How do you recognise talent?
Whilst we were running a performance development workshop last week, the topic of ‘Talent’ & how you recognise it came up. It took me back to when I first entered the telecommunications world. Everything revolved around sales numbers, not customer service, not margin, profit, returns or conversion. Just sales volumes. How you got them didn’t factor just as what happened when the customer was introduced to bill shock when they realised they’d purchased a plan that wasn’t right for them.
With that as the top indicator, talent was recognised as those with the best sales numbers. In a fairly aggressive market, those wanting to progress through the business were compared to & given these top sellers as mentors for aspiration & part of their development.
One afternoon I was asked by the ‘Head of Sales’ to outline the shocking performance of stores on their P&L. Curious I asked him to explain so that I could investigate. He gave me a list of stores whose total sales numbers were way off the top performers. Once we looked at the detail I took him through the Profit & Loss report in detail. Those that were classed as Top Performers were actually bottom when you looked at the bottom line. Why was that? Put simply, their sales were achieved through miss-selling, bad practice & a poor understanding of customer service. Why? Because of the pressure they were being put under to achieve these incredible numbers day in day out. All of those customers, all of those employee’s & peers that had gone through these stores had been exposed to all of these methods.
As part of my plans for the business as a team we had identified what we could be the very best at. Customers Service, Bill Pay, Conversion, Margin all were discussed by us as a team as we explored our options. Of course, it didn’t take us long to realise we could be the best of all of these. And so the process began. As we worked our way forward there were those that couldn’t adapt & of course those that wouldn’t. We stood together, worked through our bad days, celebrated our great days & never faltered from what we believed, which was no easy feat considering the people we were reporting into.
Back to the topic of talent. As a business, we were now looking at how we recognised our talent for the future. At first it was carnage. People were finding it impossible to understand that sales were dropping but margin & service levels were increasing. Those managers that were viewed as quiet & weak couldn’t possibly be viewed as top performers. I recalled the first time I heard a Regional Managers conference call. I was in the room next door yet could hear verbatim what he was saying. How? Because he was screaming at the top of his voice.
Each team or business will have their own factors in distinguishing what they view as talent. What or how you view it will be important to you & your values. My question is how do you know that your talent is living those values & delivering on them if you don’t fully understand or see them day to day? I don’t really know how you answer that, trust is a wonderful thing when you have it.
One of the key barriers we faced at the workshops on Performance Development was how are we going to find the time to visit these managers & discuss their performance? There just aren’t enough hours or days in the week & I only have 1 pair of hands. And so the question remains, how do you recognise talent?
If we were to ask most businesses if they were happy with their processes, any of them from customer data to logistics or returns, what do you think the majority would say? I would argue that many (if not all) would say they need to be reviewed & less complex. They may be out of date, set by people who have moved on & the process hasn’t caught up, or of course they could have been written by people who didn’t fully understand the business they were writing them for. I fully believe that this is the same for talent.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen & heard some incredible things, amazing creativity & collaboration from people who haven’t met before & those who haven’t seen each other for a long time. We asked the people who are the front face of organisations what & how they felt their business was performing. Let’s just say that there were lots & lots of notes taken by the Senior Team in the room.
So, when it comes to recognising your talent, I would argue that the people you are recognising should, in some capacity, feed into that process before judgements are made. If you want to introduce values then it makes sense that everyone on your team not only understands what they are but also what they mean. Above all else they need to see those values being embraced by everyone in the organisation rather than just when they’re in earshot of someone from the senior team. Of course, there are other challenges too, not forgetting the recruitment process where people tend to look for traits that they recognise & could mould into their ‘style’.
Get your teams engaged, talk to them, visit them regularly, ask for their input & above all else be consistent. Demand that everyone lives the values that you are looking for because in the end, we all want to be recognised as being a valued employee, as talent. How they get to be recognised will be down to you.