July 2019 - New Work

New Talent Management: What’s Needed is Disruptors, Not Careerists

What are the key skills for companies to succeed in the digital economy? Ursula Vranken advises a re-appraisal of talent.

New Talent Management: What’s Needed is Disruptors, Not Careerists

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The world of work is becoming more complex and fast-paced, and the pressure to innovate is growing exponentially. So it’s all the more important that the whole company gets involved – from bottom to top, from top to bottom, and cross-ways. There is no such thing as a too-radical input of momentum and ideas. Because only those who think beyond what already exists can create real innovations and not merely an “update of the update”. In a nutshell: In approaching talent management, companies should set their sights on disruptors and not on careerists.

Digitalization: Tempo, tempo, and even more tempo

No degree, a slightly scruffy appearance, but a deep understanding of electronics technology and product design. Special skills: Calligraphy and thinking outside the box. Be honest! With such a resume, what candidate would have an iota of an opportunity to be invited to a job interview?

Yet this CV belongs to none other than Apple founder Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our time. His ideas changed the way we communicate, listen to music, and process data. The fact that today everything is connected to everything else and has become more efficient and faster is also largely thanks to Jobs. Job’s hallmark: Non-conformity. Jobs took nothing for granted and saw nothing as impossible. With that, he went on to achieve great things.

Companies should consider how much potential they have squandered because they have denied career opportunities to people like Jobs, who did not fit into any pigeonhole, who expressed themselves openly and critically, and who came up with radical suggestions for improvement. This type of thinking requires an overhaul! Because it is precisely these very personalities that are now needed more than ever.

Transformation of the value chain

Why is this the case? To answer that question, it’s worth looking at an example from the industrial sector. Connected devices will soon be exchanging information around the clock and autonomously triggering process chains. The devices will also respond autonomously to changing conditions. For example, if a supplier reports bottlenecks, production will be slowed down and a downsizing will occur of the vehicle fleet booked with the logistics service provider for the transport of finished goods.

Soon, the scenario will be similar in all sectors. And the more the connection of smart machines advances, the less that people will be needed for routine work. However, that doesn’t make workers replaceable. For workers, what remains is the area of knowledge work: strategic thinking and creativity are increasingly moving to the forefront. It is people who are further developing products and creating innovations. Computers are not in a position to do this.

Rethinking talent management

The streamlined careerists who tend to avoid creative, disruptive ideas are therefore no longer what is needed for the working world of tomorrow. Because such ideas are exactly what companies depend on. They need knowledge workers who, like Steve Jobs, have the courage to pull the plug on a project when a better solution crops up. Employees must venture into the new and leave the old behind, and think beyond existing conceptual boundaries. This is how innovation is born. Everything else is old wine in new bottles.

One could even go so far as to say that modern companies need disruptors. In the networked economy, we need people who like to constantly reinvent themselves and what they do. People who, like small children, have fun building up their Lego tower, only to go and knock it down again with the same enthusiasm in order to make room for a new, even better idea. For this they need room for experimentation and must be allowed to fail at times. Ergo: In order for companies to survive in the digital age, a completely new approach to talent management is needed.

The new concept of talent 

To answer the question of how this new talent management could look in concrete terms, the term “talent” must first be redefined. With conformity out of the equation, employees need competencies such as:

  1. Visionary power
  2. Willingness to change
  3. Learning agility
  4. Collaboration skills

This produces 7 requirements for the talent management of the future:

  1. Agile & Innovative: Talent management is agile and promotes innovative, creative career paths.
  2. Democratic: Talent management promotes diverse talents in the company on a broad-based basis.
  3. Digital Mobilization: Talent management employs digital tools & techniques.
  4. Networked: Talent management promotes communities, networks & collaboration.
  5. Potential-oriented: Talent management empowers employees to discover hidden talents.
  6. Participation: Talented employees become active co-developers.
  7. Self-efficacy: Talent management supports self-efficacy & self-organization.

The path to new talent management

Admittedly, the path to new talent management is not easy and can only be achieved by means of harmonized steps. For example, start by freeing yourself from thinking in terms of conventional roles. People are driven most by doing what they are particularly good at. However, the role they are in often doesn’t allow this to happen 100 percent. This is a waste of potential! Instead of thinking in terms of roles, you should think in terms of skills and assign suitable employees to each individual project.

Set up coaching sessions that help employees to identify their potential and help them to develop freely with agile personnel deployment. Look within your organization for projects, tasks, and topics that correspond to the strengths of your employees and transfer responsibility in a targeted manner. Allow employees to express their opinions and ideas freely. Establish close feedback loops.

Also offer your employees an agile work environment – one where work doesn’t have to be done on the dictates of the clock, but when creativity is flowing. One that harmonizes with private life and does not clash with it. This reduces stress and pressure and promotes creative thinking. All of this is made possible by flexible working hours, part-time models, and home office solutions. Last but not least, modern technical equipment should make it possible to work independently of time and place and to network with colleagues.

A feel-good atmosphere in the office

Employers who offer all this to their employees will get a strong return: loyalty, enthusiasm, and engagement. And what’s more, those who work in such a motivating environment will be happy to go the extra mile or two for their employer. And that is more likely to happen if employees feel comfortable in the office.

This aspect is also an essential part of the new talent management: The times of grey corridors and individual offices in wan neon light are over. The office standard is moving more and more in the direction of café-house style with flexible room concepts in which you can either chat comfortably, concentrate on your work, or work out ideas in a team.

Conclusion: The digital age demands more than just the introduction of technical solutions. It is at least as important to place the individual employee at the center of change. Have courage! It will pay off.


Ursula Vranken is Managing Director of IPA Consulting in Cologne, and an expert in international HR development and talent management. She holds degrees in education science, psychology and work science. She is an expert at educational work in business. Her professional focus includes the development of extensive HR concepts and solutions, the development of (future) business leaders, organizational development, training and consulting, and executive coaching.


Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.