The Importance of ‘Talent’ in an organization
After coming to a B-school and after surviving a sinusoidal week of Summer Placement Interviews last year, my definition of ‘talent’ has surely broadened. While earlier it only meant something that a person was good at, now I have come to realize that it means the person herself/himself as well! So much for the wonderful nuances of the English language! But does calling the employees of a company its talent, necessarily attribute that much importance to them? Well – it is both a yes and a no, and that is something that I seek to explore in this article.
My understanding is that people in an organization are called ‘talent’ because it is through their commitment and hard work that the company’s P&L gets affected in a positive manner. Even with the advent and progress of technology in today’s world, the human element could not be completely obliterated from the corporate or professional scene. Companies still need to recruit, manage, and most importantly, pay their employees to get things done, and this does not seem to be changing any time soon. But the focus on and/or the importance of this talent varies as per the organization type. Organizational Behaviour courses have helped me broadly bucket organizations as follows :
Process-centric organizations – Such companies have their core competencies based on the processes that are in place there. The work that happens there follows a set pattern and any change to this is hard to come by. Manufacturing organizations fall under the ambit of process-centric corporations. The output that is expected is almost quantifiable and all processes are geared towards achieving that. The knowledge, information, and/or data required to run these processes are properly documented and can be easily internalized by any individual once she/he goes through certain paperwork and takes instructions from those already familiar with it. Here, the human element is easily substitutable – in the sense, one person can comfortably replace another and the company will not go through any major turbulence. The importance of experience is limited and does not influence efficiency of operation too much. For example, a skilled lathe machine operator having a decade of experience will not be able to get output that is far greater than the person who just joined a month back, except for maybe giving the assurance that she/he would be less accident-prone on the shop floor. The important point of consideration would be that if an employee leaves such an organization, it would not affect the organization that much and she/he would definitely not be taking away clients with her/him.
People-centric organizations – On the other end of the spectrum, are such organizations for who its people are of prime importance. It does not mean that they do not have processes in place – but it is just that these processes have a major human element attached to them. A suitable example for this would be any consultancy firm. Here, the output is not at all quantifiable and solely depends on the level of satisfaction of the clients. Newcomers who join such organizations can undergo extended periods of training, but at the end of the day they must realize that every case that they are going to deal with would be different from the other and that there would not be one standardized method of approach and solution. The success that such organizations see are contingent upon the competencies of their employees and experience definitely counts a lot. The way to handle business problems cannot be codified or documented so that it is available for everyone’s perusal. The only method of knowledge or information transfer happens from one individual to another either through words or actions, since most of it is implicit. The risk in such organizations is that if an employee leaves, she/he may take away some clients with them because of the rapport that they have been able to build and the understanding of the clients’ problem that they have developed. Organizations can also lose a lot of critical information through the outgoing employee. Hence, a lot of focus is placed on employees of such companies so that their stickiness to the organization remains for as long as possible.
Though I have mentioned two kinds of organizations here, it does not mean that the classifications is exhaustive. In fact, most companies lie somewhere in between and they focus differently on their employees. The point to focus on is that human resources will always be a critical component of any organization’s success story. Hence, it is no wonder why the CEO’s takes home such an enormous compensation and most autobiographies come from people running successful organizations or enterprises. But going forward, the real debate is whether man will be able to come up with something that will eventually replace him from the professional scenario.