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The mismatch between customers' needs and the development of talent in organizations

December 6 2011 - According to Dutch trend-watcher Adjied Bakas 'the use of real talent' is the most important trend in coming times, assuming that the tide within the worldwide economy will largely be determined by commercial organizations. This immediately creates a relation between development of talent and the changing environment in which organizations find themselves. And within this environment 'the customer' still is the most important factor.

Richard van der Lee, Manager Retail Clients at Rabobank in the Netherlands, wonders if organizations lose track of (potential) customers or have 'too much internal focus'? Another question that reflects his line of thought is 'Do we evaluate and use ever-changing customers' needs and other issues within the organization's environment during recruitment, development and employment of individual talents?'


According to Van der Lee, many companies state that they know what is moving the market and use that knowledge by utilizing instruments such as: recruitment, performance management, management of competencies, personal development plans and coaching by managers. This may be true but in what flexible way will these instruments be utilized if we do not know whether or not these instruments are the right ones for the job. The quality of these instruments will mainly depend on how these instruments will be used by managers in relation to individual talents of their employees. Think about the 'feel' that managers need to have these days in the area of change, innovation and entrepreneurship. Not all managers are gifted with this 'feel' but it is essential to anticipate the changing dynamic environment and needs of the (internal) customers.

Customers and individual development of talent

In an online inquiry van der Lee presented the following scenario to a group of 105 employees in different commercial organizations:

Within my organization the environment has been taken into account for the development of individual talent. For example: ever-changing customer needs, changes in demographical, technological, economical and social fields, etc.

A selection of five answers was available: 1 - totally agree, 2 - agree, 3 - neutral, 4 - totally disagree, 5 - do not know and also the option 'no opinion'. Remarkably, after splitting the group into staff members and managers (52 and 53 respectively), 46.2 % of the managers gave answers one and two against 34 % of the employees. The managers in the study clearly tended to have a better 'feel' for the use of customers' needs and the dynamic environment in relation to the development of individual talent than staff members. But the result is low when you consider that we are dealing with commercial organizations that only have the right to exist through the needs and means of their customers.

Missed opportunity

Van der Lee asks: "Are these results surprising?" He does not think so "when you look at the present economic situation. Development of individual talents takes time and costs money and this is something many organizations did not have or barely had in recent years. In these times of economic crisis the first reaction within a lot of organizations is to cut the number of employees and their facilities for development. Yet this is a missed opportunity because organizations that actively are developing individual talent, evidently obtain better (financial) results than the competition, crisis or no crisis." (Read also the article 'Wasting talent reduces profits').

Look from the outside to the inside

Van der Lee says: "Many things have to be done in the area of recruitment, selection, and development of individual talent for employees.Looking from the point of view of the customers towards organizations this is no longer an option but a necessity to obtain distinguished capabilities and to beat the competition in these dynamic economic times. Individual talents of employees, in relation to concepts such as entrepreneurship, change and innovation, are essentially important to organizations in anticipating customers' needs. To put it briefly, managers, staff members and executives should consider this: What care has been taken in the development of individual talent in your organization? Dare to act from the customers point of view. If this is not done , customers will run off and never come back. The time of dissipation is over and the time of creation and utilization of individual talent has arrived."

About the author

Richard van der Lee is working as a Manager at Rabobank in the Netherlands. Besides that Richard is Talent Entrepreneur at his own company 'Vision on Talent Consultancy'. He published several articles/blogs which have been published on several HRM-sites and a website for managers and directors in the Netherlands and Belgium). He gives advice to individuals/organizations about talentdevelopment-issues and is also asked to give presentations about his vision on HRM-issues in seminars. As part of an Executive MBA he researched the development of individual talent in organizations. This resulted in a specific ideology for organizations, and a corresponding model on how to build a 'vision on talent'. The main component of the model is the strong relationship between relevant market perspectives and organizational perspectives. Email Richard for questions or suggestions to, or find him on twitter under the name @visieoptalent or visit his website Visieoptalent. A version of this article was earlier published in the Netherlands on several websites and is translated from Dutch into English by Joop van der Lee.

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