CIPD Podcast 4 - Talent management

Date: 06/02/07 Duration: 00:16:54

In this CIPD podcast, we cover the key themes of talent management and experts and practitioners talk about their experiences. Includes interviews with Tim Richardson, Head of Leadership Development at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Victoria Winkler, CIPD’s Learning and Development Advisor, Marcus Buckingham, author, independent consultant and speaker, Vicky Wright, Senior Consultant at Watson Wyatt and CIPD President, Sue Newhall, recently Portfolio Manager at NHS Talent Management, Bruce Robertson, Director of HR at ITV Production, Imagine and ITV Worldwide.and Adrian Moorhouse, professional swimmer, Olympic Gold medallist and Managing Director of Lane4.


Rajan Datar: Hello and welcome to the fourth podcast from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. I'm Rajan Datar and on this podcast we'll be taking a look at talent management. Don't forget you can find out more about issues raised on the podcast at where you can also find the other podcasts in the series and sign up for future editions.

Since McKinsey coined the expression 'the war for talent', the term 'talent management' has become increasingly common in the world of human resources. It was at the top of many HR Directors' New Year lists of priorities, but what do we actually mean by talent management and how is this reflected by activity in the workplace?

We sent Philippa Lamb to talk to Tim Richardson, Head of Leadership Development and Talent Management at PricewaterhouseCoopers to find out how PWC, a huge global organisation employing over 140,000 people in 149 countries, approaches talent management. She asked why, for his organisation, talent management is so crucial:

Tim Richardson: Talent management's really important right now because we live in a very fast moving world, and the demand for skills, the demand for knowledge and importantly, in our business, PWC, the demand for people who can apply knowledge is paramount. It defines our success going forward.

RD: Clearly talent management is an important issue for PWC but they're certainly not alone. Victoria Winkler, Learning and Development Advisor at the CIPD, is leading their research in this area. We asked her what's pushed talent management to the top of the agenda:

VW: I think lots of things coming together at the same time. A real growing awareness in organisations that people are their competitive advantage. Often said, but really people are acting on that a lot more now. And also external factors; skills shortages; a lot more mobility in the labour market - so people really accepting the fact they're going to be moving around a lot more, perhaps not in a job for life. Issues to do with demographics; we've got an ageing work force; we're going to be losing a lot of people out of the workforce. So it's really important people can identify who the key talent is within their organisation and how they're going to manage to hang on to it, quite frankly.

RD: Victoria Winkler. So what does this actually mean in practice? Philippa asked Tim Richardson.

PL: So are you looking for the next generation of partners?

TR: We are looking for the next generation of partners and that's what creates sustainability for our business. We also need to keep people who aren't necessarily on partner track really inspired and stretched by our business. We're doing a lot of work around interesting careers. So, not quite sideways moves, but, you know, a lot of rotation around roles, a lot of stimulus around cycles of experience as we call it, because it's fundamental that they are really motivated and inspired to work well with our clients. And we know that because we train an awful lot of accountants, and we have a big brand and many of our people are very marketable, and so retaining them is crucial.

PL: So for the people you identify as valuable talent, it's not necessarily about having them climb ladders, it's about keeping them creative, energised, excited about being with PWC.

TR: Absolutely right, absolutely right. We live or die on people's motivation and their energy and their ability to relate to clients in a really sort of, erm, in a very articulate, in this complex world in which we live.

RD: Marcus Buckingham was one of the keynote speakers at the CIPD annual conference. He spent 17 years with the Gallup Organisation, helping to lead research into the world's best leaders, managers, and workplaces before striking out on his own. He shared his thoughts on talent with us.

MB: The definition of talent that I'm using is any recurring pattern of thought, or feeling, or behaviour is a talent. So if you're empathetic, it's a talent, if you're focused, it's a talent, if you're impatient, it's a talent, if you're confrontive (sic), it's a talent. Impatience is a talent because you can use it productively – it means you have a bias for action. Now, talents are value neutral. Hitler was impatient. But so was Gandhi. So people have talents they can use for good, people have talents they can use for ill. But no one is talentless. The challenge for most of us is knowing what they are, and secondly, taking it upon ourselves to figure out how to use them.

RD: A fairly broad definition of talent there from Marcus, and not one everyone would subscribe to. Do share your thoughts with us Philippa asked Tim to explain more about the talent management initiatives his organisation have in place.

PL: So in practical terms, once someone has been identified as a key future, potential talent what happens next?

