by Dennis Roberts

Talent management – lessons from the thoroughbred world. Racehorse trainers & sporting coaches aim to maximise the potential of the athlete (human or equine) under their care. Critical to the success of a racehorse trainer is their ability to choose the right races for their horses to run. Placement is nearly as important as the trainer’s own ability to get the horse to perform. Why run a lowly class maiden with little ability in a highly prestigious and ultra-competitive weight-for-age race? It is little consolation to run last in a big race when you could be winning lesser races and earning respectable prize money.

What lessons on potential and performance might you take from the highly competitive world of horse racing?

Racehorse trainers place their horses in restricted races that they are capable of winning. They program their charges to win their way through the classes rather than throwing them in the deep end. This allows them to gain confidence and get an appetite for winning.

The training of racehorses seldom starts with an opening gambit that the horse has untapped potential. Races are graded and horses work (win) their way through their grades. The trainer must quickly assess the horses’ ability and place it to advantage.

Hong Kong is a great example where the entire thoroughbred population is imported. Horses are handicapped meticulously so that the racing is highly competitive amongst a small pool of bloodstock. The ability and performance threshold of each horse is known to the hundredth of a second.

Any stark performance improvement or failure on the racetrack is met with a rigorous stewards investigation. The integrity of the sport is paramount.

Do you know the capabilities of your staff? Is there a threshold on human performance, or should you subscribe to the theory that potential has no ceiling.

Things for you to do:

1.     Personal and professional development – encourage your staff to take ongoing responsibility for their own personal and professional development. Some activities will directly relate to their job function for which you may invest in whereas others may be personal which they fund themselves. This ongoing learning and development is crucial to staying ahead of the game.

2.     Set performance benchmarks – make an assessment of the ability and upside potential of all of your resources, not just your staff. Your resources include time, ideas, people, energy and money. The benchmarks may be internal or external. Start with comparing the same item period on period, eg monthly/ quarterly. Keep it short. Annual cycles are too slow.

3.     Energy levels – much of the focus has traditionally been time management whereas today the focus is on energy levels. Burnout, fatigue, working 24/7 mean that sustaining levels of high performance over long periods is dangerous and not advisable. People will burnout. When staff are on vacation it is critically important for them to recharge their batteries. Turn off the mobile and email at these crucial downtimes and you will prolong the lifespan of your people.

by Dennis Roberts