(A guest post by Octavian Cuntan, Head of IGS Category Management & Business Transformation Projects at Bombardier Transportation – Stockholm, Sweden)

There is so much talent in the world, and for the most part, we are blind, or we cannot seem to be able to identify it. Why is that? Do we lack the tools, the time, or do we lack the proper training?

I must admit I did not spend that much time thinking about this until I became a “people manager.” Before then, my preoccupation was from the perspective of the employee who seeks internal or external development opportunities, but not from the perspective of someone who could actually influence this process.

When talent is abundant, as is now the case due to covid-19 resulting in companies closing operations, reducing or sending their employees on furlough, we might find it easier to look for talent externally.

Not to be misunderstood, looking externally or outward to evaluate the talent market is OK and should happen, regardless of the times. After all, and even before the pandemic, we were already moving toward a brave new world of remote working and the “gig” economy. The current crisis accelerated our transition into the inevitable.

However, what I am saying is that “going external” is not always the best solution to some of our current internal talent or skills challenges – especially if we do not address the cause of those challenges. In other words, new talent, no matter how exceptional, will not overcome questionable policies and practices. What usually happens in such situations is a burnout of whatever external super talent we might bring in!!!

Not an HR Expert

At this point, it is incumbent of me to clarify that I am not claiming to be an HR expert.

Keeping that in mind here are my general thoughts – in point form, on the lens through which we should view our internal talent:

  1. How we reward & promote current performance (from within your team or cross teams/functions).
  2. How we create and live the career path & development concept one most likely has in place for each employee.
  3. How we build trust and unleash the full potential of our employees vis-a-vis the 4 Gates to peak team performance. Side note: beyond a team dynamic, this easily applies to individuals as well.
  4. How we actively “look” for that diamond in the rough.

Point 4 is a metaphor for maintaining a ready mind and being open to the possibilities around you. Not letting preconceived notions cloud your judgment. We often overlook the value of something because we believe we already know it.


Going External

So, when is it time to go external, and when you do go external, what shall you go for: attitude or skill?[1]

Let’s break these two down and have a look at it from 2 perspectives:

  1. Scenario A: the so-called “I have time.”
  2. Scenario B: the “I need to act now and find a replacement.”

Scenario A: From a personal standpoint, I look outside after I have made sure that internally I have exhausted all possibilities, meaning I have done everything I could to promote internal talent.

Internal Talent Checklist:

  • Competencies/profiling tests have been done.
  • The development plan did not yield the expected results.
  • No other on my current team qualifies.
  • No other on a cross-functional team qualifies.
  • I have been looking at the company’s HiPo.

Scenario B: This one speaks more in favour of bringing in external talent, however even in such a case, let’s not forget that with this choice also comes the period of acclimatization to the new environment, new peers, and management etc.

Considering factors such as acclimatization, going external does not necessarily translate into the perfect solution for achieving an optimal outcome.

There is a third option – going the gig economy route, but that is a discussion for another day.

In the end, the takeaway from today’s article is that automatically or arbitrarily looking outside for talent as your first step means that you could be missing your acres of (talent) diamonds.


[1] As an aside, I tend towards an emphasis on attitude versus skills as it is easier to acquire the skills needed to do the job than it is to “learn” new attitudes. I am not suggesting that it is impossible to accomplish the latter, only that changing an attitude is a much longer and more laborious task.