Accelerated Talent DevelopmentHaving worked in emerging economies for most of my working life, in particular having witnessed the miraculous transition to democracy in South Africa in 1994, I have observed the renewal of an economy laid dormant after many years of isolation, disinvestment and negative growth, as well as the emergence of magnificent, talented people who have risen to the challenge of rapid growth and globalisation.

The South African challenge has been to accelerate the capacity of the majority (80%) of its people who were denied access to educational and managerial opportunities. Empowerment practices have been legislated that have made it a national priority to develop people of African origin, previously denied a role in the economy.

This has often been met with resistance from certain quarters, but there is no doubt that it has stimulated the emergence of new talent, where it previously would not have been found. The acceleration of this talent is a national priority.

I recently read a consulting report that caught my eye. According to the report, by the year 2050, 97 percent of the 438 million people who join the global workforce will be from developing (emerging) economies. The workforce in developed countries will have shrunk by 11 million, while emerging economies will have grown by 1.7 billion people!

The implications and challenges for both economies are staggering, but let’s examine this from an emerging economy perspective, particularly the development of talent that will be a talent pool from which to draw globally.

Accelerating the Development of Talent in Emerging Markets
Fundamental to an accelerated leadership development program is the definition of “talent” for that organization. Equally urgent is a process to identify these talented individuals within the organizations.

I have found that the bulk of the development programes in different organizations are run as a one-size fits all, totally isolated from the strategic needs of the organization. For example, people may be chosen to attend an external training program for three months to learn about being a leader or gain new skills. However, this approach provides a low return on investment. People generally don’t as a result of this training, return to the workplace more capable of producing results or being an integral part of the leadership of a company, they return only more educated.

When I am brought into an organization, to ensure that the talent development program is aligned with a company’s strategy, I first work with the company leadership to understand what high performance is for that particular company. It could be specific leadership capabilities or skills, like having a strategic focus or providing outstanding customer service.

Using a 360 feedback tool that I have developed over years of working in the talent development arena, we firstly identify the high potential leaders to be put on a program of accelerated development. Secondly, we determine whether there are people in the organization who already own these technical or managerial skills who could act as mentors. Our method for assessing people enables us to look beyond any inappropriate management practices that may prevent a person from shining.

Coaching, a Significant Accelerator
Once high potentials are identified, we immerse them in a program that is designed to accelerate their development as leaders. The single most profound development approach I have uncovered in the acceleration process is the introduction of a 12-month, high intensity executive coaching programme, customised to the business strategy of the client organisation. This approach has shown significant shifts in both leadership behaviour as well as business performance over the period of their development coaching.

Emerging economies possess a powerful weapon, namely a wealth of potential talent. It is this talent that developed economies will be attracting in the future. It is therefore important that talent in emerging markets be identified and groomed to provide much needed leadership capacity not only in these emerging organisations, but also to create a reservoir of talent for developed economies in the future.

The approach used in an emerging economy for the identification of talent and their accelerated development is a complex, yet rewarding process. It requires an understanding of issues such as current legislation, the relevant organisation’s talent management philosophy and strategy, and involves collaborating with various stakeholders to ensure a truly value adding experience for the client organisation.

Future blogs will elaborate on this approach in greater depth.

(Michael Taylor is CEO of Xponential (Pty) Ltd an organisation consulting to global organisations. He is based in Johannesburg South Africa)


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