How the Best Organizations Manage Talent

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Roger Draper at McKinsey Classics: A decade ago, a McKinsey study of R&D laboratories found that many of them didn’t really know if their productivity was good, bad, or indifferent, mainly because researchers tend to overrate themselves—70 percent claimed that their labs were at least in the top quarter for productivity. Don’t work in one? Substitute “organization” for lab and “executive” or “employee” for researcher. Such illusions can develop anywhere, and the path to improvement is essentially the same.

The best labs, our study discovered, know how to manage talent. That may not mean hiring the best—not every organization can—but rather managing researchers effectively through selection, recruitment, development, and rewards. Average labs, for instance, typically hire people with specific technical proficiencies. Top ones want curious scientists who can adapt to new roles. Top labs reward the work of high performers (particularly by giving them better assignments) and explicitly link financial rewards to performance. Many weak labs simply move underperformers to other facilities. The best try to help people improve and encourage those who don’t to move on, which can make room for new researchers and therefore help build diverse, high-performing teams. So does encouraging rotation to other research areas and geographies.

Of the practices that influence an organization’s productivity, talent management is often the one most in need of improvement. Read “How the best labs manage talent” (2011).


DESPARDES.COM asked some for their take on the subject: “In your opinion, how does your organization or the best organizations manage talent”. Here’s a set of responses we selected for good read:

“By giving ownership to the employees in terms Policy and Financial resources” -Amb. Gholam R. Baloch presently teaching at an institute in Karachi

Dr. Masud Isa (of Bangladeshi descent), Board Member Grameen Australia and Faculty Member at School of Business and Law, Melbourne who held positions of Managing Director and CEO GRAMEEN KNITWEAR LTD; Managing Director and CEO Grameen Telecom; Chief of Monitoring, Evaluation & Planning Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, says “Some of the polices that I tried to implement are as follows and these worked:

  1. Provide them discretion in taking decisions.
  2. Give them clear goals to achieve.
  3. Appreciate their achievements or good work.
  4. Make them accountable for their actions.
  5. Don’t humiliate them in front of subordinates.
  6. Make the workplace enjoyable and not stressful.
  7. Often show your confidence in them.
  8. Carefully listen to their problems and resolve them faster.
  9. Reward them for good works. The rewards could be financial and non-financial.
  10. Organize events where the employees’ bond is strengthened in a team spirit.
  11. Show concerns for the well-being of their families. It reassures them that they are in the safe hands and in a right job.
  12. The employees need to clearly understand the reasons for appreciation and punishment.
  13. Equity and fairness in the workplace need to be ensured, and everyone needs to be aware of it.
  14. Saying the above, the leaderships at various organizational hierarchies should consciously cultivate a culture of which the employees feel comfortable and proud. Whether an organization is big or small, if the employees feel at home and are rewarded for their efforts and contributions, they are expected to be loyal -and mostly will be.
  15. A harsh and abusive management is different from an organized, disciplined and task-oriented enterprises where transparency, fairness and justice are the guiding principles underpinning overall culture where everyone feels vindicated for their contributions.

“Hire right, empower them, motivate them, challenge them, reward them fairly. Create a culture based on values that support them” – A former CEO of a Pakistani automobile organization (both for a profit-org and for a State-owned enterprise)

“Encourages adventurous initiatives, tolerates failures, and celebrates success” – A British author & analyst (of Bangladesh origin) on teaching assignment in Malaysia

“To say in a nutshell, through merit-based appointments and unbiased decision-making” – Khalid Masood, a professional, consultant and trainer based in Islamabad

“My organization does not manage talents, it destroys it” – A LUMS graduate working for the Pakistani national airline

“An organization is like an empty swimming pool. Financial resources is its step ladder. Human resources, which include the org.’s talent, is the water which adds utility, functionalism to the pool -the talented one’s create waves, do all the splash with their laps and at times play water polo for attention -with their ideas, creativity, etc.

A reward and punishment regime is the colorful ladder which makes the pool a social-value-added system inside and out. Combining all these makes an org. a sub-culture that keeps an org. organic and a sustainable entity -hiccups notwithstanding” – Irshad Salim, a former business & engg. consultant/technical advisor -presently based in Karachi

“Talent is of interest to the organization if they are in line with its goals &n objectives. A talented employee or worker shines in the lot and is spotted. He is assigned more responsibilities and rewarded with pay raises and perks. The commitment comes with the decision-making authority, which the individual enjoys and the organization benefits in terms of improvement in operations and overall achievement of its objectives. So the original question was how the talent is managed? It’s simple to assign a talented worker to an organization’s objective process and encourage that talent by rewards, including the autonomy of decision-making. It’s a win-win situation” – Jawed Ahmed, a former CEO of a Pakistani electro-mechanical business organization

“Enhance skills: Attitude, Behavior, Knowledge & Skills; Enlarge job; Assign special projects; Attachment with a senior position holder, Mentor, Coach; sending the talented to new global location; Establish KRAs (Key Result Areas); assess competencies against proper leadership and managerial Model; hold quarterly Feedback Sessions; ask to present a business case for real challenge” – Ashraf Ghani, a Pakistani consultant, trainer based in Islamabad

“It exploits it by threatening redundancy” – A professional, analyst, working for a Pakistani Think Tank

“Difficult to answer” – Zahid Latif, CEO of a construction & recruitment firm and based in Lahore, Riyadh