There are places that live and die by sheer talent – Bollywood, cricket teams, advertising and publishing – no one has a Chief Talent Officer. So do we really need one at the workplace?
I worked in an advertising agency for a while. When I was going to join them, my classmates from B-School thought it was the wrong career move. No HR person works for an ad agency. I moved to the agency anyway. It was simply a case of trying out everything once. This was, after all, a business that ran entirely on people and getting the best talent in the industry. I had heard the CEO say, “Our assets walk out of the elevator every evening.”
The advertising agency did not work with any job descriptions (what are they?) or salary bands (you just pay the guy what it takes for him or her to leave the current employer) etc. It was a small incestuous industry. There were a handful of professionals and a handful of agencies. So everyone played musical chairs.
One of the biggest moments of truth was when I met the head of another ad agency at a conference. He had just hired someone from our branch in Delhi. That was no loss to us. We were contemplating terminating him for non-performance. We had immediately replaced him with a hot-shot hire from the competitor at a fancy salary.
I thought I should apologize to my competitor. He beat me to it and said, “You solved a moral dilemma for us. We had asked her to leave and were hoping that she would land on her feet.” I felt like saying to him that we felt the same about the non-performer they had hired from us, but wisdom prevailed. We had both exchanged two poor performers and increased our salary bill in the bargain. Would having a Chief Talent Officer have helped? Having a head of HR didn’t seem to cut ice.
Look at all the places that live and die by sheer talent – Bollywood, the cricket teams, the advertising fraternity and even publishing – no one has a Chief Talent Officer. So do we really need one of these fancy titles in the workplace? If it really mattered, wouldn’t these places have one? How do you explain this?
The CEO knew everyone in the industry. He knew their skills and what kind of work they excelled in. He knew what motivated them and what made them leave. He knew the body of work the top talent of the industry had created and the awards they had won. It was his brainchild to set up an institute that focused on teaching communication as a way of building a talent pool for the industry. That institute continues to be the best source of talent in every agency even today.
The owners of successful IPL cricket teams know exactly which players to bid for. Which players have the ability to excel in that team environment? They bet millions on the choice of talent.
The same happens in Bollywood. The best directors really know which actor will bring out the character in the most authentic way. The director pulls together a cast that includes not just the actors but also the one who designs the costumes, the script writer, the one who pens the lyrics and the director who sets those lyrics to music (usually the music director creates a tune that the lyricist fits lyrics to) and the make-up artist … the list goes on. I have never seen a Chief talent Officer title that appears in the credits. Maybe these businesses know something the others have not discovered yet. The CEO is indeed the best bet for being the Chief Talent Officer.