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Doug Williamson: Mining for hidden human potentialThe mining industry has long known the importance and value of good geology and sound prospecting. It understands how operating performance is inevitably linked to the location of the ore body and the “grade” of the ore being mined.

The same thinking, skill and science need to be used by every organisation in order to do a better job of “prospecting” for the hidden talent locked deep in the reservoirs of their human capital mines.

Simply put, managing and measuring the current performance of people is no longer the number one organisational best practice when it comes to workforce management. They certainly should not be the primary focus that dominates the human capital management process from a time and cost point of view. Performance Management, while undoubtedly important, has shifted to becoming nothing more than table stakes in the rapidly changing competitive equation.

Human potential critical to success

The great organisations of tomorrow know what the mining industry has known for hundreds of years. Prospecting and accurately evaluating potential are critical to long-term success.

As a result, they pay fierce attention to their “life of mine” plan. Even while they are busy producing for today, they are equally fixated on finding the new, high yielding ore bodies for the future that lie hidden beneath the surface. So it should be, in the search for talent.

While managers and employees can disagree on many things, they often share the same view when it comes to the Performance Management process. They don’t like it. They think it is forced. They believe it is too time consuming and bureaucratic. They do not see how it serves to actually improve performance.

On the other hand, talk to an employee (or a manager, or an executive for that matter) about their future, then, all of a sudden you have a more alert conversation.

Reflect, for a moment, on where you spend your private thinking time and what occupies your intimate conversations. Is it talking about your job performance, or is it about your future plans, your professional dreams, your personal desires and finding the perfect job outside of your current confines?

I think we all know the answer.

Putting so much organisational effort into a process that is, at its best, “retrospective” in nature, no longer makes sense in a world where uncertainty reins and where the conditions for success are changing daily. Performance Management is only valuable when it is balanced by an equal emphasis on what really matters – the future!

To put a fine point on things, we believe most organisations are being negligent when it comes to their responsibility to the future. Performance matters – we are not arguing that point, it is obvious. It’s just that there is an even more important consideration which receives far too little emphasis – the managing of Potential.

The allure of human potential

How much money organisations are spending each year on Head Hunters and Recruitment Firms? Think about it. The very organisations that have done such a poor job identifying and developing their own talent actually go outside and pay good money to identify able-bodied candidates, outsiders, who then get added into a pool that, by definition, is not being properly developed. It’s lunacy!

Now, I am not against people making money because there is a legitimate demand to fill. We are just against those who create the demand by not paying enough attention to the alternatives and not doing a better job of nurturing the talent within.

My argument is as follows.

Talent matters – more than ever before
Managing talent – can and must be improved
Future potential – is harder to judge than performance
Past performance – is not an accurate predictor of future ability
The ROI equation has shifted – because the world has changed dramatically

The future competitive success of any organisation will have more to do with their ability to identify and manage the hidden potential which lies within than it will in managing performance or recruiting from outside.

Doug Williamson is President and CEO of The Beacon Group.

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