Building Your Career Capital

How to create value and stay ahead in the talent race

Nitin Thakur & Peter Freeth

Leaders all over the world are talking about the ‘war for talent’. They tell us about the need for organisations to build succession plans and develop the leaders of tomorrow, and they invest in leadership and talent programs to develop a ‘talent pool’ to make sure that a lifetime of valuable business knowledge isn’t lost at a critical moment.

 

Until the 1990s when organisations underwent radical restructuring thanks to ‘Business Process Re-engineering’, many people could count on a job for life. ‘Baby boomers’, born through the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, tended to stay longer with their employers, and expected loyalty in return but during the 1990s, when entire layers of middle managers were stripped out, the ‘generation x’ workforce thrived on a diet of performance related pay, individual appraisals and a greater focus on productivity over time spent in the office.

Where this leaves us today is that for the past 30 years, you have not had the full time management support structure behind you that previous working generations enjoyed, planning your career path and taking care of your daily needs. Your manager has his own targets and objectives, and HR probably have to chase him to perform your annual appraisal. Many companies are getting rid of appraisals because they ‘don’t work’, however it may be more likely that it’s simply too much trouble to get line managers to spend the time doing them, and the result of ‘ticking the boxes’ is that they’re ineffective.

In short, no-one is taking care of your career, you have to do that for yourself.

The root cause of the problem is that talent programs are notoriously ineffective at predicting actual future performance, and if you think about it, the reason is obvious. How can you reliably predict your ability to do something that you have never done before?

The assessment centres, reviews and action learning projects of talent programs are an attempt to predict the future, but they will never provide the same challenge as a real promotion, with the ongoing day to day pressures of a senior position.

The inaccuracy of these predictions makes business leaders and HR professionals ‘hedge their bets’ with more candidates than roles, and in return, the candidates hedge their bets by considering other options. Inefficiency leads to waste, which means that your talent program is costing more than it should.

How, then, can you both improve the accuracy of these predictions and ensure that your own potential is accurately predicted?

In this book, we will explore these two perspectives. Improving the accuracy of your predictions is valuable for managers, and ensuring that your own potential is recognised is valuable for anyone.

More than this, there are two central paradoxes to your development as a ‘high potential’.

The first is blindingly obvious, yet is overlooked by almost everyone involved in talent management. The word ‘potential’ means:

• Adjective: having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.
• Noun: latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

By its very definition, your potential comprises anything that you haven’t done yet. How can you measure or predict your future actions?

The second is that you cannot hire yourself, so your challenge is not to develop your own skills and experience, but to focus on what those skills and experience mean to the person who is hiring you.

In this book, we will address and resolve both of these paradoxes, and you will learn everything that you need to be recognised as a high potential candidate.