“Set team members free to grow within the organisation” (JNM)

We all want them in our respective teams – talented people who make a remarkable impact on our team’s efficacy. These ‘stars’ are innovative, positive, future-oriented, visionary and hard-working. They make us look good. Others start noticing our respective department’s inputs and outputs and hail us as the catalysts for accelerating the company’s success. We are proud of these skilled employees and don’t want them to leave. If they do leave, we just may have to start all over again and rebuild our teams from scratch. We thus do everything we can to keep them, not from an overall staff retention perspective, but selfishly.

The above phenomenon is called “talent hoarding” – it is the deliberate ‘under exposure’ of talent by managers to the organisation at large, hoping that no-one would find them, promote them, or steal them for their own department. The practice may become so obsessive that managers neglect the future development of these talented individuals, thus frustrating and even losing them altogether. The “hoarded talent” feels stagnant or trapped in their current roles when their ambitions lie elsewhere within the organisation. Over time, these employees start to believe that their best chance of pivoting their careers or growing different skills lies outside of the business.

There are many pitfalls of talent hoarding:

  • The establishment of detrimental silos in the business – departments start guarding their respective territories fiercely and collaboration opportunities disappear.
  • Career development is retarded – GLOAT notes: “Leaders identified developing new competencies as their top priority for 2022 and 40% said they can’t create skill solutions fast enough to meet evolving needs. Talent hoarding presents one of the most significant skill-building roadblocks because it makes it difficult for employees to participate in projects, gigs, and other hands-on experiences”.
  • Productivity nose-dives and capacity diminishes – with talent hoarding, employees can’t ever be used to their full potential. This means that the organisation won’t achieve its full potential—and possibly won’t be able to stand up to the competition. Without internal mobility, many capabilities are never discovered, and the organisation suffers as a result.
  • Turnover increases exponentially – quite apart from the obvious costs related to the replacing of quality employees, valuable assets are lost, and the overall intelligence of the organisation diminishes.

As a result of centuries of organisational design issues like manager performance, in part being rewarded for the success of their respective teams, cause talent hoarding. Generations of leaders were raised under this and similar frameworks. Very few organisations incentivise managers to promote employees off their teams into other divisions of the company. Organisations must embark on a change management process to shift to a talent sharing paradigm. Work must be done on the following:

  1. Create organisation-wide cross-functional collaboration opportunities – invent initiatives that will inspire people to work together in new and dynamic ways. Collaboration opportunities should be built into the culture and be modelled by the executives – start with specific projects that shuffle employees into different teams, giving individuals the opportunity to work with others who are not part of their own teams.
  2. Establish regular career path discussions – managers should engage with every team member to chart developmental and career growth opportunities. Conversations should be linked to individual strengths and business growth needs. Let employees take the lead in these discussions. Provide coaching partners to help employees realise their goals.
  3. Reward managers who promote talent – incentivise managers who develop talent and promote them up the line.
  4. Share knowledge, learning and other helpful growth information – when you share the experience, talent, and knowledge of your top performers with the rest of the team and organisation, you are giving everyone an opportunity to learn how to shine and excel in their own roles.

Overcoming talent hoarding is tough. It requires a shift in organisational approach, particularly at management levels. If managers hoard talent, the organisation will probably lose the talent’s skills, focus and creativity altogether. The talent will simply go elsewhere.

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