How to Spot and Develop Talent
Spotting and developing talent is a key part of the job for any manager. The question is, how do you do this effectively? This article offers tips on how you can spot talent and if you do, how you can develop it. Read more here.
HR consultancy, business training, business coach, business strategy
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How to Spot and Develop Talent

As any great people manager will tell you, one of the most important aspects of the job is to effectively spot talent within your team and to support their development.

It sounds easy enough; surely reports with amazing potential will stand out from the crowd and pretty much present themselves to you? Hmmm, maybe not. There’s a skill to picking out talent and to helping employees reach their potential at each stage as they move through a business.

Here we’ll be explaining the importance of nurturing talent and promoting from within as well as giving our (highly qualified) two cents on how best to go about it.  

Why Is It So Important to Spot and Develop Talent? 

In pretty much all of the many, many businesses we’ve worked with over the years, we have come across people who are amazing at their jobs and who clearly have the potential for growth within the business. Sometimes there are great development structures in place, but often, talent runs the risk of going untapped.

The positives of developing talented individuals are obvious. First and foremost is a business basic: retention and cost reduction. Harvard Business Review states that:

firms often hire externally when they could source better talent from within…external hires will take longer to adapt and have higher rates of voluntary and involuntary exits — yet, they are generally paid more than internal candidates.

And in Sitel Group’s report, “Future of Work and Employee Learning”, 37% of employees said they would leave their current job/employer if they were not offered training to learn new skills. 

By not developing talent appropriately, you run the risk of losing the employee, along with their skills, knowledge and abilities. You also risk losing the potential value they could have brought to the table at each stage of their growth through the business. Our Co-Founder and CEO, Luke Todd, sums it up nicely: 

As business leaders, we all know that replacing individuals in the business is pricey. Not only do you have the recruitment costs (including time spent on the task), but you also have the cost of a scaling productivity curve of your new starter as well as the impact to colleagues and the business during this time. 

Now think about the added impact you might face if the leaver was key talent in the Organisation. Not only do they perform at a significantly higher rate than others, but their potential to grow in the Organisation is also high. You’re then incurring the costs for hiring for senior vacancies that this individual may have been perfect for. You also risk the chances of internal development and promotions actually working, as the loss of key talent sends a message to everyone in the business- including other key talents.

How Do I Spot Potential?

Most managers will assume that key talents are those that are amazing at their current job. This is completely understandable, and not a terrible place to start, but success in their current role shouldn’t be the only marker used to determine if someone may be suitable for development. 

Don’t get us wrong, we are huge fans of the Steady Eddie; employees who turn up on time, do their job brilliantly every day and have no performance issues. They are the bread and butter of your team and should be appreciated and encouraged to continue their vital contributions. 

However, it’s the Top Performers and Out Performers we need to focus on here.  These are the people who are smashing their targets, bringing a little bit extra to the table and showing all the signs of being capable of developing into more senior, responsible positions. 

A MadeYou monster looking through its binoculars to spot talent.

Note: It’s important to be aware of your own biases when it comes to noting potential in others. Many of us will subconsciously favour people that remind us of ourselves… This is clearly damaging to inclusivity and diversity- a key element of creating teams with complementary skill sets (as well as being pretty amoral).

Defining Your Markers for Key Talent

Each business will have different markers for what they would define as their key talent. For some it will be results-driven, while for others it may be creativity or skills-based. You’ll need to define the characteristics you’re looking for in your leadership team and then look for signs of those characteristics in those you’re currently managing. 

Just to get you thinking, some examples are below: 

  1. Positive attitude 
  1. Entrepreneurial spirit 
  1. Effective communication skills 
  1. Integrity 
  1. Teamwork 
  1. Leadership 
  1. Expertise and skills 
  1. Commitment to deliver 
  1. Work ethic 
  1. Decision-making skills 

As most promotions come on the good word of an existing Manager, your leadership team needs to be fully aware of the markers you consider important. They need to be fully committed to flagging those characteristics and tracking the progress of key talent as they’re identified.  

Note: One thing to be aware of is that not all Managers will be natural talent agents and may need the key characteristics made very clear to them. As Luke says, “The hardest part is spotting talent, as this is normally a Manager’s decision and, if the Manager isn’t key talent themselves, they may find it harder to spot it in others…”

When to Offer Development

As far as we’re concerned, development can’t come early enough. If you can see there’s room for growth and potential for promotion, why not crack straight on? Luke explains: 

A MadeYou monster developing its talent.

You can see the potential, so tap into it early, rather than when it’s too late. Key talents are hugely self-motivated, and by developing them and investing in them early, you can tap into that. They will feel engaged, supported and visible; mitigating any risk of them leaving the Organisation.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean jumping on your newest, low-level recruit and putting them through their paces. But it does mean keeping an open mind to new members of the team and keeping an eye on their progress, their displays of the key characteristics you’re looking for and their drive to grow and develop.  

The right time to begin the next step of their journey may be just around the corner- be ready. 

How MadeYou Can Help 

So you’ve got a growing list of names on your ‘key talent’ list, all on the cusp of being groomed for or even put forward for promotion into more senior, managerial or people-leading positions. How do you prepare them for the next step? 

Our “Developing Talent within Your Business” Programme may be just what you need. 

This is one of our most varied, wide-ranging programmes; equipping employees for their new world of responsibility with a well-rounded overview of management-level skills. It’s best suited to small to medium group sizes- we have found great success in running it with groups of 8 to 18 as a guide. 

Employees from any level can absolutely be considered ‘talent’ but this course is best utilised by employees who are ‘close to ready for’ or are ‘on the very cusp of’ promotion into similar-level roles, with the pace and content tailored to that group.  

The courses we’ll take your employees through provide the fundamentals of management and leadership – skills that are hugely transferable, regardless of where each individual may actually end up. 

Case Study: 

Running this programme for GiG over the course of 10 months, we achieved some really amazing results: 

  • More than 50% of participants were internally promoted during the programme or shortly afterwards. 
  • 25% were reported as being more productive in their current role and in their relationships with others. 
  • The other 25% went on to secure more senior opportunities with other businesses. 

If you need some help spotting potential talent in your team, or if you’d like more information on the programme described above, please feel free to get in touch today.