Hands-on Talent Management

Hands-on Talent Management

Perry Timms

This is blog number 4 in support of the CIPD’s HRD 2011 conference and in particular the focus day I will be running called “Hands-On Talent” on 7 April.  I had some fabulous retweets on my “Hands on Social Media” blog last time around – thanks to those of you who commented and retweeted.  I wonder if this one will generate such interest?  My experiences tell me this will.

And that’s one of the areas that I’d like to feature this time – experiences or as we say in talent development – experiential learning (learning through doing).  Bless the Learning Styles, I am an activist so I learn through doing.  But I’m a pragmatist too and won’t just take a clock apart for the heck of it.  Only if it’s broken will I resort to disassembly.  I theorise a bit – some who know me might say a lot – and when I reflect I go deep and dark.  But whilst I reflect on this, let’s get into the thick of the blog…

….as we say in talent development – experiential learning (learning through doing).


Experience definitely counts for me and is a hallmark of my delivery style.  When I run workshops, it’s about doing not lecturing.  It’s about sharing, discussing, thinking things through, putting theories to the test, doing something with your head and your hands – I believe the range of “doing” activities make it “stick” especially when combined with a purpose and some reflection time.

“Our experiences define us” so someone said and it does for me certainly.  For the second time in 4 blogs, I want to get out of the conventional instructor-led classroom and talk about learning through experiential immersion.  By this I mean the following 3 aspects:

Stretch assignments – being given (or taking on) things where you don’t have all the skills in your “kitbag” to deliver it – but hey, you’ll learn how to.  Great way to learn, take on something you know you can’t yet “do”.  Risky, but managed well, it’s been my best kept secret for ages.  Until now that is…

Field exercises & high impact “real” work – either in a “lock-in” environment (observed talent pool exercises using real work) or real pieces of work conducted out there in the real world, these experiential learning activities are best delivered when there’s some supervision or support – a bit like ten-pin bowling with the inflatable gullys on – just in case you skew your shot.  Line managers play a crucial role in field exercises and real work situations.  In a coaching/mentoring/facilitating way of course.

Projects and tag-teaming – this looks like the Master/Apprentice model to me – and I’ve been using it a lot to bring on eager, talented but low-on-experience learning consultants.  The reports back are immense – where it’s tag-team is that we share the delivery/duties and we have a project feel to things so we can track the process – start; scope; plan; engage; review; build; test; deliver; evaluate – and then this forms patterns or models in the apprentice’s mind to replay and reuse as they start to break out on their own.  It’s about 3 Cs – building capacity; capability and confidence.

It’s about 3 Cs – building capacity; capability and confidence.


And the tag-teaming is where I’d like to refer you to some people I connected with this past week or so.  There are 2 amazing organisations out there doing some fabulous stuff in the experiential world and with the other “E” I mentioned – entrepreneurialism. Business in the Community (www.bitc.otg.uk); and Room 54 Ltd (www.room54.co.uk).  At the heart of both organisations are driven, outstandingly skilful, committed people but their reason for being is unearthing entrepreneurial skills and creating a learning environment with experienced senior leaders sharing what they know with the latest innovative business people from either Generation Z or Gen C (Content Generation).  I’ll say no more other than – FANTASTIC for all concerned.  The mentor and the mentored – learning whilst they’re sharing their learning; gaining new insight all the time leading to more to share with others.  Please go and have a look at their websites and if you’re a senior Business/HR figure reading this blog and want to help, I’m sure Anna (BITC) or Jan (Room54) will be delighted to hear from you.  Our entrepreneurs need you..!

And I think that’s what talent programmes do – they unearth entrepreneurs – or to some intrapreneurs – as they’re internal to a company.  Talent Programmes (IMHO) find people with ideas, drive, creativity, infectious dynamism, boldness, pioneering spirit, energy –  they’re then put with experienced mentors and coaches who help them channel all that brilliance and make sure that any knowledge and insight is going to help them succeed quicker and with more impact.  So next time you’re invited to participate in a talent programme, ask yourself “Am I an entrepreneur?”  If you are, you might be JUST what we’re looking for.  For the low-down on what it takes to innovate and be an entrepreneur, you should check our Cris Beswick’s cutting edge thinking and work at www.letsthinkbeyond.com.

So that just leaves excitement – and what a place to leave this blog.  Why excitement?  It reminds me of the story of the “vertical coffin” toll booths – where one chap was full of excitement and energy as he wanted to be a dancer – so he used his toll-booth hours to practice moves.  He was full of excitement and came to work to come alive whilst others methodically processing transactions from a “vertical coffin” came to work and effectively died.  Excitement in a job, in any activity, creates all sorts of possibilities, energy, insight and I’m sure most of the world’s breakthrough inventors must have had an abundance of excitement.

If it’s exciting, it’s more likely to have a bigger impact.


And when you’re an entrepreneur, I believe you’re full of excitement.  And that’s the lesson for us in talent development – if it’s exciting, it’s more likely to have a bigger impact, mean more to the individuals and create a buzz of positivity that spills out beyond the elite on a talent programme.  It’s the difference between visiting the Ivy or your local fast-food outlet.

• One is exciting; abound with experience, mystery, anticipated fulfilment and lasting memories.

• The other is a transaction that fills you up for about 10 minutes.

So for now be excitable, entrepreneurial and experience whatever you can.

Originally published in CIPD by HRD 2011, Perry Timms

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