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DR MAGGI EVANS, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant and Coach, Mosaic Consulting

Have you ever noticed how many of the metaphors of talent are linked to water? We’ve had talent pools, talent pipelines, talent flow, talent leakage, talent waves… and I’d like to now add another, the talent puddle.

I was recently having a conversation with an HR Director in a global tech business. She was bemoaning the limited supply of talent in her business, saying that it was always the same five names that were discussed as the people in the business with potential. Her reflection was, ‘we don’t have a talent pool, we have a talent puddle!’

It seems that lots of businesses are suffering in the same way – CEOs and HR Directors continue to be concerned that lack of future talent will limit business growth and success. So, if you find that you have a puddle instead of a pool, what can you do about it? Here are four actions to get you started:

  1. Focus on the strategically important talent that is hard to find.  It’s important to spend time thinking about the talent that you actually need in your business in both the short and the long term. What are your future plans? What are the strategically most important skills, knowledge and experiences that you need to deliver these plans? Which of these are likely to be difficult to find? Make these the focus of your talent strategy. For example, if you need lots of people with a hard-to-find technology background, focus on this, rather than investing time on building talent in easy to find areas.
  2. Look for root causes for the puddle. If you have a talent puddle, try to understand why that might be – you can then concentrate your efforts on solving the cause of the problem to reduce the chances of it continuing. Some organisations struggle to attract people, whereas others are great at attracting and developing them, but are poor at keeping hold of them – the talent leakage problem. You may need to do some simple research to understand what the talented people you want are looking for. How good are you at providing this? What can you do better? How can you communicate this to potential recruits?
  3. Identify the hidden gems. Most organisations have more existing talent than they realise.  People who are ambitious, motivated, knowledgeable, committed…but for some reason have not been noticed. They may be passed over because they don’t have a strong manager or leader to advocate for them. Equally, they may not understand how to promote themselves, feeling that the way to get on is to keep their head down, keep delivering and someone will notice them. These people need help to shine. You can address this by educating your managers on how to recognise, nurture and liberate talent and also by educating everyone in the business on how to proactively manage their own career. With these in place, formal processes are likely to be more successful at identifying talent that may otherwise be under the radar.
  4. Broaden your talent ‘eco-system’. Lots of businesses still think in traditional terms when it comes to talent. The approach is often limited by focusing on recruitment of full-time, permanent employees – a ‘buy or build’ strategy. However, this is only one approach and according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends,  there are four other sources of talent for organisations to consider: partnership or exchange with other companies; use of freelancers; crowdsourcing of activities; and ‘co-opetition’, or collaboration with the competition for mutual benefit. Tapping into these ‘borrow’ talent sources can build your organisational agility and increase your access to talented people with the skills and experience that you need.

Next time you’re sitting in a talent review and you’re worried that lack of talent is impacting on your business, try these actions. There is no need for a talent puddle – but you may need to be smarter about how you define and build your talent pool.


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Maggi is an experienced consultant and coach with international experience across a wide range of sectors including professional services, financial services, retail and FMCG.  She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and combines research and practice to develop practical solutions to drive business improvement.

Maggi has been a consultant for over 20 years, specialising in talent strategy and talent development.  She has a reputation as an insightful consultant, helping clients to reduce the ‘noise’ around an issue so they can focus and act on key issues which will make a difference.  Maggi is on a mission to help organisations, leaders and individuals to liberate talent.  Her first book ‘From Talent Management to Talent Liberation’ has recently been published.



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