Why Everyone Can’t Be Talented And How Some Organisations Deal With The Opportunity

Given a standard distribution curve, the amount of really talented managers in business is going to be relatively small. The bulge of managers  will be around the middle, classified as average. If that point is then scaled up to the business level, and we assume that talent equals upper quartile/decile performance, it follows that most businesses can only expect to perform at the average level. Suddenly clarity emerges as to why most organisations do indeed only perform at the average level, the quality of their management allowing for nothing else. More interestingly, what follows is why some companies consistently out perform their peers; they have altered the distribution of talent across the curve in their favour.

Before looking at how they achieve this we need to nail a modern business canard, one that states that Talent Management can be applied to everybody in an organisation. We are all talented, is like saying we are all special, an excellent premise if we are motivating a group of 5 year olds, or in group therapy, but nonsense when applied in any objective, robust way to a large number of people who just happen to work in the same business.

Talent is rare, but the businesses that do well over time have more talented people in them through better recruitment, retention and development. They outperform the average because they have more above average people working for them. These organisations invest in their talented (high performing) people dis-proportionally i.e. they devote more money (time, training, development) to this group, per person than other groups. How do they do this without simply throwing money around or creating a cohort of arrogant, high maintenance, unfireable mavericks? By applying these resources within an organisational context that creates (aspirational) meaning and purpose for everyone in the organisation. With an effective Vision, real Values and meaningful Goals the organisation gives people something to buy-into, the talented people become role models and exemplars of this purpose, so pulling everyone with them, so raising the ‘average’ threshold.

The opportunity is obvious. Because talent is in limited supply, if you can obtain more of it than standard distribution would imply, you will outperform your competitors.