Questions from the ASK Ideas Exchange, March 2013

At our recent Ideas Exchange event at The Gallery Soho, we invited those attending to write their questions on a giant blackboard as triggers for discussion. We’ve taken a few moments since then to offer suggested brief answers to three of these questions, and you’ll find our ‘starters for ten’ below – but we’d very much welcome the contributions, thoughts and suggestions of others: simply use the Leave a Reply box at the bottom of this posting to share your thoughts with us.

We’ll be posting ‘answers’ to other questions raised on the day shortly – follow us on Twitter for announcements, or subscribe to our blog to be notified of new posts by email. (And if you’d like to be notified of future events, please contact us.)

Q Boardroom scandals, backlash against large profit, high uni debts, how do we make business attractive to talent again?

A Individual responses may be influenced either by headlines – which set a mood – or by the detail press and media coverage – which may be more informative. While the unearthing of a seemingly endless stream of wrong-doing or amoral behaviour creates headlines that speak of decadence and gloom, it is easy to forget that the headlines are being generated as these issues are being highlighted – and, in many cases, tackled – rather than ignored. The first imperative for business is to be seen not just to house all the chickens that are coming back to roost, but to tackle the issues that have flown in with them.

Regardless of the socio-economic climate, any business needs to be keenly aware of the factors that attract and motivate – or repel – the talents they wish to both acquire and retain. The key skills here are to ask the right questions and to actively listen to the answers that they receive: many organisations’ assumptions about the factors that motivate and retain employees are only loose matches to their employees’ responses.

Effective talent strategies do not operate in a void – the climate of the times will always influence human behaviour and outlooks – but a clear set of values and a visible and defined working culture will help potential candidates to more accurately assess potential employers and encourage a better ‘initial fit’ during selection processes. But organisations must also authentically live this culture and demonstrate these values to ensure talents are retained. An engaged and committed employee may be motivated to stay with an employer they trust and value when their general view of business is more jaundiced, but allowing employees to too readily become sceptical about the organisation will tend to have a less happy outcome.

What approaches have you taken to ensure that your organisation remains attractive to talent?

Q How to build a coaching culture – top 5 tips

A Coaching is seen as an essential tool for driving organisational performance. In 2011, the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) found that 80% of organisations they surveyed had used or were using coaching, with a further 9% likely to use coaching in the next three years. Those surveyed believed that seismic shifts in their organisations’ performance would be possible if coaching were to be ingrained in their culture.

We believe that creating a coaching culture requires a new approach to change. What are our top 5 tips?

  1. Link the development of a coaching culture to your core business strategy
  2. “Seed” your organisation with leaders and managers who can role-model coaching approaches
  3. Develop a selected community of appropriate external coaches and build an internal coaching capability
  4. Coach senior leadership teams in creating culture change
  5. Build coaching into all HR processes and metrics, including performance measurement.

Organisations wishing to create a coaching culture should ensure that coaching is supported at the very top of an organisation but not limited only to senior executives or those in a talent pool. Investing in coaching for the sake of it will never create a coaching culture unless it’s clearly linked to the business strategy and there are regular reviews of where the organisation is on the coaching culture journey.

What other tips do you have?

Q What criteria defines talent in an organisation?

A Talent is an abstract concept. A good starting point may be that all people in an organisation are talented: some at what they do now, some at a future point of potential. In order to attract, identify, develop, deploy and retain key individuals, you need to define what you mean by talent in line with your organisation’s strategy. What does the future of the business look like? And what are the required capabilities of the key people you need to deliver the business’s strategy? And by key people, who do you mean? Only Senior Executives or people at all levels? Or perhaps only those in specific ‘mission critical’ roles?

Ask yourself the question: “What diverse skills, knowledge, experience and attitudes are required for our organisation to deliver its strategy in (say) 3 years’ time?

Your organisation’s answer will be specific to its context and its vision of its own future: a generic answer isn’t likely to produce the best strategy. While there are many well-known indicators of potential – for example, attitude, values, breadth and depth of experience, behaviour, learning agility, emotional intelligence and resilience – your answer needs to be precise and specific rather than abstract and universal. Engage employees and key stakeholder to define what ‘talent’ means for your organisation (and there may be multiple answers) and be clear on this before designing any identification tools or processes.

How is ‘talent’ defined in your organisation and why?

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