When thinking of talent management, it is common practice for organisations to focus on their high performers and high potentials when conducting talent management. These are the employees to keep abroad and will contribute to the future direction of the organisation. There is nothing new in this statement. Naturally there is also a need for a foundation, a steady group of employees who have the task of carrying out the day-to-day business. These employees are often referred to as ‘Core Employees’ and they usually make up the majority of the organisation. Tools for calibrating and reviewing the workforce in terms of talent provide a great insight in how talent is distributed. Talent grids, for example, provide a valuable insight on how employees are doing in terms of performance, potential and/or retention.
In the following case the organisation has played by the book. It has identified its talent, its core employees and has dealt with underperformers. This led to a restructuring of the organisation to ensure a focus on its top strength. The surprising outcome was that the performance of certain business units dropped dramatically. And after reviewing the performance of individual employees, it was noticed that the performance of some of the high performers had dropped dramatically too. Employees who were steadily exceeding performance in the past, were now performing below average. There was no easy way of identifying the cause of this decrease. Initially, it was assumed that the restructuring process (which involved having to let employees go) affected the company moral, but as times passed, there seemed to be no improvement. Multiple talent reviews were held, but each resulting in the same outcome: the right distribution was applied; there was a steady base of core employees, a right amount of high performers and sufficient potentials.
So what has led to this unexpected result?
The company decided to consult an expert in group dynamics to see what other causes could be identified for the drop in performance; this has led to a remarkable outcome. It seemed that employees who were not performing up to par, or didn’t show lots of potential were actually contributing to the team effort. It was not shown in measurable results, but they seemed to be the glue holding the group together. It is known that high performers need other high performers to encourage each other, but this case showed that they also require colleagues who contribute to the team spirit.
At first glance it might not be the easiest task to identify these team contributors as it is not measurable in terms of individual results. However, a good practice is actually having a talent meeting when discussing the employee review. This will allow having a conversation not only about tangible results of the staff, but also discussing the individual contribution to the team and the necessity of keeping these employees onboard.