Whose Talent Is It Anyway?

  • Talent: Natural aptitude
  • A qualification: A pass of an examination or an official completion of a course, especially one conferring status as a recognised practitioner of a profession or activity.
  • Skill: The ability to do something well.
  • Attitude: A way of thinking and feeling about something.

Employers say that talent, skills and attitude matter, yet the recruitment process is heavily biased towards qualifications. Does a degree in maths, science, history or English provide you with the communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills required to usefully make your way through today’s and tomorrow’s workplace? Not necessarily. Solving the puzzle of youth unemployment is a big challenge, in part because people leave formal education without the vital skills the workplace is looking for.

I recently attended London’s Skilled Future Conference – where among other things, we were updated on ‘The Learning to Work’ programme, led by the CIPD to promote the role of employers in reducing youth unemployment. The CIPD’s purpose is to champion better work and working lives, which starts with young people being able to access the labour market. I’m a big fan of Learning to Work, and even though it is working, this dilemma of requiring talent, skills and attitude, while hiring on qualifications, came up in conference, both during presentations and in conversations at break time. Can we do anything differently?

Coincidentally, a couple of days after attending the conference, I spotted this neat idea. Penguin Random House UK want to invest in, and nurture creative talent, and to this end they have created ‘The Scheme’; a possible solution to hiring based on potential not education. There’s no mention of qualifications that I can see, and as well as being a creative way to hire, the positions last 13 months, initially at least.

And that’s fine because work is becoming much more fluid – the notion of jobs for life has all but faded from view. I think that’s a good thing, and in support of this I believe continuous professional development (CPD) and learning has to become more fluid, and more devolved too. As lifelong learners, I think we need a far greater say in setting the agenda for our own development, to include acquiring and honing new skills which motivate us and may also equip us to work better. With this greater personal influence, I think we also need to take more responsibility for keeping ourselves professionally relevant, partly through engaging with our own CPD, and recording it better than I, and perhaps you, currently do.

On April 29th I will be heading to Changeboard’s Future Talent HR Conference, where the challenge of developing talent, skills and attitude will continue to be addressed. If you are going along too, I hope to see you there, maybe we can talk about this some more?

Until then, I have a few questions for you.

  • Given the increasingly fluid nature of work, what does talent management need to look like in the world of HR and Learning & Development Professionals?
  • Are the people with the budget and the influence willing to devolve more money and time to the individual, without necessarily seeing a long term return?
  • In future, who should take responsibility for encouraging and developing a well qualified, skilled and talented workforce?

Whose Talent is it Anyway?

How Are You Inspiring The Future?

A review of my first volunteering work with Inspiring the Future

How are you inspiring the future? Pretty big question huh? Well the answer doesn’t need to be.

What is Inspiring The Future?

Inspiring the Future (ItF) is a free service with volunteers from all sectors and professions going into state schools and colleges to talk about their jobs and sectors. Anyone can volunteer with Inspiring the Future – you can be a young Apprentice, graduate recruit or a seasoned Chief Executive – young people will benefit from hearing about your experiences.  You offer to visit a local state school or college for ‘one hour, once a year’.

That is how ItF positions themselves. I found out about them through my membership of the CIPD, and because I think the worlds of education and work are currently not as well joined up as they should be, I joined the scheme to see if I could be of use. After spotting a few opportunities I couldn’t fit into the diary, a chance arose to take part in some CV skills development at a local school.

I registered to take part and as part of my preparation, I asked Twitter a question:

Twitter CV question

As you might expect – I got some great answers which I curated over at Storify if you’d like to take a look.

I headed on over to the school where I got a friendly welcome from school staff and Annie from the CIPD. Our first group of students were introduced, plenty of them already had a CV, but no one had brought a hard copy along. A few students had theirs on usb sticks but for IT security reasons the school wasn’t willing to load the sticks into their system to get printouts. Most people said ‘We weren’t told to bring them’. Our involvement was only part of a wider careers fair so I don’t know how things were positioned before hand, but given there were employers to be met and other opportunities to engage with, I was a little surprised at the lack of CVs. Would I have been any better prepared at that age? Probably not.

