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Managing Talent: What’s Your Approach?

Posted by Anh Tran on Jun 3, 2013 10:28:00 AM

Hire and nurture young grads, or wait and poach grizzled vets?

managing talent young vs oldIn a recent article by Profiles International UK’s Martin Goodwill, he argues that “lazy talent management has to stop” and that “recruitment is no substitute for a proper talent strategy.” What’s your company’s approach to managing talent?

Goodwill makes the case that companies shouldn’t simply resort to recruiting to fill positions, even if fishing in a presumably plentiful pool of talent. Let’s examine some of the factors that should be considered when forming your strategy for managing talent:


Have you ever heard a seasoned manager say “I’ve forgotten more about ‘X’ than you’ll ever know!” or something to that effect? I have. It’s easy to discount these people as being know-it-all blowhards (which might be true), but they also may have a point. When job postings seek qualified candidates with 10+ years of experience, they’re looking for someone who has “been there and done that,” someone who has endured both successes and failures and can bring that accumulated wisdom to their company.

On the other hand, newly minted college grads or MBAs or other young professionals can bring new perspectives and ideas to a stale environment. While many people don’t ask questions for fear of looking inadequate, sometimes a fresh and inquisitive point of view can enhance or improve the old ways of doing things.


Some industries, such as the medical profession and military, have tried and true career paths. You won’t find an overqualified general applying for a staff sergeant’s position, nor a brain surgeon filling in as a physician’s assistant.

You’d think that older employees would always win out over less experienced ones, but you only need to consider the rapid developments in technology to realize that there are some advantages to being young. While there are many among the Baby Boomers who have mastered Twitter and are facile and adept at applying the latest gadgets and gizmos to their business, it’s a fair bet that Gens X, Y, Millennials, and younger will win that competition most of the time.

It’s also been well-documented that companies don’t want to train new hires, while they continue to invest billions of dollars per year in training and development for their existing workforce. Are they missing out on an opportunity? What’s the right amount of expertise for your business?


It’s quick to get to the bottom line on this one: you’re going to pay older workers more than younger ones. The question is whether you as a company get more by hiring young and developing that person over a decade (or several) to take on a leadership role in your business? What’s the ROI on that as opposed to going out to hire a heavy hitter for a hefty sum to fill a senior leadership position only to find out down the road that the person isn’t a good fit?


Which brings us to culture. Whether the person is young or old, experienced or novice, if they don’t fit the company, team or job, everyone loses. No amount of skills and experience will make up for someone who goes against the grain of your corporate culture. The older a person is, the more set in his ways he’s likely to be, and is therefore a greater risk as a senior hire. True, younger hires need to fit, too, but the risk isn’t as great.

That’s where employee assessments come in handy – if you use them regularly and have them fine-tuned for managing talent in your organization, you can greatly minimize that risk.

Bench strength

There’s an obvious comparison to sports teams when considering managing talent. On any given professional team there are a finite number of positions made up of veterans, journeymen, and rookies with some stars and phenoms spread throughout. It can take a generation to watch a rookie blossom into a journeyman and establish himself as the position player on the team (think Derek Jeter on the New York Yankees). In other cases, teams seem to go through multiple players at the same position year after year without gaining any ground (think Pittsburgh Pirates).

Both teams have different approaches to managing talent. But neither can rely on their stars and starters every day; they also need to develop and nurture a healthy bench. The vets teach the younger players and guide them on their way. The stars eventually fade and open up opportunities for new faces and talent. And in some cases, their wisdom and experience will help them gain a position coaching or managing.

Throughout that process, teams use their “farm” system to test and nurture prospects who will become tomorrow’s stars. Without it, teams would be trading daily to fill voids left by players who are tired and hurting. Accounting firms and consultancies were known for hiring legions of college grads in the hope of growing their talent in this way.

Managing talent is considered a strategic advantage by some companies while an afterthought for others. Where do you place your emphasis: on hiring and favoring the silver-haired veterans and hope they fit, or maintaining a healthy balance of young professionals who will one day be your leaders of tomorrow?

Making Every Hire Count: What Really Matters to the C-suite

Topics: Training and Development in Business, Effective Hiring, Employee Retention

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    Rick Yvanovich
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    With the Profiles International South East Asia Blog, it is our mission to help organizational leaders and HR professionals improve their performance and workforce productivity. 

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