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The Way I See It… Realise their Potential


Smiling crowd In light of the serious skills shortages faced by many UK organisations, Godfrey Owen, Deputy Chief Executive of people development consultancy Brathay, looks at how developing talent is critical to the improved business performance and success. He argues that in order to address the skills shortage, UK companies would do well to adopt a structured competency framework to support and encourage their employees.

The global and competitive nature of today's modern manufacturing industry has increased the drive for higher productivity in the UK. As a result, identifying, retaining and developing high potential employees are emerging as key priorities for many organisations in this sector. The question is how do manufacturing companies or any other industries experiencing similar issues, recognise these employees and then keep their motivation at a level where they want to stay?

To begin answering these questions, consider the extensive downsizing that has occurred during the past two years. Many downsizing initiatives were used as a management tool to help eliminate the over-hiring that occurred during the manufacturing boom. The inevitable redundancy this created was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it may have been a positive process for managers to identify their best and least effective employees. However through multiple rounds of downsizing, high potential employees were often unidentified and ultimately let go. In the end, managers spent a lot of their time focusing on poor performers within their teams and increasing the workloads of top performers. Little attention was given to developing and managing the organisation's high potential employees.

Presenting an organisation as an attractive place to work can be difficult, but very important. Companies must ensure that messaging is aligned and individual aspirations work towards organisational objectives. Organisations need to ensure that communities are created and recognise that the need is the people within those communities. These communities will then create an environment where employees at all levels feel fully engaged, inspired and committed to the organisation's future and strategic approach. The knowledge, talent and attitudes of today's leaders and those heading for leadership tomorrow are not easily replaced. Therefore it is essential that an ongoing development process for high potentials is available. This could be the differentiator between retaining an organisation's unique advantage, or giving it away.

Leaders within the business need to be able to inspire the people within their teams and in order to do this, they need to develop three key attributes. Firstly, leaders have to act as role models and in order to do so, they need to feel inspired themselves and tell their team why the organisation is such a great place for them to be a part of. Leaders also need to provide development opportunities and not just in terms of direct career progression. Giving high potential employees the opportunity to develop through choice, and providing that choice, will ensure that boundaries are widened. The needs of the high potentials will dictate the development process instead of them being constrained by traditional training schemes, modules or methods.

Finally, leaders should always be looking at ways to develop the skills of their people and provide opportunities when available for their expertise to be used elsewhere in the company. This will ensure that the motivation to succeed is always present. Planning, organising and communicating to the people around you is certainly the ultimate guide to ensuring your people feel not only part of the team, but also part of the whole organisation.

The sources of inspiration are not limited to the leaders of the organisation. Employees should be given the chance to become inspired by reflecting on what is important to them both in terms of now and in the future - finding their passion. It is true to say that there are two levels of inspiration. On one level you have high potential employees being inspired to commit to the organisation and another level whereby leaders of an organisation need to be inspired enough to sustain those high potential employees. Many organisations can certainly provide evidence of good leadership practice and have a clear sense and purpose but in order to differentiate themselves from other companies in the market, an organisation's leadership needs to develop this ability to be inspirational.

By having a structured competency framework for high potential employees, organisations can identify the gap between the skills that future leaders currently exhibit in an organisation and the skills that they require to step up to the leadership role. This process of identifying the skills gap is critical if those skills issues are to be addressed and if senior managers are to have the understanding that they require, in order to provide inspiration in the organisation.

Having a clear competency framework which in turn is tied to delivering improved business performance, will enable high potential individuals to step up to new roles and responsibilities and will be key to the survival of the UK's valuable manufacturing industry beyond the Transport and General Worker's Union's recent prediction of extinction by 2030. This will inevitably increase creativity and innovation and create a recognisable career path both for new entrants and experienced managerial candidates, who can bring the benefit of their experience from a range of industries to bear on manufacturing businesses.


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