At the risk of stating the obvious, let’s admit it; we have a talent problem. Some of the best people in our industry are leaving. Young people who could join us are attracted to other sectors, or simply feel they’d be more fulfilled working for themselves.
Consequently, there has been a lot of talk about talent loss, retention and attrition. But I feel we’re not talking about what really lies at the heart of this problem – which is that people go where they believe they can do their best work. They go where they know they can perform well.
So, we should be thinking harder about what drives and limits performance.
Very simply, it comes down to how we treat people. Businesses, of course, are made up of human beings. A business problem is just a human problem in disguise. If that’s true of any business, it’s particularly true of ours.
We don’t have factories or stores. We don’t have complicated supply chains. More than any other business, ours relies on harnessing and captivating human imagination and inspiration.
This became starkly apparent recently, when all the trimmings of working life – the offices, the meeting rooms, the canteens – were stripped away. The agency came down to just people, individuals, working from wherever they could. They had never felt more vulnerable, or more valuable.
For people in our business to perform at the highest level, they need to be in an engaged and inspired state of mind. So we need to ensure the environment for that.
We need to respect and nourish the human element that allows a person to be creative. Once we do that, we elevate creativity, motivation and collaboration. The natural outcome is a stronger culture and ultimately better results.
I think there’s a lack of understanding in our industry about the right approach to talent, and a lack of analysis about what happens when everything clicks – why and how teams work well together.
This grey area is the hidden cause of almost all the struggles teams and leaders face. It’s the biggest obstacle to innovation, performance and growth.
So if our business problem is a human problem, we should be having a deeper conversation about how we can unlock the creative intelligence, resourcefulness and resilience that lies within everyone.
If we can get that right, we’ll see a remarkable improvement in team synergy, a flow of ideas and innovations, and the kind of positive environment where talent thrives – and stays.
The truth is, if we’re going to unlock the creativity that lies at the heart of everyone, then everyone needs to be part of it. We can’t just leave it to two or three people in the company. Yet many of us consider talent management to be the exclusive territory of the HR department. Compliance does not create culture.
HR have clear goals: to set, audit, control and inform how we attract, recruit, develop and retain. They do this very well. But to delegate the entire process of nurturing and protecting talent to one department is a very narrow approach.
It puts a huge responsibility on too few shoulders. We can’t expect HR to deal with pay issues, absenteeism, workplace safety and so on – and also unlock creativity in our teams.
It’s time we all ask ourselves how we can contribute to the talent imperative. We just need to start by asking ourselves – what happens when we’re at our best? What do we need in order to be in that state? What gets in the way when we’re not? We should think about every individual through that lens.
Communication is a vital part of the process, which is why we can’t leave it to HR alone. We need to take an individual perspective on talent. Talk, share, interpret, understand – not just as colleagues but as human beings.
The only way to secure the future of this business is to foster and support our greatest asset – our people. We can start by being more present, by being more involved. We always say that creativity is everyone’s prerogative, no matter what department you’re in.
So, just as we all have something to offer creatively, I believe we all have something to offer from a talent management and development perspective.
Everyone is doing talent reviews right now. It is that time of the year. And I cant help but think that it is time we changed the way start conversations. Starting not with goals, but with people.
It’s time we bridged two disparate conversations in the industry – “we need to be more creative” and “we’re losing talented people” – with one conversation: “How should we treat people in such a way that it makes them want to to make their best work only with us?”
(Harjot Singh is global chief strategy officer at McCann Worldgroup. This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)