Who carries the tune?

Firms are right to seek out the talented, but not to neglect the competent majority.

by Richard Reevesconsultancy, richard@intelligenceagency.co.uk

It is managed, nurtured, attracted and, yes, leveraged. Nothing less than a corporate war is raging over it. And small wonder: capital itself is said to 'dance' to its command. This elixir of enterprise is, of course, talent. Books, conferences and articles on the 'war for talent' and 'talent management' have proliferated in recent years. In senior HR circles the term is now used like confetti.

Much of this stuff is a new skin for some very old wine, with the core message being essentially as follows: It is Usually a Good Idea to Hire and Hold Onto People who are Good at their Jobs. (Of course, The War for Talent and Funky Business - Talent Makes Capital Dance are probably better book titles.) A small proportion of the outpouring is helpful, alerting companies to the fact that younger, highly skilled employees have much shallower roots than their elders and that basing a psychological contract on a pension is unlikely to be effective.

But the tireless focus on talent has come with a cost, too. Many companies are now realising that in their pursuit of creative geniuses they have neglected the massed ranks of the competent.

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