Talent and Reward: ‘The Times, They Are a Changin’

‘The times they are a changin’ goes an old Bob Dylan lyric which became famous before many of us were born. He may not have made vintage Glastonbury headlines (successfully bagged by Dolly Parton) however the timeless lyric got me thinking about some reward changes over recent years.

It is not too long since competitive salary was THE prize. However as some employers feel the warm and fuzzy glow of the improving economy, priorities are shifting. There’s a renewed focus on talent management which may not be surprising given the role it can play in improving organisational outcomes. As talent can cover a myriad of things I am referring to those people who add value or make a demonstrable difference to an organisation’s performance through the contribution they make now and the potential that they bring going forward.

There is a tendency to talk about ‘talent’ in exalted terms akin to brilliant superstars. However talent could be a wider group of people, the ‘engine room’ which can be developed and nurtured through the approach we take to reward. By identifying a small number of individuals as ‘talent’ and rewarding them accordingly we can achieve a highly-engaged minority in the short term. However when this happens we run the risk of creating a disengaged majority and its associated health warnings.

Taking a wider view can help business and HR leaders to develop a talent strategy capable of meeting organisational needs of the future. Reward has an important part to play here. As various scandals in financial services have shown, rewarding results alone may work in the short-term, but if it undermines the values of your business, it will do damage over the longer term by creating a reputational ‘say-do’ gap.

The infamous Peter Drucker phrase ‘what gets measured gets done’ may be well worn though the reality is that reward needs to reinforce behaviours (the ‘how’) as well as results. Developing a talent strategy that takes account of whole organisation rather than being a fast track for an elite few is gaining favour. But what does this mean for our reward practices?

There are growing signs of employers re-visiting total reward as a sustainable means of making the offer attractive and distinctive to a wider group of talent. Total reward which typically covers what employees’ value including learning and development, the working environment and leadership can be pivotal in attracting and engaging diverse talent. Equally important is that we can use total reward practices to reinforce our organisational culture and values. While this may be particularly important for Generation Y or Millenials staff, ignore it for any generation of talent at our peril.

So while some of us may wish to erase the mud and rhinestones from our memories, Dolly Parton drawing the ‘largest ever’ crowds at Glastonbury shows ‘the times they are a changin’ and paves the way for total reward to make a highly successful comeback if it ever went away.

Sylvia Doyle founded Reward First ® People Consulting in 2004 with 20 years’ experience gained in reward and senior HR roles. From the start the company has had one overarching goal – to help clients achieve pragmatic sustainable solutions that work in the real world and deliver added value. Sylvia is a Chartered Fellow of CIPD and independent non-executive director of the RICS remuneration committee. She is a tutor and personal tutor on the CIPD Advanced Certificate in Reward Management and is a member of the CIPD’s Reward Forum steering committee. Sylvia speaks at UK and international conferences and was previously a Pension Scheme Trustee.

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