TR: Practically, a range of things. We've got an active pipeline management going on, so we're looking at and tracking them through their career from a manager, through to senior manager, director and partner. We're looking at trying to accelerate people quickly, so we do offer benchmarking opportunities, benchmarking events, development centres, where people can test themselves against the capabilities that we're looking for, get feedback and really work on key development plans. We've also got some emerging leader programmes which we're running, both in the UK and indeed around the world where we're trying to create networks of emerging leaders which is what we're looking for in the future.
Rajan: Tim Richardson. In practice, as most organisations pursuing a talent management agenda will know, it's impossible to earmark everyone for future success. We asked Victoria Winkler how organisations are managing this side of the story.

VW: A phrase that you'll hear quite a lot is something along the lines of 'a difficult conversation,' it's sort of a buzz word that's going around. Issues like this aren't going to be easy to deal with and even having conversations with people who've perhaps been identified as having high potential but don't live up to that potential or aren't quite going along the lines that one would hope that they would do – there are definitely issues there and I think it's about HR very much working with the line to try and equip them as best as possible to have these difficult one to one conversations.

PL: That's quite a tough proposition for HR people isn't it.

VW: It is quite a tough proposition and I think particularly when it's not likely to be HR that are running those types of conversation, they're putting their faith, so to speak, in the line manager.

PL: Which again reinforces the point that introducing talent management as a strategy into a company involves a lot of training right across the board and at all sorts of levels that aren't immediately apparent.

VW: Well I think that's the thing, I mean it's very unlikely that any one person will own it. I mean one of the quotes you'll hear sort of bandied around are things like well 'talent management's too important to be left to HR, it needs to be CEO driven, and so forth' But actually it needs to be a combination of stakeholders.

(Break) 'The CIPD podcast on talent management'.

RD: Vicky Wright, the new CIPD President talked to us about how the talent management agenda is driving organisations to look to a more diverse workforce to ensure they're equipped to achieve their objectives.

VW: There is a major demand at the top of organisations for new leaders and that is something that is taking a lot of HR professionals' time. But that's only part of the story. Talent management lower down is becoming a completely different game from the old bit of training, bit of learning, bit of management development. And that's because we actually have a much, much more diverse workforce in organisations at lower levels. Therefore, the old idea that it was easy to spot talent - you know talk about the 1970s, they were men, they were graduates, they were likely to stay in the organisation for ever - I'm finding that a lot of HR people are having to say well 'we are challenging people about the stereotype of who's going to be a manager in this organisation in the future or who're going to be our customer service people and those people aren't necessarily the people you understood.

RD: Philippa talked to Tim Richardson about what shifting demographics or 'grey power' means to PWC's talent management strategy.

PL: There's been so much coverage lately about the question of an ageing workforce – how does that marry with talent management? Can older recruits be talent?

TR: Well I hope so, as one myself ...(laughter)... having joined PWC six years ago... Very much so, the assumption we have to challenge is that we're only looking for young people coming through. But in our business we have to bring in skills where we don't have them and oft-times, that requires people who've got breadth of experience and real wisdom. So, indeed, they may be 40 , 45, 50 who knows?

RD: Philippa also met up with Sue Newhall, who was, until recently, Portfolio Manager, NHS Talent Management and with Bruce Robertson, Director of HR, ITV Production, Imagine and ITV Worldwide about talent management in their organisations. She kicked off by asking Sue whether the talent management challenges facing the NHS are any different to those facing private sector firms.

PL: How does it work in the NHS, talent management?

SN: In a very similar way. I mean, I think the refreshing thing is that the private sector and the public sector are using the same language, we're both looking at the same issues, how do we identify talent, how do we track it and develop it etc. and retain it. You know the challenges are really for us are the complexity of the organisation, erm...

PL: The size of your organisation – you're a massive employer!

SN: Yes, there's 1.3 million, I think, in the NHS, something along those lines. So, there's been no systematic approach in the NHS. And it's getting people to think differently, that what's worked in the past is not going to work in the future. So, we've created some infrastructure and processes. It's a very, very, erm.., I won't say rudimentary, but at an early start. I think we'd describe ourselves as being in the foothills of a solution rather than any way down the road. But I think the complexity is creating something that can be used corporately, but then customised at a local level so it works for all the independent organisations that actually make up the NHS.

PL: So how do you go about identifying talent, and I'm not talking bout the big household names type talent, but talent in different areas of your business?

Bruce Robertson: It's not something that I would say we have an A+ on at the moment. We are introducing a new role to ITV Productions called, well, 'Talent manager,' orginally enough, and that person's responsibility is to tap into a network of talent across the industry but also to look at high potential within ITV and groom them, and mentor them, and coach them, provide a relevant number of training. So, keeping a track of people who are in ITV but then leave ITV and so we want to make sure that once they've got a certain level of skills that we bring them back to ITV. It's kind of like a Friends Reunited internal database, if you like.

