What is future talent?

Written by
Changeboard Team

09 Mar 2015

09 Mar 2015 • by Changeboard Team

The digital revolution

Over the past two decades, technological advancement has fundamentally altered our world. The World Wide Web, the increased use of mobile phones and tablets and the introduction of social media have changed the way we work, the way we live, and the way we form and maintain relationships.

For some, this is cause for concern but we are wrong to let paranoia set in. Yes, the digital revolution is changing things, including the way we work, but change itself is nothing new, change is constant and previous eras of change are no different. In the 1960s the women's liberation movement had a huge impact on work and from the mid-1980s the UK economy transformed from a predominantly manufacturing one to a predominantly service-based economy. There are many other examples of change we can use, these are just two, the reality is that nothing in life stands still. It will be something else driving change in the future but it’s technology and globalisation that’s driving change in our workplace now.

These were two recurring themes at Changeboard’s recent Future Talent Conference. Speakers at the event were in agreement that these external influences are redefining what employees want from their careers and the future of work. The reality is that there will always be something going on that will change the way we work or the nature of our work but it’s our people and teams who are the constant.

While change can create challenges, speakers were also in agreement that it can present an abundance of opportunities to do something differently, to innovate for our organisations, their employees and for our communities to flourish. But we need game changing individuals for this to happen.

So who are these employees and what is that something special? Are they the same people we have been defining as talent until now? Our recent study, The DNA of a Game Changer, is starting to shine a light on some of our neglected pools of talent. It suggests these game changing individuals have existed in organisations and in our society from the word go – the problem is most organisations do not create a culture where they can fulfil their potential.

How to define talent

Traditionally, talent referred to high potential employees and those showing leadership promise. We also started to focus on younger people and the mature workforce. The latter carry with them a bank of knowledge and experience that compliments the fresh ideas of the former, with their energy and ease with the digital revolution. Talent management initiatives have largely (though not exclusively) selected and nurtured these groups, providing optimal conditions for growth, development and performance.

But are these definitions serving us well enough? Do our definitions of talent reflect yesterday’s more hierarchical, stereotypical, controlled and prediction-focused organisational structures and management styles? Is a ‘younger generation’ too broad a sweep to describe them as digital natives? What else do we need?

Predicting the future

The world of work continues to morph in ways we may not expect. We can no longer predict the future with much accuracy. Tomorrow’s world of work will start to look different to todays. Smart organisations realise this point. In place of trying to predict the future using yesterday’s data, we can instead build ourselves for what could emerge. If we cannot predict the future but we can build our skills for it, we place ourselves in a whole new operating field, saturated with opportunity for our picking. The ‘something special’ employee spots opportunity amidst chaos and makes it a reality. They are what we can now call a ‘Game Changer’.

The talent to nurture now for the digital, connected, competitive, information-loaded but opportunity saturated working contexts of tomorrow, needs to include game changer thinking. It is time to rethink the DNA we need – to shake it up.

A shake-up the Game Changer

‘Game Changers do not just have vision. They can adapt and flex, and yet they are also obsessively driven to convert ideas into reality, while balancing the risks they need to do so’.

The DNA of a Game Changer suggests qualities we may recognise and others that haven’t been so much a part of how we view talent. It is particularly the combination of extreme focus and high vigour that fuels the obsession associated with game changing individuals. This obsession to see their idea or belief become reality drives them through. This is the talent we may need for the future, and it’s a challenge to our more traditional management and talent development approaches.

The way we build ourselves to approach the future will assist us to more than beat the business odds. And defining the qualities and behaviours we need in our organisations will assist with taking us there.

The question is: are we ready to change the game?