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Vision on Talent, a 'must' for organizations

March 1 2012 - The concepts of 'Vision' and 'Individual talent development' currently cause a lot of confusion and discussion. Many organizations have 'long term' thinking and are actively developing and realizing a vision in this field. Yet there are many organizations which, for various reasons, do not put much energy into developing a 'Vision on talent'.

Given the ageing workforce; intake of a new generation of employees into the labour market; lack of trust between customers and organizations; the necessary match between customers' requirements and talent within organizations; and, last but not least, developments like 'working at a distance', developing individual talent is not an option but a necessity.

Resistance and missed opportunities

According to Richard van der Lee, Manager Retail Clients at Rabobank in the Netherlands, not developing a 'Vision on talent' represents a missed opportunity for organizations.

Many books have been written purely on the concept of 'Vision'. The outcome is that a vision within an organization is typically fully developed and defined by management - but often it is not geared to real activity. Afterwards many remarks are heard like: "There is no support for the vision within the operation" and "It is too woolly." Does this sound familiar to you?


Van der Lee considers that the confusion about understanding 'Vision' also applies to the understanding of 'individual development of talent.' First of all, with talent one often thinks of high potentials only, with the result that a large portion of the Human Capital within organizations will not be utilized. The confusion will be further increased when concepts such as 'Vision' and 'Talent' are being cited in a single combination. Resistance from higher and middle management within organizations often results in comments like: "It does not bring us any financial gain when we engage ourselves in this. We have other things to do and our customers show no interest in these concepts" and "Our organization already has a vision and takes part in competition management." In itself the resistance is logical given the present time of economic uncertainty and also reflects the lack of trust within organizations.

Furthermore, the issues of daily business do not often permit the time to think about this within all departments of the organization. Apart from the fact that the collected input of customers and employees sometimes can be very challenging, this input may not fit within prevailing ways of thinking and the exisitng internal focus. Yet it is strange to think that customers provide the organization’s right of existence and employees within the operation’s department often are very well informed and uniquely know what is actually concerning customers. Finally it often involves concepts that are not entirely tangible for most current managers and does not fit with the 'command and control' perspective that often predominates within organizations.


How tangible must something be? The most tangible form of result for executive staff within organizations often is the financial aspect and, more concretely, the 'return on investment' - the contribution to the organization’s profit. Organizations that take care of high alignment - tuning culture, strategy and individual development of talent - distinguish themselves financially from the competition in a positive way. Research by Pfau & Kay (2002) showed that organizations with a strong sense of vision produced an increase in profit of 29% compared to organizations that did not have a sense of vision. From the book Awake vision with a kiss (Dutch title: Kus de Visie wakker (2008)) by Dutch authors Van der Loo, Geelhoed en Samhoud it emerges that with such organizations employee satisfaction increases by 36% and customer satisfaction rises by 16%. It is a sound conclusion when organizations gear the vision and drive of individual talent to customer needs and changes in the external environment. Within this framework there is nothing woolly in the development and execution of this conclusion. The vision has to be known within the total organization and broadly-based support has to be created within all departments. Therefore, it is so interesting to know what the employee’s vision is within organizations, for at that point the well known shoe eventually pinches.

Clear vision?

The above has been substantiated by the research that Van der Lee carried out for his dissertation. The following statement was presented to 53 employees and 52 managers, all employed within arbitrarily-selected commercial organizations: "Within my organization there is a clear vision present in the field of development of talent." Only 39% stated that they agreed or totally agreed with this statement. Furthermore there was a distinct difference in opinion between managers and employees. 30,2% of the employees chose to agree or totally agree, while managers were significantly more positive with 48,1% agreeing or totally agreeing. Judging by the strength of 'Vision on talent' as a basis for further strategy in the field of developing available Human Capital within organizations, the outcome of this element of research is deplorably poor. In addition to this, the vision - as far as it is present - has not fully reached the shop floor, exposing a problem in the field of communication and realized support.


A 'Vision on Talent' can be developed and executed in many cases. The challenge for organizations, however, lies in finding the right ingredients for such a vision. Furthermore, there is also the challenge in the field of creating and exploiting support. Do customers and particularly employees, within all departments of the organization, recognize the developed vision and will this be the starting point for their daily activities. These challenges are relatively simple to solve but require patience and investment. Organizations need to take the time to get into discussion with customers and employees, ask the proper questions and from this develop their 'Vision on Talent.' By doing so it is possible to achieve an optimal match between customers' needs and the talents of individual employees. There is a great chance that you will encounter surprises and limitations in this process that, normally, would never cross your mind. This is an added value. Also, consider whether you need to 'invent the wheel' again. Surely there are organizations in your sector that preceded you or have the same dilemma themselves. To put it briefly, you don’t have to do it alone. An aid for organizations can also be the body of thought and its corresponding visual model, which has led to the dissertation of 'Vision on Talent' as a completion of the MBA-study. Within this model and body of thought the ingredients emerge to come to a 'Vision of Talent.'

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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