Are you getting confused about all the definitions that are thrown into the conversation when we manage and develop our talent?
If you answered yes, you are not alone. It can be a real turn off for operational managers to deal with ‘HR speak’ at the best of times. Being crystal clear about what we mean becomes an important part of our organisation’s underlying approach to Talent Management. Our managers and leaders are the major stakeholders and drivers of our Talent Management efforts, and so it becomes our responsibility as HR professionals to make it as easy as possible to reduce confusion and inspire engagement. It is easy to get into semantics when we are developing our terms of reference and essentially at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which words we use to describe what we mean. The most important thing, is that we develop a shared understanding across the whole organisation.
Here are the five key definitions that we regularly use and what I think they mean in the Talent Management context:
- Performance is the outcome of how successfully someone has completed a series of interconnected task(s) AND how their behaviours in completing these tasks are in line with the organisation’s preferred culture. It is focused on the past and can be an indicator of future performance. Performance outcomes are assessed throughout the employee’s lifecycle and are based on agreed performance indicators. This is the cornerstone of your performance management system and processes.
- Initiative is how someone assesses and initiates things independently or takes the opportunity to act before others do. The situations that they are responding to are out of the ordinary or at the fringes of their areas of responsibility and accountability. Employees with high levels of initiative have a clear understanding of the bigger picture and the way the organisation or ‘system’ works. Having this knowledge allows them to see what needs to be done even if they do not know how to achieve it. Initiative exists in the moment; where knowledge meets readiness.
- Readiness is someone’s motivation and preparedness to act. Just because we have an idea of what needs to be done (the first part of initiative), it doesn’t guarantee that we will act! This is all to do with motivation and levels of engagement. Employees that have initiative but do not act are problematic to their team and to the organisation, and require closer attention. A word of caution: these employees are withholding their discretionary effort for a reason. Think about what has led them to this state of mind. As with initiative, readiness exists in the moment.
- Potential is someone’s ability to develop, achieve or succeed when the right conditions exist. Potential can be described as a diamond in the rough. To the naked eye, you cannot see what is underneath, but there is a glimmer of something that has caught your eye that warrants a second look. The diamond is there but it requires effort to grind and polish it to realise its potential. An employee with potential to grow is ripe for Talent Management purposes. Potential is future driven.
- Capacity is someone’s ability to understand and learn. It is predicted that the employees of the future will be the ones that consciously learn and re-learn quickly in response to external environmental demands. If one is not open nor inquisitive about life and the world they operate in, it reduces their capacity to learn and grow. Capacity is math driven – it is the size and shape of the cup that we drink out of. We cannot pour two litres of water into a container that is built to contain one litre of water. The second litre of water cannot find itself anywhere to settle in and will ultimately be wasted or hopefully used elsewhere. Return on investment measures in Talent Management can provide us with feedback on how successful we are in choosing the right people to invest in. As with potential, capacity is future driven.
- Capability is someone’s power to do something with the level of knowledge that they have in a particular skill. This power can be internal or external and is a reflection of the level of empowerment and trust that exists in the organisation. For example, I may have the skills to read financial statements and make some general observations about the financial position. However, my capability to then provide a briefing to the Board about how to strengthen this financial position is quite limited. So the level of my capability with this skill is at a level below what is being asked of me. However, with time and appropriate development, this capability can be developed. An employee with the capability to further develop expertise is also ripe for our Talent Management efforts. Capability is future driven and it also exists on two planes – individual and organisational.
If you would like to know more, you can read Talent Management Part one: Do you have a lack of talent? It could be a reflection of the leadership culture
Former Senior HR Consultant