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Talent Matters: The Recipe for Managing Talents

09.09.2019Comments are closed.

Organisations worldwide see talent management as one of their top priorities. However, there are different approaches to talent management, from seeing talent in every co-worker to focusing on an exclusive group of top talents. SEB LU professor Robert Kaše, and the Director of the Centre of Business Excellence (CBE) Monika Lapanja discuss their views on managing talent in todays’ globalised and digital world. 

Dr Robert Kaše

Associate Professor, School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana (SEB LU), Academic Unit for Management and Organisation

Monika Lapanja

Director, Centre of Business Excellence

What inspires you in managing people?

Monika: I’m inspired by many things: the motivation of the CBE team to constantly develop something new, to improve and to grow, both professionally and personally. By seeing the light in their eyes after a successful project; no fatigue, just pure energy to start the next project.

Robert: We should be aware that each individual is unique. Everybody has their own story, their own passions, their own views. What really makes managing people interesting is that you have to bring all these together into a shared story that people create together. This is inspiring because it is never easy, and it always provides with interesting challenges.

Attracting the best workers to organisations in these times is challenging. Do you have any tips on how to create a winning strategy for attracting the best talent? 

Robert: Organisations nowadays have to be good at two things: the content and the format. It is not enough just to have a good employee value proposition; you need to communicate it well. The competition for talent is very high. The current generations differ from previous generations in that they are always looking for challenges, for good stories and for good leaders. If your organisation has those then you will probably be stronger than your competition. There is no silver bullet, though. You have to be prepared to think hard about what makes the people that you want to attract tick, and be prepared to fight for them on the market.

Monika: I agree with Robert. Employer branding is becoming really important. Many companies do this really well, but we have already had some cases, when companies, especially during an economic crisis, did not pay enough attention to this. Now, when they are trying to attract new young colleagues, there is not much interest. Even if the company is a well-known and has an established trademark. In these cases, we collaborate with the company to develop strategies and special products to improve their image and raise awareness in the target group of potential employees. But not just finding, retaining talents may be an even bigger challenge. Talents have to be challenged by their work. And they have to have a possibility to grow, not necessarily to be promoted, but to be involved in more demanding projects or be assigned more challenging tasks. Education has an incredibly important role as well.  This is noticeable especially when a larger group of participants from the same company is included in talent development programs. Besides newly gained knowledge, there is an increase in motivation, engagement, collaboration, and loyalty to the company which is prepared to invest into talent development.

What in your opinion is the best HR strategy: should companies focus on developing an exclusive group of talents or focus on developing the talents of each individual or both? What are the pros and cons for creating an exclusive group of talents?

Robert: It really depends on what a company is trying to achieve and how it produces its output. If their output predominantly depends on a few star employees, then obviously the exclusive approach is much more appropriate. If everybody has to chip in more equally to produce the output of the company, then going for the exclusive approach is not going to be very helpful. It can even backfire because people will not work together, and there is going to be excessive competition between them. So, it is necessary to take time and think about how you create the output: who needs to be involved and how important their output is.

Monika: Larger companies with a greater number of employees have better chances for development, because they have a bigger pool of talents. Lately, the most common practice amongst Slovenian big companies is identifying talents as experts and talents as leaders. Sometimes we develop a tailor-made programme for each group individually, although it is more common that all are integrated into one group. Bigger challenges are small and medium companies, where only a few individuals are identified as talents. In 2018 we developed, within Talent Matters, the Talent Management Academy targeted especially at these companies. It is very important and challenging, even for us, to ensure that implementation of talent management programmes in companies is long-term and persistent.

The majority of millennials today work together with other generations, like generation X and baby boomers. How does hiring and retaining millennials differ from hiring representatives of other generations? Is talent management more important for these younger generations, who care more about their self-actualisation than generations before them?

