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Talent Management in SMEs

Often seen as a concern of large, corporate organisations, talent management is equally important to SMEs, potentially the difference between a struggling and a thriving business.

What is talent management?

In short, talent management is the marriage of your people management with your business strategy. The idea being to recruit, motivate, train, develop, reward and retain the right people to achieve your strategic plans and goals. In other words, undoubtedly something most SMEs are aspiring to or doing in some fashion, but it’s worth considering a more connected approach.

Talent management in SMEs

When it comes to coordinating talent management (or any so-called ‘human resources’ activity) smaller businesses face a particular set of issues:

  • Limited HR resources and knowledge – Most SMEs are forced to make HR an add-on responsibility for another role rather than being able to afford a dedicated HR expert on the team.
  • Limited time and resources for staff training – Often, the scale of the operation means learning and development is focused on making sure that employees can do the job required of them, and not giving them chances to develop themselves for the job (promotion) of tomorrow.
  • ‘Good enough’ recruitment – Again, a resources issue, but SMEs rarely have the time to indulge in fancier hiring practices like assessment centres; recruitment tends to be a case of advertisment, applications, interviews and that’s it.
  • Difficulty in retaining talent – Larger companies can often afford better compensation packages and that’s a temptation to your best people.

Tips for smaller-scale talent management

  • Define the word ‘talent’ – Yes, everyone is ‘talented’ in some way but here we’re talking about employees with the potential to go further, to learn new roles and to be your future managers and leaders. You need to decide what you need for the future: is it skills, knowledge or attitudes?
  • Find your talent – Larger concerns tend to use competence frameworks, detailed performance management systems and feedback mechanisms to spot their talent. In SMEs such detailed tools and systems rarely exist. However, the key is the dialogue between employees and their managers, the conversation – in whatever form – that covers how the employee is performing, what their goals are (business and personal) and what they need to achieve them. So long as your managers are clear on what ‘talent’ is, they can identify the people who have it.
  • Nurture it – You have someone with potential? Great. Now do something to unlock it, maximise it. That something could be additional training, development opportunities, secondments or temporary posts, covering when the boss is on holiday, being account manager or point of contact for a key client … The key with any chance to learn and develop is for both employee and manager to agree what specifically they’re hoping will come of it (short term and long term), how the results can be applied in the workplace (the practicality) and then checking to see if that happened (result evaluation).

Of course, you want to develop (and reward and retain) all your employees (except the consistently poor performers, but that’s a different kettle of performance management) but talent management is to focus on those members of the team who don’t just do a great job, they actually improve the company. These are the people who can really take your business into the future.

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