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4 Talent Management Myths Debunked

Hands up if you like to see myths debunked? I do. I love to see accepted wisdom turned on its head. I love the idea that ‘everything you know or thought was right is wrong’. I especially love it when the myths are so BIG that it’s a pleasure to pass them on. So here are 4 big talent management myths that have been exposed:

That an all star system is better than a star system

“The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it’s the other way round” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in a seminal article in the New Yorker in 2002  Here he recounts a project at McKinsey in the late 1990s to single out and reward stars, based on the philosophy that talent is what ultimately determines success and failure in the corporate world. One company in particular, Enron, was singled out: “The broader failing of McKinsey and its acolytes at Enron is their assumption that an organization’s intelligence is simply a function of the intelligence of its employees. They believe in stars, because they don’t believe in systems. In a way, that’s understandable, because our lives are so obviously enriched by individual brilliance…But companies work by different rules. They don’t just create; they execute and compete and coordinate the efforts of many different people, and the organizations that are most successful at that task are the ones where the system is the star.”

That high performers can port their performance into new settings

Boris Groysberg’s new book, Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance describes analysis of the careers of over 1,000 star analysts at 78 Wall Street  investment banks, and 20,000 non-star analysts at 400 investment banks. His startling finding: star analysts who change firms suffer an immediate and lasting decline in performance. It seems that the real star is the system:  previous excellence appears to depend heavily on former firms’ general and proprietary resources, culture, network, and colleagues. Thus, performance may be more firm-specific than previously thought. The exceptions: stars who come with a lot of baggage (i.e. entire teams) fair better, as do women.

That higher pay equals higher performance

According to research collected by Ashridge it is a common misconception that talent is motivated first by financial rewards. The consensus is that people who undertake jobs/tasks that are routine, manual, repetitive or temporary are more receptive (performance wise) to pay incentives; but people who undertake complex and creative (knowledge economy) jobs fail more (and pose more risk) when there is a financial incentive. Better performance drivers here are nonmonetary stimulants including praise from and access to seniors, attention, decision making power, and leadership opportunities. Only group rewards that nurture collaboration apply in knowledge economy jobs. It is also suggested that companies with the biggest gulf between executive salaries fair worse in terms of shareholder value.

That the smartest individuals make the smartest teams

Here the latest research suggests little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members: unless the group includes more women.

Of course, in the ‘war for talent’, we still believe the fairytale opposite, and will continue to do so for some time. There are too many vested interest consultancies and recruitment agencies out there peddling money making falsehoods and scaring you with the same silly but human nature push-the-fear-button tactics as those war hungry politicians that use the same kind of inflammatory language. No doubt too there are too many in HR unaware of Gladwell, let alone Groysberg. At the same time, what do academics know? We’re in business. The real world. The boardroom faces very different realities than the staff room.

But then, if your business believes this stuff, how much time effort and money is it throwing away? And what about intellectual integrity, or the opportunity here of saying, hold on, this is wrong, the facts prove it, let’s do things differently. Perhaps the myth of your personal brand deserves it, or will that be debunked too someday?

PS Anymore talent management myths you know, please share them!

Original on the HubCap blog: http://tiny.cc/wop8w

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