Finding the Critical Talent You Need

figuring out the talent puzzleEverybody knows the old Abbott and Costello routine, where these two funnymen go round and round trying to figure out who the position players are on their baseball team. For Abbott and Costello, it’s comedy. For your organization, it’s mission-critical. If you don’t know who your critical talent is, and have in place a strategy for where you’ll find more talent like them, you don’t have a sustainable business. Gaining this understanding, and coming up with the strategies to buy or build the talent you need, is a topic I’ll be discussing in a webinar, Buy or Build: Finding Great Talent, on Tuesday, April 28.

It’s always shocking to me when I ask organizations if they know which of their job roles are most critical, and what the components of success for those roles are, and they don’t have an answer. And by critical roles I don’t just mean leadership. I mean the ones that have the greatest impact on revenue, performance, and customer satisfaction. First of all, they may not be the ones you think, and what makes someone good at them isn’t always obvious.

I worked with an HR leader from a global auto rental company once, and his company realized that keeping its best customers happy meant that the only human they typically interacted with from the organization was the car-return agent. Frequent travelers liked to book online, head right to their car, and be off about their business. But all the goodwill and great experience delivered by their automation and technology could be destroyed by an unhappy or unpleasant interaction at the end of the rental. The return attendant, the person standing there in all weather with a receipt printer, among the lowest paid roles in the organization, had the power to make or break a customer’s last impression of the organization. This realization suddenly put hiring and training for this key role front and center.

Another example from the travel industry involves lost luggage. Losing your luggage is never a good thing, but one international airline had wildly better than industry average scores in customer experience with lost luggage. It wasn’t because the airline didn’t lose any bags – there they were industry-standard. But it was because their lost bag agents were hired for their empathy. When people lose a bag they are in a moment of crisis, and this organization hired its luggage agents based on a profile more like an aid relief worker then a typical customer service agent.

Both of these examples demonstrate how understanding key roles, and what defines success in them, can reshape your thinking about talent. And once you have this understanding, you can go about creating the right strategies to buy and build the talent you need to sustain performance today and into the future. Being prepared to buy or build great talent, and finding the right mix between the two, can be an essential differentiating capability for organizations.

Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst,
Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

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