PL: It's interesting you say you're slightly formalising the talent spotting and management end of it because obviously, the flaw does lie in the fact that you might have great producers or fantastic editors, but their capacity to spot and nurture talent isn't necessarily one of their skills.

BR: It should be but it's more a time thing, I mean, because they come in for a specific production, therefore for a specific period of contract and the practical side of delivering and developing is quite difficult to fulfil during a specific contract which is why we wanted to bring in the Talent Manager.

PL: That's a really interesting point and it's quite specific to your business but I suppose it does apply to many other sectors as well – this idea that you are managing people on short contracts, huge numbers of people who only come into to do a specific project and then they're gone. How long do most people stay with you? How long are your contract lengths?

BR: Well, they can be anything from 8 weeks to 12 weeks. It's not long at all. I think the biggest challenge is really a logistical one. I mean you have 3,000 people working on short-term contracts, some of them, if it's a long running series like Coronation Street or Airlinethen it'll be for much longer. But again it's not healthy for them to stay in the one position on that program for too long because then they're not getting exposure or experience working on an entertainment show versus a factual show so what we're trying to do is to bring a bit more structure to giving them those opportunities.

PL: So you've got a real challenge on your hands in the sense that you've got great people coming in – obviously lots of people want to work for you, the best people will come to you – but you've got a very small opportunity to spot them, grab them, keep them on board, or at least bring them back.

BR: I think the key thing in this as with any talent management in any company is your culture has to be something that people want to be part of and particularly in an industry like the production industry where there's a lot of competition, we have to be the destination of choice.

RD: Adrian Moorhouse, former Olympic swimming champion and and now Managing Director of Lane4 agrees that the culture and values of an organisation are increasingly important in recruiting and retaining people.

PL: Do you see that a lot, the desires that people have around their work are changing, as you say, it's not just about paying the bills, it's about a lot more intangible things like success and fulfilment?

Adrian Moorhouse: Absolutely. I see that a lot, it's happening more and more. And it's almost like some organisations, it will come up and hit them on the back of the head, and they will not have stayed on the pace, but some organisations will evolve with it. But I think what is happening now is that some organisations are now realising that the only way to make the business perform, and sustain it, is to humanise the business, in a lot of ways. And that's where I've seen a shift. And even in twelve years, I think that right now you've got these generations of people who just want a fulfilling job for an organisation that does good work, and also has something to contribute to society, because that's a generational need. And I think that it's all connected to this evolution of being a human business.

PL: So you don't feel this much-publicised CSR commitment to the wider community and society is a PR thing, a niche thing? You feel it's something, it's a trend that really will run through businesses of all sorts and that's how they will engage their people?

AM: Absolutely, I do believe, yeah, particularly meeting the needs of people to the ... contribution to the wider community is very important, yeah. Matching the motivations, dreams and goals of an individual with the motivations, goals and dreams of an organisation – when you get those closely aligned then, I think, you've got a very motivated group of people because it's not work, it's life.

RD: That was Adrian Moorhouse. Philippa talked to Victoria Winkler about what CIPD research has revealed about talent management in UK organisations. She gave us the low down on the key questions that organisations setting out to develop a talent management strategy need to focus on.

VW: We asked people about their talent management strategies in this year's Learning and Development survey. One of the things that came out was that although 56% of organisations said they were doing something, only 38% of those actually had a formal strategy, so really knew what they were trying to achieve and how they were going to go about doing it.

PL: So for organisations that are just in the early stages of getting to grips with talent management and are trying to implement it within their own ranks, what would you say are the key considerations for them to start really thinking about?

VW: I think one of the key considerations is really sitting down and thinking 'well, what does talent mean?' For different organisations it's going to be different things: could it be the key operational roles? Could it be the key technical roles? And really trying to articulate what you are trying to achieve with your talent management strategy. Obviously how you're going to go about it, but also how you're going to measure the success of it, how will you know if what you're doing feels right, looks right, and is achieving the right objectives.

RD: There are some good pointers there for anyone setting out to develop a talent management strategy. There are plenty more resources and details of the current CIPD research into talent management available on the CIPD website. You can find out more

That's the last in this trial series of four CIPD podcasts. If you missed any they are all still available on the website. You can also sign up to receive future editions there. We've had such good feedback about the podcasts so far that we hope to make an announcement about a regular series of podcasts soon. We'd love to hear your views on subjects you feel we should cover in future podcasts, or about anything you've heard in this one. You can share your thoughts with us, by emailing us at or by 

For now though, thanks for listening, and goodbye.


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