Talent Density

Dr. Rachel MK Headley company culture expert and choas specialist of Rose Group International discusses the topic of team density.Every team has a magic about it – no two teams work the same.

I’ve heard about “talent density” a lot recently – the more top talent you have, the better results they achieve collectively for the organization.

This seems pretty straightforward; fewer low to average performers allows a higher standard for the entire group.

I have to say, though, that just hiring a bunch of talented people isn’t enough.

When you start looking through some of the dialogue about this topic (it seems to have a jumpstart in the recent Netflix book), it always includes the best and “most collaborative” talent. In the environment where we keep the best and lay off the adequate, then those best better have the company in mind.

The more I thought about talent density, the more it intrigued me. Who’s judging the talent – on what grounds? We have a decent client load (over 5 dozen clients a year), and I can’t think of one example where everyone agreed on an employee’s talent level.

We have differing talents, depending on what you’re interested in – some are talented at building teams, some are talented at getting work done, some are talented at detailed work, some are talented in strategy, some love stability, some thrive in uncertainty. And, if we say – do you have the *right* talent for this *exact* role, then that seems to limit the options of that employee.

The other tricky bit about the talent density in the organization is finding that talent.

With people being able to work more remote jobs, then, theoretically, talent is easy to find. (All the hiring managers laugh maniacally…). One way to overcome the challenge of finding great talent is to pay them at top of the market compensation. Not only is this a challenge for the bottom line, but also, this doesn’t account for those who do not value compensation as the deciding factor in taking (or keeping) a job. Culture, leadership, management acumen, fellow team members are all at the top of the “why most people stay at jobs” list.

Now, to the upside of talent density, I have met many companies who keep nonperformers far too long.

Businessmen shaking hands in conference room.In fact, one company we worked with said they tend to adopt employees instead of hire them. This can be the death of the company, for certain. If not immediately, then perhaps like a parasite that slowly takes all of your energy and eventually kills its host. I know that sounds dramatic, but we’ve all been in those teams, right? And if it’s not enough to kill the host, it certainly chases away anyone with talent and the opportunity to GTHO.

As a team-driven person, I can say that I have seen “adequate” employees become rock star employees with the right role, the right management, the right leadership, the right training, and so forth. So, I’d say – if you look around and you feel your team is letting you down, take a look in the mirror and ask – what am I missing? How can I help? I’d bet most often it has to do with their feeling a valued part of the team. The more we isolate some people, the more they struggle, so don’t be afraid to reach out (not just 1:1!) and have a team dinner or bring in pizza sometime. If you’re still not back at the office, but are relatively co-located, do what one of our client’s did – go find a big parking lot, park in a big circle, and connect at a distance.

We work with a lot of self-driven leaders, and there can be a reluctance to modify behavior to ensure the team works well together. I’m not saying to excuse bad behavior or not hold people accountable. You must understand how to get the best from your team. If it’s not your jam, then be sure someone on your leadership team is delegated the task of taking care of your people in the way they need it – otherwise, it won’t matter their talent level – they’ll go find what they need elsewhere.

Dr. Rachel Headley of Rose Group International helping corporations through the tough changes and challenges of acquisitions and mergers, project management, and big change.AUTHOR

Dr. Rachel MK Headley
HELiX Culture Type: Fixer

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