Ethics and values in talent management

By Jane Sunley, business author and CEO, Purple Cubed


It’s been almost 20 years since the term ‘the war for talent’ was first coined back in 1997. A boom and two recessions later, it’s still raging on… or so I’m told.

The more I read about ‘talent’ and the more important it becomes to CEOs, I have an unsettling feeling that its becoming more scientific and robotic in too many organisations – with people all-too-often viewed as percentages or assets rather than humans.

My pet peeve is the term ‘talent pool’ – I think it’s unethical. Some commentators think as little as 20% of a workforce fit into these pools of potential.

The definition of talent pools then implies that there is a two tier workforce with a select number of people deemed ‘talent’ and therefore welcome in these all-important pools; so the rest are, by default, then not talented?

If there really is such a disproportionate impact on the company’s success made by the people in talent pools, why are the rest of the workforce even there?

I think we should take a step back and think about our corporate values and link talent to that, rather than ‘pools’ which are drying up thanks to a heated labour market.

Surely the most ‘talented’ people in our organisations are those that are engaged with their jobs, aligned with the corporate values, productive, offering great customer service and working towards achieving the overall company mission.

Also there is not just one type of ‘talent’ – some people are analytical; some are great at customer service; others have leadership potential; some still will have great attention to detail.

Ethically speaking, we can’t dismiss 80% of our workforce. Surely an ethical employer would want to find and celebrate the talents of all its people – especially those that live and breathe the values of the business. And if your people share corporate values and are great brand ambassadors, I believe employers have a moral responsibility to upskill these people, make sure they’re in the right roles and help them to shine for their own benefit and the benefit of the business.

Ethics aside – I don’t think employees could ever be engaged or productive if they don’t believe they’re considered ‘talent’ by an organisation.

Let’s move away from the unethical view of talent pools and think about our organisation as a talent lake, where people want to come and work – and know they can thrive.

2016-02-11T17:00:34+01:00 February 11th, 2016|