An article authored by Sadun et al in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review lists talent management as one of four broad dimensions for good management practice, or “operational excellence”.

Operations management, performance monitoring, and target setting are the other three dimensions which, all practiced together, can lead to operational excellence and, indeed, to sustained competitive advantage.

Sadun et al state: “It’s not exhaustive, but companies that manage these fundamentals [the four broad dimensions] well tend to have high levels of overall operational excellence.”

“Firms with strong managerial processes perform significantly better on high-level metrics such as productivity, profitability, growth, and longevity.”

The authors’ findings, established in conjunction with the London School of Economics, are based on 15 years of research, with over 12,000 organisations, in 34 countries.

These results corroborate RiverRhee’s own empirical observations since we began our off-site and in-house training, workshops, and one-to-one coaching with clients in the Life Sciences and in Information and Library Management.

Elisabeth Goodman, Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee says: “An organisation that invests in the learning and development of its staff will gain return on investment through greater motivation, engagement and resultant productivity.”

“As a judge for the Employee Experience Awards, I would be looking for evidence of this investment, and of the impact it is having on employees and on the organisation’s resultant productivity.”

Learning is a strong motivator and aids employee retention

We know, from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and from Dan Pink’s writing and videos on motivation, that “self-actualisation”, and “mastery” are amongst the key motivators for individuals.

People who are motivated by learning will take every opportunity, and find whatever time is needed to do so. If learning opportunities are not available, they will feel frustrated, de-motivated, and eventually look elsewhere to find it.

When employee start looking elsewhere, HR staff find themselves spending more time on recruitment to address staff turnover rather than organisational growth.

CEOs and senior managers have an important role in creating a culture for learning and development

Learning and development are not necessarily a priority for CEOs and senior managers.

Business schools teach that good strategic planning, as opposed to good management practice, is what will lead to competitive advantage, and a CEO’s focus is likely to be on other concerns than operational management during lean times and times of rapid growth.

However, CEOs and other senior managers have an important role in creating the organisational culture for all four of Sadun et al’s dimensions, talent management included.

CEOs and senior managers need to:

  1. Demonstrate commitment from the top: with a clear vision, visibility and role modelling behaviours (i.e. all key approaches for managing change)
  2. Ensure the availability of the required skills to foster and support all four broad dimensions of operational excellence. So HR Learning and Development staff and programmes will be part of this
  3. Enable and perpetuate a shift in mentality at all levels to adopt these management practices as a way of working

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