By Pia Wilkes, Director at Talisman Executive

As the economic climate continues to bite many businesses can view the cost of training and employee skills development activity as an overhead which is prime for being cut from this year’s budget.

But Pia Wilkes, Director of executive search consultancy Talisman Executive, argues that the net result for businesses could be an exodus of talent at a time when businesses need to keep their best players motivated and committed to their employer.

“Employees are aware that businesses are operating in a tough environment and, as such, their expectations in terms of pay rises and bonuses are more grounded than they may have been in the past. However, companies cannot expect to trade purely on goodwill indefinitely, especially if they hope to retain their valuable senior level employees.

“Overall I believe that employees and employers gain the most when they use training as a vehicle for motivating employees. That’s not to say it should be open season on training generally — for the businesses I work with now as a head-hunter I recommend they put a talent management programme in place to support the ‘A List’ executives which we have helped them bring into their business, rather than implementing a general training scheme for all.

"We want to make sure experienced operators stay motivated and develop their career for the long term, and in tough times businesses need to support the major players over other employees who don’t make the same level of commercial impact to the organisation.”

So what is ‘talent management’ and how does it help a company’s bottom line?

Talent management is about keeping your most skilled and experienced, or those with the most potential retained within your business, with a clear career path mapped out across the medium to long term. Talent management programmes highlight the training required to plug the skills, experience and knowledge gaps which otherwise will hold back an individual’s career progression. For some, talent management may sound like an over complicated version of training, but Pia Wilkes argues that this approach ensures companies are being smarter at choosing where and who to invest in for the future.

“Talent management activity provides a business case for investing in a person, keeps the employee committed to the organisation as they can see the long term picture and the company also benefits immediately from enhanced skills available from people within their organisation," Pia explains.

"Talent management programmes are particularly effective when businesses are looking to identify employees for future leadership positions and succession planning. Many executives bring huge technical capability and industry knowledge to the table, but may have never had any formal skills development in relation to management and leadership so skills development in this area is in high demand.

"Whilst the multi-nationals and plcs often have a HR team at their disposal to put a structured internal leadership programme in place to develop their leaders of tomorrow, smaller businesses can still keep their high-flying executives motivated and committed to the organisation through use of mentoring, coaching and selective use of outsourced training.

“Talent management is even more critical for smaller organisations and smart CEO’s, MD’s and Chairmen have recognised that a skilled executive can single-handedly make a greater contribution to a company’s commercial performance. Whilst not having the same resources that you might find within the large corporates, smaller players benefit from closer links between the shop floor and the board, enabling them to address any training needs and see the benefit on the bottom line within a short timeframe.

“Whilst it’s a smart way to keep employees engaged, talent management is not a magic bullet, and it doesn’t guarantee that good employees will stay within the business forever. Some degree of employee churn is part of business life and it’s also healthy for an organisation to have an injection of fresh talent who can put new perspective, energy and ideas onto the table. But when businesses do bring in new people they of course want to ensure they retain the skills which have been brought in. I have a recommendation for this, why not consider a talent management programme?...”

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