Small Steps on Long Journeys

I had an interesting conversation with three people. One wanted a Saturday job in retail to develop her people skills en route to a job in teaching, another wanted a job in teaching, and the third wanted a career in law. The person looking for retail work has dropped off plenty of CVs but not heard anything back yet. Why is that? Here are a few things we discussed.

Tailor Your Work

We spoke about framing what you have to offer from the employer’s perspective. I asked, ‘what does people skills look like to a retail employer?’ After a pause, ‘commitment and turning up on time?’ was put forward. ‘OK then,’ I asked, ‘and how might you demonstrate that in your CV?’ ‘I have a great attendance record at school.’ One said. ‘And is that clear on your CV?’ I asked. ‘Not yet’ came the reply. We talked more and suggested that using a phrase like ‘building on my customer service skills’ might hit the mark for a retailer a little more than ‘improve my people skills.’ We agreed a key point was to tailor your offer to the market place and the job, don’t just fire off a one size fits all CV.

Social Media

We chatted very briefly about social media and I showed everyone some of the Twitter help I’d received earlier. This led to a discussion about other ways to present a CV. None of the group knew about LinkedIn so I suggested they might want to check it out, filling in the profile could be a helpful challenge for them as they begin to think more about what they have to offer.

Developing an Edge

We talked a little about a career in law. ‘What characteristics do you need for that?” I asked. ‘You need to be argumentative!’ came a reply and we all had a good laugh, before settling on persuasive instead. ‘How could you demonstrate persuasiveness?’ ‘Do you have a debate club at school?’ Turns out they did and from there our aspiring lawyer suggested she would check the club out and see if she could put forward a debate on a relevant legal matter.

All too soon our time was up and off they went to explore other possibilities. I couldn’t stay for long but I enjoyed my short visit and I hope the people I talked with took something useful from our time together.

Inspiring the Future – Getting Involved

Taking part in ItF is easy. You just fill out a simple form and wait for opportunities to find you. Then when an opportunity fits with your diary, you simply go along and be useful. I recently spotted that Neil Morrison had spent a day in a school as part of ItF and afterwards had this to say, ‘I was HUGELY impressed by the teachers, the principals and the students. There was passion, enthusiasm, pride and energy. I think they’re destined for great things.’ 

That sounds like a worthwhile way to spend a few hours to me, how about you?

Facilitation Jam – 2014

Are you free on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th June? If you are – you might like to read on. If you are not – then maybe enjoy this excellent Slideshare on social business by Paul Taylor instead? It’s very good.

Anyway – back to the 6th and 7th of June…

Would you like the opportunity to spend a couple of days experimenting and honing your facilitation skills? A few of us are having a co-created facilitation jam session on Friday 6th June and the morning of Saturday 7th June 2014.

So far, the following people have signed up: Martin Couzins, Sukh PabialMeg Peppin, Doug Shaw, Tash Stallard, and Kev Wyke. A few others are mulling it over, and we’d like to open up the chance for others to play too. Would you like to take part?

The event will be quite free flowing with no one person responsible for leading the day. Instead we invite you to take turns to prepare and run a session during the event and receive immediate feedback on your ideas from your colleagues. You may be looking to improve on some existing methods you use – you may want to try something completely new. However you choose to play, it’s up to you.

This is being run as a not for profit event, you only pay to cover costs. The event will take place in historic Greenwich, London and we want to make it residential so we have some social time together as well. The cost for the space we need to jam on both days, plus overnight accommodation and breakfast on Saturday morning is £160 plus VAT per person. We hope you can join us for a couple of days of useful, challenging fun.

If you are free and would like to take part, please get in touch with anyone who is going for more information on how to pay and play.

Meantime – here is a little video I made as I reflected on the last session we had, back in January 2013.