have separate teams responsible for talent and careers. This is not an issue in itself, but can result in different strategies, means, vendors, intranet sites, budgets and so on. There is a real risk of creating a ‘rope pull’ in which they eliminate each other’s hard work and investment. They need to pull in the same direction.

Operationally, it is common to have very separate internal and external recruitment processes. Some businesses have brought them together in joint service teams and see real cost savings and an increase in internal traffic.

As businesses grow, most often through acquisitions, they can get a whole cocktail of messages about talent and career. Clear, simple, and coherent guidance can make a huge difference in the experience of managers and employees – helping them cut complexity and hold on to their careers.

Practical steps that leaders and human resources can take

Here are four proven steps to help you develop a more coherent approach.

1. Define and share future key capabilities

Clearly defined future capabilities help prioritize investments and enable people to choose a career and future protected employment ability.

Provide clear and simple guidance – that you stick to

Providing clear expectations and guidance helps leaders, managers and individuals – Some businesses require future managers to have broad experiences in 2 geographies, 2 functions and 2 business leadership challenges.

Emphasize more experiences than works

Emphasizing experiences across jobs can encourage a more diverse pipeline of talents and more opportunities for people, as they can gather experiences through a whole range of different pathways.

4. Invest in both career and talent – wisely

Transferring the investment towards equipment to motivate people to pursue their careers can benefit both agendas.

If you want to shift the focus to an inclusive career strategy, let’s have a conversation.


Similar Articles


Most Popular