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I’m on a mission to rid the world of elite ‘talent pools’ because everyone is talented in one way or growing your talentanother. It’s your job to make sure your leaders and managers employ people whose talents fit your organisation and who can thrive there. And it’s your job to harness the talents of all individuals as appropriate, rather than a select few.

There are all sorts of innovative tools to help you do this. It is vital that, as with any other area of the organisation, the people function can access the right tools to get the job done as quickly and easily as possible. However, many organisations, some of them very sizeable, are still working with complex paper processes or unwieldy systems and are not getting to grips with this vital stuff at all.

The case for keeping the annual review

Some organisations have decided to bin the annual appraisal. Of course managing performance and exchanging feedback should be an ongoing part of everyday business life. And systems should be put in place to make sure this happens.

However, I’d argue that it’s also necessary to set aside some time for a more formal, forward-focused, big-picture career discussion at least once a year.

Business pressures and human nature dictate that ongoing review sessions will end up being mostly about the ‘work stuff’; practical aspects, performance management and feedback. Yet in a fast-moving, volatile and uncertain climate, where change is the norm, to engage and retain talented people, businesses must fully and transparently manage aspirations and the annual review can help to achieve this.

Going digital

The only way to keep track of ongoing performance reviews and annual appraisals, and make sure they happen with usable data outcomes, is to digitise. The business case for ‘going digital’ is clear:

  • Reduced recruitment costs (better succession planning)
  • More accurate development needs analysis
  • Time savings
  • Improved performance management
  • People driving their own progress
  • More focused, goal-oriented people
  • Activity aligned to strategy
  • Improved engagement and retention
  • Enhanced productivity
  • More trust and openness
  • Increased feeling of ownership
  • People feel invested in and more valued
  • Ideas generated
  • Decreased conflict / grievances
  • Market reputation – more job applications!

Growing the whole person

There’s much research to prove that progression is a top motivator – I’d go one step further and say it’s a basic human need. Growing the whole person not just

developing them to deliver the needs of the business will reap rewards. You can’t grow people if you don’t understand them and aren’t able to treat each one as an individual.

The important thing is to keep things simple, clear and unambiguous. The point of the review process is to have rich, future-focused one-to-ones, it’s not about sweating the small stuff and box-ticking.

During uncertain times many organisations ‘put off’ their talent review because they find the approach more difficult than when everything is going well. However, this is exactly when it is most critical.

Once the review process is in place and working, the hard work is done. A well-crafted system will provide everything you need to carry-out a first-class talent review; thus planning for future business needs, making the most of the talent you have in place and enabling the necessary development, recruitment and activity required.

Succession planning

Whilst it’s difficult to plan exactly for future needs, it makes sense to be continuously growing your talent.

Millennials (those born after 1981), will account for one-third of the adult population by 2020 and 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025 (Brookings).  They are challenging the way organisations plan for their future people needs. When it comes to succession, this is an area that needs a clear plan. In days gone by, people were moved around like chess pieces and some were prepared to wait for ‘dead men’s shoes’. Now people have wised-up and want to have their own aspirations met. For this, they need access to ways of driving their own progress, knowing where and what the opportunities are or could be. They need transparency.

Discussing aspirations and ‘the next job’ should start from day one. Stop asking the bog standard interview question “Where will you be in five years?” Instead discuss the candidate’s ambitions, where they want to get to and how you can help them to get there. This is great for engagement and is very likely to help you retain them longer-term.

Burn the career ladder

Be aware that not all talented people want ‘promotion’ – the career ladder or career path is an outdated notion.

Think about career webs and collaborative networks instead.

Let’s not forget the graduate whom, having slogged away to achieve a good modern languages degree, has abandoned her early aspirations of translation work. Instead she has been welcomed enthusiastically into the world of luxury hotels where she’s succeeding and growing. Or the psychologists who, like many fellow psychology graduates, including acting legend Katharine Hepburn and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, decide to pursue a more creative media career.

This flexibility of approach provides opportunities for businesses that are ‘great places to work’ to snap up the best talent.

You need great people who have a right to know where they are going; make sure yours do!


Following a successful corporate career, Jane spent a number of years as Managing Director of a specialist recruitment company, which she co-founded. Having realised that if someone could help companies to become a great place to work, there wouldn’t be such a crisis over ‘the talent war’. In September 2001, she formed learnpurple which, in line with expansion, rebranded as Purple Cubed, early in 2013. Jane is a published, best-selling author having written 'Purple your People: the secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people' (Crimson) in 2001, following up with ‘It's Never OK to Kiss The Interviewer - and other secrets to surviving, thriving and high-fiving at work' (LID) in 2013. In 2014 she was chosen from over 1600 authors to contribute to '20/20 – 20 great lists by 20 outstanding business thinkers’. Her latest book ‘The People Formula: 12 steps to productive, profitable, performing business’ (Humm Publishing) was release in April 2016; answering Deloitte’s calls for a new HR playbook. Jane’s writing is practical and common sense with stories and examples that clearly show how various tools and techniques can be applied to achieve results. In addition to writing and acting as Purple Cubed’s chairman, Jane is a non-executive director and has been instrumental in the success of several high profile employment projects. She is the current president of HR in Hospitality, a panel member of the Economist Intelligence Unit, a visiting fellow at two UK Universities and is listed as one of the top 100 most influential women in the hospitality, travel, tourism and transport sectors.

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