Robert: Regarding the differences between generations, the younger generation is more dynamic and mobile, and not as committed as the older generations are. This brings two important issues to the forefront of how talent management should be done. One thing is certain, companies today have to invest in talent management if they want to be a visible player in talent markets. If they don’t, they will not be able to attract and retain talent. However, from an economic perspective, companies should also be aware that investing in talent management is risky and that they should engage in other activities (e.g., moulding and creating an organisational culture, working on leadership development) to secure the talent they acquired and/or developed. So yes, talent management is essential for the younger generations and is becoming a ‘must have’ for companies. However, if not accompanied by an aligned organisational culture, inspiring leadership, and promising vision it might just not be enough to keep top young talent today.


Monika: I’m a strong believer that talent isn`t age dependent.  We can find great talents within each generation, we just have to recognise and identify them. I’m afraid we focus too much on millennials right now. It is a pity that only a few companies are sending employees older than 40 years to the educational programmes. A great win for me last year was when one company signed up two MBA participants that were older than 50 years. We have to be aware that the number of working years is getting longer and longer, mid-career generation will have to work for another 15 – 20 years.  This generation is the one that came out from education system 20 years ago. We are not so up-to-date on new technologies and are more reluctant in accepting changes that these days are happening very fast. And this is a generation with so much experience and knowledge. We have to keep it engaged. I don’t believe there is really a huge difference between these two generations. We were different from our parents, as well. The younger generation communicates more directly, they say what they want out loud, and they insist on it. And this is positive, because they force a faster change in leadership. Old traditional leadership has to change not because of millennials, but because of a sustainable society that includes all generations.


Robert: I strongly support what Monika is saying. We found out in our research that in Slovenia, we are making a grave mistake regarding how we manage and develop the mid-career population. A lot of companies are putting an emphasis on young talents because they want to attract them. On the other side, with longevity and aging issues arising, there is also an emphasis on the late-career people. However, people in their mid-careers are frequently, I could say unintentionally, forgotten where talent management is concerned. These people are often highly productive. However, if you do not manage and develop them, they will slowly stagnate and become a real problem in their late careers. They are prone to becoming habitual, they are slowing down, and are really prone to getting to a career plateau. That is a real problem, and it is better to address it while you can still prevent this than later when you can only cure it and it is usually much more expensive.

The Talent Matters project, which is developed by the Centre of Business Excellence in cooperation with the American Chamber of Commerce, approaches the future of talent management. The Talent Matters conference attracts the world’s top talent leaders, key innovators, and influencers in the talent and HR industry. Can you tell us more about the project and its developments?

Monika: Talent Matters was developed based on the best global educational practices and trends.
Its aim is to solve challenges, empower, build communities, and share best practices around the key challenges and trends shaping the future of work. We developed a loop for providing and sharing different target groups with appropriate knowledge and experiences. Talent Matters is aimed at talents themselves, to companies which do not have a developed talent management system yet, to HR departments which place high emphasis on talent management, and this year we will close the loop with a target group of students.


Robert: I would emphasise two things here. First, I think that it is important that the Talent Matters project provides an opportunity for talent to be heard. We developed a platform from where we can shout out to the public in the region that it is important to think about talent in all of their life stages, as well as how to develop it. Second, throughout the project we develop opportunities for effective talent development, and raise the awareness amongst people to develop themselves. In order to continue on our path, we need a solid base of knowledge about talent: what is going on with them in their careers, and how they feel, think, and live. So, we are currently gathering more data about talents; not only to prepare better programmes and initiatives that are going to drive talent development in Slovenia and the region, but also to put relevant issues on the agenda of publish discourse.

What would you vote for as the best learning experience for you in 2018?

Robert: For me the best learning experience so far has been being a father of two almost teenagers. They present the new generation in a real sense. I learn from being a parent, either in terms of leadership, new trends and developments, and how to develop yourself. I believe children provide a very good mirror about what you are doing and how you should develop.

Monika: Each situation, each conversation, each meeting brings an opportunity to learn something new. No two days are the same, and each mistake or success is a chance to improve. I have the privilege of working in the centre of knowledge, to meet so many interesting people, colleagues, and friends, to work with a great team of one man and nine women, and to live in a cross-cultural family. I’m happy that it is never boring.

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