Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 70 – Talent Management

Talent Management
“I’m just a temp” stated Donna Noble in a recent episode of Dr Who. She like millions of others on short-term assignment felt she was not an important part of the organisation she was contracted to. And it can be a sad fact that temps, contractors, sub-contractors, on-hire personnel and casual labour can feel a little left out when it comes to getting information, getting on, getting promoted and getting a pay rise with their host organisations. But that is of course, not always the case. We have had many instances where “just a temp” became a permanent member of staff with their host organisations, and other times, when they didn’t – and it wasn’t because they weren’t any good at what they do, just there was no place to fill (holiday / sick cover etc). However, as a “temp” there are still some things you can do to ensure you are the first person the host organisation thinks of when they need someone to fill a gap with their organisations, and it comes down to a few reasons which we will discuss in a little more detail as we move through this edition of the newsletter.
A question for you?

Would you consider you had the right aspirations to be more than you currently are, and able to do more than you are currently doing? This is both a personal question and one that directly relates to your professional role. So let me cover your current position. We always advise the normal rules of engagement when working on fixed-term contract are – never take on any more duties than those stated on your job description. 

But in general terms, are you working to your full capacity or is there room for movement and more importantly – room for growth?

When an organisation looks to recruit anyone, they look at skills and qualifications certainly, however, they also look for people with the right kind of aspiration. These are the people who are willing to adapt, they have certain skills and abilities already and they are “engaged” in what they are doing. Now, this may be hard to express during a job interview, although some people just have that ability to express themselves well if you know what I mean. What an organisation is looking for, are people who can fill the gaps that are critical to business operations. If you are currently working on a fixed-term contract with a host organisation, you are in the perfect place to prove you do have the right kind of aspirations should an opportunity arise.

Let me give you a for example. You’ve been hired to work in a sales role. You have the gift of the gab and sailed through the interview. The only trouble is – you hate cold calling and getting turned down and it shows in your results. And the reasons are simple and complex – the simple answer is – you hate receiving those kinds of calls yourself so can feel yourself cringing with embarrassment before you pick up the phone. The more complex aspect lies in the fact you don’t really believe in the product you are selling. And that is one of the critical success factors in a sales role. If you don’t believe the sales hype, how on earth are you going to convince a prospective buyer they need “it” whatever “it” happens to be? Short answer – you won’t and you won’t get very far as a sales person. 

Turn that into the library and records management profession and indeed any other profession you care to look at – are you confident in your own skills and abilities or are you papering over the cracks in your knowledge and your abilities hoping no-one will notice? It doesn’t matter what job you are doing, there are some skills that translate across all sectors. 

If you would like to test this theory for yourself. Go to your favourite job search engine of choice and take a look at any of the jobs on offer. Compare the selection criteria.
Now, choose one of the jobs you think you could do – and look more closely at the selection criteria. Where are your gaps in your current knowledge base that would prevent you from getting that particular job? Then ask yourself – are you willing to fill that gap or not?

Good time management, good people skills and people management, good interpersonal skills, good communication skills (written and oral), good project management skills, ability to work on your own and in a team, working knowledge of occupational health and safety and so on. Only after this list of essential selection criteria will you get job specific ones. Namely: Software, the organisation itself, the legislation that pertains to that industry, qualifications in whatever disciplines you need. As you can imagine, being a brain surgeon will need a different set of criteria to a paper conservator for example. But can you imagine what would happen if neither had a “good eye for detail”? 

An employer is also looking at these kinds of issues for forthcoming promotions and re-shuffles. The difference between you and them is they are thinking long term, we tend to think short term.  They want to know who they can groom to take over the current crop of managers as they move on to other things or retire.  A good employer will be thinking strategically, especially given the tight market for the right kinds of talented people. And will know who they should be fast tracking through mentoring and coaching schemes and further training opportunities. And the people they look at first are the ones with the right kinds of aspiration.

Now as a contract employee you may argue that there won’t be the same kinds of opportunities for you as the “full time” permanent person. But I would have to disagree with you.  As we have mentioned, we have “lost” many contractors to host employers – when I say “lost” we don’t really lose anyone, we just know they are not available for us to use on contract anymore and that is awesome for you. And the ones we lose are the ones the host employer can see has the right kind of aspirations. Eager but not ego driven; they have the right skills or willing to gain them, and the host employer knows these people are critical to their business processes. There is of course one other caveat – the host employer does also have to have a vacant position – sometimes there really isn’t one, no matter how good a person you happen to be. However, like we have already mentioned, guess who they are going to ask for when they do get a gap in their staffing?

The Employers Perspective:
Managing your talented staff can be extremely difficult. The tight job market for the people with the right skills set, means it is harder than ever to hang on to the people you want to hang on to. Money is still one of the biggest factors in attracting staff away from what is otherwise a brilliant job, but not the only reason why people decide whether to stay or go. Other factors people take into consideration include:

The politics of a place. 
They may pay the most money, but the atmosphere is poison as everyone stabs everyone else in their rush up the corporate ladder. Can you imagine how disappointing it would be to get to the top and discover how many people you’ve trampled on to get there, and worse still – discover the top is not where you want to be after all. It‘s like hacking your way through the jungle. Everyone is busy hacking, but it’s the clever ones who climb a tree and shout “hey – wrong jungle”. So if your turn over is abnormally high it may be time to take a long and hard look at the “trouble-makers” and sort out the problems. Unfortunately if the biggest trouble makers are the ones with the biggest salaries this can of course be difficult. But if you want to retain your best people, then new strategies need to be employed.

You may provide easy parking or great coffee. It may be because you have a great central location or have flexible arrangements when it comes to time keeping. Whatever it is that keeps people working for you, keep on doing it – because it can be as simple as changing your coffee as to the reason why staff leave you or hang in there.

Personal and professional development is essential in today’s fast paced and changing environment. If you don’t have a training budget, may we suggest it is time to instigate one! And the reasons are simple:
1. According to Steve Jones, the CEO of Suncorp Metway “Training is the critical link between delivering a first-class service, revenue growth is faster than anyone else in the industry, and having the most productive and satisfied work force.” Taken from “Scaling heights: the role of training in business growth.” Momentum Issue 5: June 2001.
2. Training produces greater productivity. Reduce your investment in training, and a few things will happen – your error rates will rise, losses and operational costs will go up as you have to go back over the same ground to fix up the problems caused.
3. Training improves self-esteem, and organisational morale is inexplicably improved.
4. There will be reduced staff turnover.
5. Expanding the skills and knowledge base of your employees will ensure that your organisation can meet the challenges that lie ahead. Remember we are talking business critical decisions need to be made, and you should be looking to the long term not short-term budget cuts.

This one can be a little difficult to manage, especially as it can be seen by some to be favouring the young and not helping the current / “older” crew. But as we have said throughout this newsletter, the ones who can show the right kind of aspiration are the ones who will be considered for the fasttrack program. If you don’t think you are capable, it will show in the work that you do (quality and quantity) as well as other factors including time keeping, dress and manner, and that applies to everyone, not just the “old”. 

Remember the key points:
• Are you willing to learn?
• Are you capable of doing more?
• Are you capable of doing things differently?
• Are you capable of doing other things?
• Are you engaged at work? Or are you finding creative ways of avoiding it?
• Are you happy with today’s performance, or could you do better?

For those of you who would like to know how you spend your days, there is a time log available at:
Simply fill it in for a couple of days and you will be amazed at how much time you spend on certain activities. How can this help you? Well once you know how you spend your time, you can decide whether your time is spent on the right things or not as the case may be, but only you can decide whether you are willing to change it.