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By JAMES COAKES Published 30th Dec 2014
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The concept of talent as it applies to the business world isn't a new one and, equally so, talent management is an idea that's been around for decades. Essentially, talent is about people, and talent management is about managing people. Talent and talent management are important concepts simply because an organisation's success or failure hinges in part on its employees, and these ideas are at the forefront right now because of the massive changes that Millennials are bringing to the nation's workplaces.

Talent and talent management

Talent is about people, but more than that, it's about exceptional people; the ones who have exceptional knowledge and are highly-skilled in a particular area. Talent describes the people who make a significant contribution to an organisation, either directly through what they achieve everyday, or in the long-term, by demonstrating that they have the potential to make such a contribution.

Talent management, therefore, is all about identifying and attracting talented individuals, developing their skills, and determining how best to use them in an organisation. Obviously, it's not enough to attract talented employees: without a defined management strategy in place to nurture, develop, and use an individual's particular skills, those talented employees may very well look elsewhere for a company that can offer them more.

New generation talent

The retirement of the baby-boomer generation and the influx of new Millennials is changing a lot of things in the workplace, and one of those things is talent management. Concepts like work-life balance and work flexibility are important to this generation, and they expect their employers to be as flexible as they are. To capture the top graduates of the new generation, talent management strategies need to take this into account and the simple necessity of learning how to manage the new generation of talent is bringing the concept of talent management into sharp focus.

Talent management extended to all employees

The concept of talent as applied to employees has traditionally been limited to those workers who are particularly skilled, but there's a case to be made for treating all employees in a similarly individual fashion.

According to a 2013 survey from Benchmark Recruitment, most people who quit their jobs do so because they're unhappy at work for reasons that don't relate to how much money they're getting. Of the survey's 3,000 respondents, just 13% left their jobs for financial reasons. People quit when they feel unappreciated, when they feel unmotivated, when they perceive a lack of opportunity for training and advancement, and when they feel like their skills and talents aren't being put to good use. That holds true for workers at every level and that's a good case for extending the principles of talent management to all an organisation's employees, rather than those few who are particularly skilled or are in high-level jobs.

Organisations can benefit in a variety of ways from creating a workplace environment that treats all employees as individuals, with individual development plans that nurture their strengths and allow them opportunities to train and learn new skills. Employees are happier and more motivated, more highly engaged, and less likely to leave their jobs, all of which translates into higher worker efficiency and greater employee retention, and ultimately, a more cost-effective workplace.

The concept of talent and talent management is not without its critics. The criticism seems to revolve around the semantics of the word 'talent'. Talent should be something unique, or at least special, that makes a person stand out. If everyone is treated as being talented then the word becomes meaningless. It has also become something of a buzzword and many feel that gives it something of a 'red light' status. Ironically when people start talking about talent in general terms, rather than in the specific terms of talking about someone with a genuine talent, it may be an indication that they don't really know what they are talking about.

Is talent just a current buzzword, or is it here to stay because it appeals to the values of a new generation; the X Factor for the Millennials; Generation Y?

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