Now that football season is in full swing, expect to hear the word “talent” often, especially in regards to stocking teams with the strongest, fastest and smartest individual players, who will most likely compete for the Lombardi Trophy next winter in Arizona.

While they may be focusing on individual talent on the gridiron, the corporate world is a bit different. As a recent blog post at The Harvard Business Review put it, for many businesses talent management and optimization is the bigger issue.

“Labor economists have long known that over time major competitors will have hired roughly the same raw talent,” writes Wayne Brockbank, the post’s author. “The critical issue is not the individual talent you have; the competitive advantage resides in what you do with the talent once you have it.”

In other words, simply recruiting and hiring the best and the brightest should be a given if you want to be competitive, but making sure to foster employee engagement and job satisfaction can be the more challenging task, one that requires a companywide commitment and a culture that gives people the resources and motivation they need to flourish.

It starts at the top

In their book Optimizing Talent: What Every Leader and Manager Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce, authors Paul Eccher and Linda Sharkey surveyed over half of the Fortune 1000 companies to identify the most effective ways to optimize talent. One of the key elements they uncovered was the importance of leadership.

What senior leaders do and say not only sets the tone of an organization, it also establishes priorities and impacts where resources flow. If talent management is, in fact, something that matters to a company—and it should—then the top echelon of executives need to be vocal and engaged in making talent management work.

A culture of improvement

A huge part of talent management comes down to providing resources for employees to learn and hone their abilities. Sometimes that means development of internal skills, while other times it can mean providing the flexibility and resources someone needs to obtain a degree or certification at a local school. Making these opportunities available to employees also makes it clear that their success and satisfaction matters to the company.

Let employees find their place

Another hallmark of a culture that puts a premium on optimizing its workforce is the freedom to change roles and positions within the company. Think about it: We are all happiest and most productive when we have work that provides purpose and stimulation. Who knows which jobs at a company can provide those essential elements better than the employees themselves? Encouraging internal mobility by communicating new job opportunities and facilitating networking among employees and across departments allows people to chart their own course.

We all know the importance of hiring great people. But don’t be lulled into thinking that a great roster of talent is enough by itself. Make sure your company has the commitment and culture required to help all of your employees reach their potential.

11 September 2014

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