Businesses all over the world and here in Hong Kong have all been managing differently this past year. I feel the focus on the people development is even more important now than before, to ensure people have the support and purpose they need, despite the challenging times we all face every day.

To start, why do we call it Talent Management? Interestingly, I never found that talent needs to be managed, but nurtured, developed, advanced, enriched, enhanced. Perhaps we change it to Talent Enhancement. Sounds better internally and also on a business card or email signature – Head of Talent Enhancement.

I have always found that what has worked the best is when managers take the time to have meaningful one on one discussions about a person’s future, talk about what they need to work on for their development, and provide ongoing feedback on how they’re going, even if it’s not face to face. It’s been amazing to see the response from people when you call them up just to say hello and see how they’re going with their development.

The normal questions like how are you going on that project, how did you go on that online course, etc are still so pertinent today, but it does seem like in the past year that those types of conversations are not as common as what they were before. I guess it’s easy to blame the pandemic or say that it’s better to do those discussions in person which are all true, but having the discussion and following up is going to be what makes a difference to people and ensures that the talent of today become the leaders of tomorrow.

My thinking is always pretty simple. Know what the dream job of every member of my team is. I like talking about what people want to look back on when they retire and say, I’m so proud I made it to that job. It links of course to their life more broadly like their dream home, family, or other personal achievements. From a work perspective, it’s sometimes the role a person is currently in, sometimes it’s the dream of being the CEO of the company, or starting their own business, and other times people undersell themselves by saying their boss’s job when they can do so much more. The discussion is the starting point. Then, once we work out what the real dream is, working out what the possible career paths are, what on and off-the-job training they need, and then plan together to help them get there.

It’s interesting when I look back at discussions I had with people in our team in 2016. Generally, I found people were very modest and humble and mentioned their dream job would be more senior than where they were at, but much more junior than their potential. I heard roles like Head of trade marketing, Manager Organization Effectiveness, Brand Manager, etc. We recalibrated together what the real dream job was and not only have those people already reached those roles both here in Hong Kong and for some, in other countries, but in many cases exceeded them and all are on their way to the real dream job. I love the humility and modesty in the team, but showing you believe in someone and helping them know that they can reach their dream, the modesty can be converted into belief and confidence, and then it comes down to helping them get there and working together with a strong purpose, which is so much fun and very engaging for everyone.

I always find this approach gives people perspective, but also purpose in knowing there’s a plan for them and we can work on it together. I notice that the next day and weeks after these discussions that people have a new bounce in their step, a more positive approach on the Teams or Zoom call, and generally more purpose. So, I think having these discussions now, giving people purpose, handing them more responsibility to manage themselves and the business will help them reach new heights and ultimately be on the path to reach their dream. Doing so will ensure talent enhancement, performance and engagement are up and employees are positioned well to drive a better future and we can reach that dream together.