Talent Management

by Rachel Brushfield

The company’s view of talent

One of your basic duties as a manager is to make sure that you understand the company’s attitude to talent:

  • Whom do they regard as talent?
  • Whom do they hope to attract and retain?
  • What plans do they have for managing talent?
  • With whom should you be liaising with regard to talent within your team?
  • What is expected of you with regard to talent?
  • How are they going to evaluate you on measuring talent’s performance?
  • What training are they going to give you to help you manage talent?
  • Is the business vision defined concerning which talent will be recruited and developed?
Talent criteria

Different companies define talent criteria differently. Larger and more sophisticated companies tend to have clearly-defined criteria against which they recruit, appraise and develop talent. These measures can be tracked using software that can get extremely sophisticated in large multinational companies. The criteria are a combination of behavioural and technical attributes and may be developed by Human Resources and/or an external specialist consultancy.

What is important is that the criteria are informed, objective and unbiased, not subjective and down to one individual’s point of view. Avoidance of favouritism and politics is crucial in successful talent management.

Influencing the Board about talent

On the one hand, the Board needs talent, but on the other, members can feel threatened by it. Each of us has a natural bias because of our different beliefs and values, you included. We tend to like people who are like us and often recruit on this basis, which creates a narrow talent pool, lacking diversity. This is dangerous at any level of an organisation, whether it’s the Board or line managers.

When involved in discussions about talent with the Board:

  • Be objective – try not to be subjective about talent you would like to keep or attract
  • Be strategic – think about the wide and long-term impact of moving talent around in the company; don’t just hoard talent in your team or department
  • Be clear about the competencies your team or department need to be successful
  • Know the talent strategy – speak with Human Resources if necessary
  • Think ahead, exploring future scenarios if talent were to be moved from your team
  • Be armed with facts about the talent pool for your specialism, both internally and externally
  • Be creative in resourcing talent – for example, lateral hires from other sectors or from other countries
  • Be flexible – for example, support sabbaticals of talent to your team or department
  • Stand your ground, challenging any decisions you don’t agree with when talent is defined – be prepared to negotiate effectively (if you need to hone your negotiating skills, see the topic on Negotiation).

Ensure that you are clear about the company’s future vision and business objectives, as any conversations about talent need to be in this context, not the past.


Push for further clarity about the company’s direction. Many companies haven’t defined their business vision, but this must be done if everyone is to be clear about what talent to recruit and develop. Help the Board to pinpoint a definitive business vision, for everyone’s benefit.

Be aware that a single decision defining an employee as talent or not can have a huge impact on their future success, so take the discussions and responsibility seriously.

Encourage the Board to create initiatives – such as flexible working, Corporate Social Responsibility Policies or well-being initiatives – that will help you to attract the talent you need.


The responsibility for talent is different in different companies. In some companies it is the CEO and Board, in others Human Resources, in others line management and in others a combination. Find out how your company sets responsibility for talent management and your specific role within that framework.

Your role in sourcing talent

If you are experiencing problems with attracting the talent you need to do your job well and deliver objectives, start looking beyond the obvious. Consider restructuring your department, changing roles, creating new roles or introducing flexible working, as all of these things could help you to attract the talent you need to be successful.

Networking at conferences, events and training courses to source talent will help you to stay ahead of the game.

If one doesn’t already exist, set up a database of target talent and keep in touch with them. This is especially wise if there is a shortage of talent.

Keep in touch with talent who have moved on. They may want to re-join the company in future. In addition, their knowledge of the company culture means that they could be a useful source of suitable recruits, saving you time and the company money.