Talent Management: Not Just For Large Corporations

The organization that figures out how to make certain that it’s leaders are as focused on managing the talent of the business as they are at managing ongoing operations and finance will prosper. This means caring about talent, persistently thinking about talent, and spending seemingly inordinant amounts of time providing for the growth of their talent.

Many entrepreneurs and executives in the organizations I serve began, as a necessity, as outstanding talent managers. Capital is rarely stretched so thin as it is during an organization’s initial forty-eight to seventy two months. These start-ups had no option but to have ensured that each person on the payroll performed well and grew as the needs of the business dictated. However, as organizations become larger the senior leaders’ scope/spans-of-control become unmanageable.  The entrepreneur and senior leaders lose the ability to personally oversee the ongoing development of their expanding organization as closely and energetically as they were able to when they were pushing all the buttons and pulling all the levers themselves.

All of these businesses become heavily focused on finances and product and service development. You have to. However, failure and set-backs most often arise when they fail to adequately consider these critical elements through the lens of the talent they have and the talent they need.  Assessing & planning to attain the human capacity to deliver difference-making results MUST be every bit as important as those more tangible functions. Yet these skills (developing others, building teams, strategic agility, etc.) are rather scarce, even among very experienced leaders, regardless of industry and region. Most are not easy to develop, e.g. strategic agility, the ability to effectively deal with ambiguity, creativity, etc. Acquiring these skills within your senior leadership team and, ideally, your mid-level management teams should be every bit as important as the development of critical financial and operational management skills. Everyone on these teams need not have these skills; but they better be present and they better be leveraged heavily.

Over the course of the last fifteen years or so, many companies have come to recognize the critical strategic relationship between the success of their business and their ability to recognize and develop talent. Larger corporations now invest millions in formal talent management programs. Too often, the investment produces something less than the sort of differentiation (of product or service) that they desire—and becomes more of a bureaucratic monster than a vital, value adding competency. It is very common for such talent management programs to become an end rather than a means to an end…often promoted by well meaning HR executives. Large corporations may have the resources to overcome such waste, at least for a while. Small to mid-size businesses cannot tolerate such poor returns.  This is actually the first advantage for the smaller business: they simply can’t tolerate waste in their efforts to develop their talent.  So they manage such endeavors far more closely. As a result, they are more likely to achieve superior gains per dollar invested.

So, the relative paucity of available capital prevents smaller businesses from spending on the extensive talent management programs you often read about in HBR, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.  Those of you who are owners and executives of smaller businesses should view that as a great thing. What you do have is the unique ability to achieve and leverage your far more manageable spans-of-control to drive the focus on talent, and specific development actions that will most benefit your staff, your customers, and your investors. It’s a matter of scaling and leadership focus. It’s not easy, but the payoff is significant. So get busy working to achieve the talent mindset you need in your business to drive continued growth and profitability – it’s well within your reach.

Check out some of the resources listed on this site (we list MANY other options for you, including some competitors services) – and/or give us a call and we can have a no-risk, no-commitment discussion of your current and desired state of preparedness to manage your talent dynamically as you grow.


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