How to unlock hidden talent in your business

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We all know that great products aren’t enough to make great businesses. Friendster was the original social network to emerge, appearing before Facebook and a massive year before MySpace. Yet, despite rumours that it’s still up and running, most people have never heard of it. Whether you argue that it was bad timing, limited technology or a lack of funding that inevitably caused failure, it’s hard to argue that a talented team could not have had made it work, or at the very least, have done better.

Having the right people on your team is the best way to ensure that the presenting challenges, on the path to success, are able to be overcome. So, it would be beneficial to any leader to actively identify and develop talent within their organisation.

Below are some keys to unlock the talent hidden within your business:


Communicating to your employees that you are committed to upgrading skills is not only good for awareness, but for competence too; you can’t force someone to grow, it has to be a voluntary process – inspire them to want to grow and learn for themselves, and inevitably your business as a whole will benefit from it. The people that step up and admit they can be better are ironically the ones that will end up succeeding anyway.

It is also crucial to choose someone to champion this process. Your best bet is an employee that has put time and effort into developing themselves already. They will be a good source of inspiration for the next wave of greats.

Attitude over Aptitude

When selecting people to invest in, assess their attitude. You want to develop people that have a growth mindset over people that have a fixed mindset. The difference is simple: people with growth mindsets believe that anyone can do anything, provided that they put the necessary time and effort in. People with fixed mindsets, on the other hand, are those that believe some people are born with innate talents and some are not.

They believe that those lacking specific talents are unable to do anything about changing their situation. The kind of employees that you want to work on this with are the kind of people who understand that the human capacity for learning and gain is infinite.

Separating the two might prove to be tricky. Simply asking whether a person’s mindset is fixed or growth orientated is bound to give skewed results; as few people like to admit their faults. A better method of identifying such individuals would be to, identify a group of employees and then to delegate to them, tasks which are outside of their current skillset. Those with a growth mindset might complain, but will deliver. Those without, won’t even want to try.


It is important to give these programmes structure. Other than just choosing someone to spearhead them, you will also need to carve special time out of work hours for such programmes. Although it will be beneficial to the business as a whole, finding this time often proves to be rather difficult. Hence, a fantastic solution, in this case, would be E-learning – with some programmes reducing training time by up to 80%.

It would also be a good idea to get senior and more experienced team members involved in the mentorship of the future leaders within your company. Not only are they well-versed in your specific business and all of its processes, but they will also have plenty of wisdom to impart onto the members of the next generation of your business. This process can double as part of the basis of your business’ succession plan. Often businesses are vulnerable when senior team members leave. However, identifying a younger employee with the correct mindset and potential to shadow a manager can minimise this risk. Choose wisely though, bad habits can be inadvertently taught too.

Define Goals

Like any strategy, goal setting is an integral component to progress.

What exactly are you trying to achieve?

Simply answering with “develop talent” is not enough. You need to identify areas in your business which have weaknesses and align those with measurable and achievable goals.

If you’re struggling with this part of the process, start with an abstract desired outcome, such as “Improve customer service” and then break it down into smaller achievable parts by identifying metrics (or creating metrics if there are none in place already). Once these metrics have been identified, you will need to figure out how to measure them and then align the appropriate training programme(s) with the improvement of those specific metrics.

Adaptable Programmes

If there is one thing that you can safely say about the modern world, it is that things are constantly changing. It is very important to keep this in mind when planning training and development programmes.

Whether with regards to new products or new industry developments, anticipating change is practically impossible. Therefore, the best way to ‘futureproof’ your programmes is to ensure that the content is malleable – what is meant by this is that the material must not be difficult to adapt to new and different contexts. Again, e-learning is perfect for this, as keeping the material digital will reduce the costs involved when content changes and updates are necessary.


While incentives are a hotly contested element within corporate training in general, there is no denying that they do work. Generally speaking, it is safe to assume that humans are innately selfish, asking “what’s in it for me?” before any effort is even exerted. Keeping this in mind can be used to your advantage. Rather than setting up generic incentive schemes for training, it would be wise to weave the overarching objectives into the rewards.

Incentives such as career progression, higher salaries and even mere recognition of achievements are likely to attract the right kind of candidates for the task. For instance, expensive vouchers will certainly attract people to the task, they might just not necessarily attract the right attitudes – so keep this in mind when deciding what kinds of incentives to offer (if you do decode to offer them).

Learning Culture

Company culture has a profound effect on the atmosphere of a company. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Start embedding learning into the culture of your business – make conscious learning and self-improvement a ‘thing’. This doesn’t entail that grand gestures or tons of investment are a requirement, there are actually many very simple and subtle ways of inciting a ‘never stop learning’ mindset into your employees.

For example, creating a policy which requires new employees to donate a book that they believe has positively impacted their lives, as well as read one from the collection, is a fun way of distilling a “forever-student” mindset from early on in the company. It can also result in quite a valuable company library (not to mention well-read employees).

In business, success is never guaranteed. But, like any high-profile sport, it is far more likely when you have the right talent on board – a strong, reliable and competent team. You never know, an employee with the potential to lead your company into a new age of success may already be on the payroll – all you have to do is identify them.



Author: Kyle Hauptfleisch

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