Talent mastery hits the headlines again
Elitism may not sit comfortably in political agendas in Europe. Despite fragility still in some companies and countries, the signs are that world class companies are once again prioritising their pursuit of gold star talent.

It was the Greek philosopher Plato who divided men into bronze, silver and gold, the latter with the wisdom and education to rule. Today companies go further still, some describing the potential of their strongest employees as deep gold, or pale gold and nurturing their elite with utmost care. Many accelerate the development of their chosen few with stretching assignments, such as operations in another country and managing a product globally.

‘Once again we are approaching high times in the War for Talent,’ headlined Guy Vereecke, AHEAD’s Managing Partner in De Tijd
recently. In evidence, AHEAD statistics show a 10% increase in new assignment leads over the previous year and a jump in new business from 25% to 44%. ‘The war for talent may not yet rage as vehemently as years ago’, he adds ‘but the quest for the vital few1 is front of mind again as premier league firms ramp up their recruitment efforts here and internationally. Winning companies are those with strong employer brands who have managed to retain and nurture their gold star performers despite economic turmoil. Today many, including consulting firms, are actively reinforcing their leadership cadre.’ 2

Among the most admired and well equipped talent factories are GE and Procter and Gamble who are openly proud of their relentless pursuit of hiring and developing the best, usually training enough for themselves and others. Instrumental in building GE’s reserves of gold talent over four decades, Bill Conaty provides a timely explanation of why ‘smart leaders put people before numbers’ in a much heralded new book called ‘The Talent Masters’3.

‘Talent management is about people, not jobs,’ explained his co-author Ram Charan, keynote speaker at the recent CIPD conference in Manchester. ‘Your job is to build a talent pipeline, keep ahead of social trends and debate in private with the organisations’ leaders about the direction for the company and how to achieve that.’ He maintains that people development professionals need to become the trustees of talent within organisations and develop people’s God given talents rather than trying to improve their negatives. Plato would surely approve…

1. De Tijd, January 12, 2011
2. a term coined by Italian economist Vifredo Pareto, who claimed that ‘the vital few’ account for most progress
3. ‘The Talent Masters: Why smart leaders put people before numbers’ by Ram Charan and Bill Conaty, Random House
Business, Jan 2011

AHEAD is a leading search firm specialising in high achievers. Headquartered in Brussels, we were formerly YESS International Brussels, created in 1990 by Egon Zehnder International.  Today AHEAD forms part of the extensive network covering Europe and beyond.
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