Surrounded by Talents: How Superbosses and HR Engage Talent Diversity

Professor Rikard Larsson, Lund University & Decision Dynamics, CEO & Dr Katarina Kling, Decision Dynamics and Executive Advisor, Annette Elgaard Bøttger, CfL

Is there such a scarcity of talents that we need to fight wars for them or is this talent myopia in the midst of the greatest talent explosion ever? While many are still talking about talent wars, we have never had so many who are so well educated, so experienced and use so much knowledge as today. This talent world record has been broken every day for decades and will be broken tomorrow and every day in the future for many years to come.

Talent resides to a large extent in the eyes of the beholders, so let’s broaden our view of successful careers and valuable talents. This will help us and our managers to engage us more throughout our working lives. New research has found so called Superbosses (Finkelstein’s 2 books and HBR articles 2016 - 2019), who master the flow of talent by applying a set of leadership secrets.

The Swedish public sector expects to have to find about 500 000 new talents the next 6-7 years as retirements increase. We studied 28 Swedish municipalities to find their best talent sourcing line managers and HR. Fifty-three of the nominated Superbosses and HR responded to a talent sourcing survey that explored how they attracted, selected, developed, and retained more than 1000 talents during the last 5-10 years in their organizations.

A key finding is that “only” about 35% of these talents were managerial talents, while 28% were specialist talents, 20% generalist talents, and 17% change talents. Even though the talent concept started with a Linear career focus on managerial succession, almost all of these Superbosses and HR handled a much greater talent diversity also including specialists, generalists, and change agents with more Expert, Spiral, and Transitory career orientations. A traditionally narrow Linear focus on managerial talents would have missed about 65% of the greater talent diversity that also was needed and turned out successful in their organizations.

This talent diversity was best engaged by using a wide variety of ways to attract, select, develop, appraise, and retain different talents. There was no single best way to do this, but instead the Superbosses and HR that used the greatest variety of talent activities tend to handle twice as many talents as those who used less variety.

In addition to embracing talent diversity, Superbosses and HR were more successful, the more holistic view they had of the different steps of the whole talent process. They also displayed complementary strengths with Superbosses being better at engaging some of their direct reports to develop in their jobs with challenging assignments, personalized communication, etc while HR were better at engaging greater numbers of talents through more scalable talent activities.

These complementary strengths proved to enable Superbosses and HR that knew one another to handle three times as many and successful talents as those who did not. This shows cooperative power of Superbosses and HR that together can greatly strengthen the talent sourcing of our organizations.

CfL can help your organization to do build better talent leadership by line managers and better talent management by HR together. By identifying and developing more and better Superbosses and HR with Decision Dynamics Career Model™, the whole talent process can be supported in more diverse, engaging, cooperative, and dynamic ways.