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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poised between overachieving and collapsing

Human resources, if tapped correctly will ensure the success of an organisation. It is employees who make or mar the fate of any workplace and what will make them go an extra mile to give their best? How do employers keep things going and harness talent? Employers can be more attuned to the capabilities of those they employ and spot the things that are done well or with skill. After all talent counts the most.

Former cricketer, Javagal Srinath defines talent as "the expertise in one functional area of your profession", whatever that may be. This means that merely being good at academics or theoretical models will not help but working at developing one's skills matters.

CEO of Sony Entertainment Television, Kunal Dasgupta told CNBC-TV18 that a Gallup had come out with a study that defines around 30 different talents that an individual possesses. He said, "It's up to us (employers) to see that any particular job that somebody takes up, must have a list of talents that fit that kind of a job. So when we look for a person, we look at not only at the academic qualifications but also which of those talents suit this job."

Among a number of skills one may have, one or two may surface as being the person's core competence and these skills more than others need to be realised. Srinath agreed and says, "core competition is a potential to be realised. It's a future projection of what you can be for the company or for the team. At the very first stage, what you get to see is raw potential and how it metamorphosis, that's what you got to see."

Dasgupta also attributes leadership as one of the 30 talents listed in the Gallup study. He said, "There's a lot of research gone into talent. A lot of people believe that talent is inside you and that by the time your 16 years old, all your talents have already come in. Nothing changes after that. After that, it's all education, knowledge, skill, training and how you develop that. But biological research shows that by the age of 16, all your talents have been hardwired. So, basically you have to understand it that early, what your talents are."

Srinath agreed but said, when it comes to sports, one needed a "sporting talent", while in the corporate world, it is academic qualifications - something which is more tangible - that is required. Ultimately, it's up to the board, CEO or the leader to spot talent. Dasgupta said, "It's absolutely essential for success because this is a very competitive world. Your basically as good as your last hit. If your last year was great that's fine but going forward, you have to continue to perform."

To constantly get the desired top results, the team needs to be nurtured. For instance, in cricket, if a player has been sidelined, then the system, which includes the BCCI and the seniors should make sure that he's allowed to come in again quickly. The right cushion and atmosphere must be provided.

Meanwhile, in the business world, a person needs to have "promise and the ability to deliver." Here the talented people have to be able to deliver on what they have promised and this needs to be monitored, whether it's hapenning or not. As Dasgupta explained, "If it's not happening, then we need to assess if it's because of external factors or that person's weaknesses. If it's internal factors, then you try to correct and help that person along. But if you find that the person is not meeting up to the potential, then you need to look for replacements, consider counselling and finally just move on."

Talent can be a much hyped quality when the focus is on one aspect, with a variety of skills not being developed, it does not necessarily ensure a long and successful career. Srinath elaborated and said that Brett Lee and Shoiab Akhtar are hugely talented but have focussed on pace bowling, which is not the only thing in cricket. While Irfan Pathan can play "so well both ways and has logevity in cricket for the next 15 years."

Dasgupta agreed, "I've had people who have burnt out. I've had people who've overachieved and then collapsed completely. You have to look at each case and understand why that's happening. Also, there is a factor on which I put an important note on and that is the external factor of politics on the person. Because when people work in teams, there is an element of likes and dislikes that starts coming up, where one person may be isolated with the others ganging up against him."

This leads to an organisation losing talented people unless the leaders or seniors mentor the younger people. The top people need to make sure that they leave behind a good pool of talent to take care of the team or the organisation. The next leader should be able to rise up to the challenges of the next generation - be it in technology or otherwise.

Dasgupta elaborated, "If a CEO has a lifespan of say, 10 years, in the first five years, your looking at consolidating your position. Your also keeping an eye out for such a person. If you do find such a person, may be 2 or 3 rungs below, you start moving that person but not just one, because you can't start moving one person but 3 or 4 people up the ladder and bring them close to your position. Then in the last two years, you have to decide that this person is going to be the person (to take over the top job.) That's when you give more importance, more roles and also signal to the organisation, so that the transition is smooth."

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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