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The Talent Left on Your Doorstep

I was at one of my favourite music venues, The Stables in Milton Keynes on Sunday. I went to listen to a lady named Sally Barker play. If you live in the UK and watched the TV completion, The Voice last year you will probably know who I’m talking as she was the first runner up.

Sally was great on The Voice. I absolutely loved her rendition of songs or better, put her interpretation of them. When I heard that she was going to be playing in Milton Keynes, it was a given that I was going to be there to listen to her.

It was lovely to hear her perform a number of the songs that she had sang on The Voice and I can say that she gives Dionne Warwick a run for her money with her version of “Walk on By”. Equally, it was lovely to hear her sing a number of her own songs that she has written herself over the years. She also does a very good job on the guitar, a skill that she didn’t display whilst she was on The Voice. In addition, I discovered that she has a great sense of humour, she’s a great conversationalist and has a deep interest in history.

I found out that following on from The Voice, she had been offered a contract with Universal Music. She had, however, turned it down. They wanted her to record an album of covers, but she was not satisfied with this. Remember I said she writes her own songs. She therefore wanted to record her own material. She has since re-released one of her older albums, “Maid in England” including some of the songs that she sang on The Voice.

I believe that Sally is a talented, world class performer and that by not accepting her for who she truly is and what she represents and has to offer, Universal Music actually lost out. As she told the story, I found myself thinking of the talent in the workplace.

We typically recruit people on the basis of job descriptions – totally understandable. We’ve got to have some parameters. However, do we ever take the time to understand the additional skills that people have to offer and where appropriate make use of those skills. I’ve seen research that indicates that a third of employees are likely to look for new jobs this year. I believe highly skilled and capable employees that don’t fill full appreciated or utilised are likely to be high on the list of people looking for new opportunities where they will be truly fulfilled.

Equally common, is the habit of recruiting staff with great skills and talents that we identify and indicate that we very much admire during the recruitment process, which we then fail to utilise once they are in our employ. Dictating that they perform a role which does not utilise these capabilities or that they perform tasks in a (procedural) manner that does not optimise that which they have to offer, that we originally said we admire.

It’s not just about talent. I’ve heard people express the frustration that they can’t fully express themselves and be who they are within the workplace. This is especially true of people from diverse backgrounds who have been told that they should act in a certain way in order to conform and be accepted. Yes, there are limits, but do you encourage the people that work with you to freely be who they are within the workplace?

If you do, I believe that you will find yourself with a much fulfilled and effective workforce. If not, I would strongly recommend that you start to do so.


P.S. Oh, and if you appreciate good music; if Sally Barker is ever in your town make sure you go along. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Susan Popoola is an HR Specialist at Conning Towers which specializes in HR Transformation and Talent Management.  Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain which explores Disatisfaction, Disengagement and Diversity within Britain is her second published book.

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