Five Tips to Transform Talent in the Workplace

Let's talk talent. I don't mean Broadway and Hollywood talent; I mean organizational talent. The people at work who lead projects, clash with their colleagues and often give 100 percent to their organization.

I deliver keynotes to organizations in a vast variety of industries. However, despite the diversity of these organizations, their culture and their size, certain questions come up again and again. For example, I often hear:

  • How do I retain talent with limited promotional opportunities?
  • How can we attract the best and the brightest?
  • How should I keep employees engaged and producing to their fullest potential?
  • What's the best way to manage generational differences in my team?
  • How can I prepare for the impending workforce changes?

What's the common thread? Talent. If you look at all these questions, the underlying issue is talent. How to attract, recruit, hire, onboard, mentor, develop, coach and lead a team of people who fit the organizational culture and produce results for your organization. It seems like this would be a straightforward problem to solve. It's not. HR leaders and the C-Suite lose sleep over this very issue on a regular basis.

So let's look at talent. According to Merriam-Webster, talent has Greek and Latin roots, meaning a unit of weight or money. Today's common definition is a unit of value equal to the value of a talent of gold or silver.

That's interesting. If you follow this thread of thought, then your organizational talent has the value of gold or silver. It is worth its weight in gold. It is a unit of value equal to the weight of your organization.

That's worth pondering. How do you value your talent? Do you treat your talent as a precious metal that forges your organization together and creates something sustainable and beautiful? Or do you treat your talent as scrap that can be scorched and melted through intense heat?

By working with Fortune 500s and start-ups over many years, I have seen many different approaches to managing talent. Here are five best practices that create the best organizations:

  1. Treat your team with respect. No one likes to be spoken down to. What does it mean to treat them with respect? Read the next four tips.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Up, down, sideways and out, many times. The biggest organizational problem I see is that one team doesn't know what the other teams are doing. So communicate regularly and often to help teams connect the dots and prevent process redundancy. Engage across departments and across generations. For example, if you are a manufacturer and rolling out an "onboarding" process, talk to corporate, the plant managers, the executive team, the communications team and others to get their ideas, and communicate yours, before the roll-out.
  • Listen to your people. One way to do this is MBWA or Manage by Walking Around. If you run a hotel, get behind the bar and ask the bar team what they'd do if they were the general manager. If you run a retail company, go into the warehouse and ask the stockers how they'd improve the inventory flow. And when these people speak, truly listen without an agenda, ask open-ended questions, thank them for their courage and honesty and invite them to share their thoughts with you any time in the future. The art of inquiry and listening is an effective tool to develop leaders and empower employees.
  • Be strategically purposeful. If your employees are unmotivated, remember that people want their work to matter. They don't want to just create a product; they want to know that their product matters in other people's lives. So constantly connect them to the bigger vision and purpose.
  • Acknowledge. I'm not talking about a pat on the back. I mean honest, direct, specific feedback to someone about something they did. Saying something as simple as, "You stepped up to the plate in creating the graphics for that report." or "You listened to the client and created a product they wanted," will go a long way in retaining your talent.
  • Your talent is your gold and silver. Don't let it tarnish.

    As a leader, which of these five steps do you find most difficult to implement? Have you been in an organization with high turnover and been able to identify why? Please share your experiences. We'd love to hear what works best for you! Leave me a comment below, or send me a tweet.