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Identifying talents and optimising employment transitions through the constructivist approach.

The ANDRH and the Féfaur digital learning consultancy have recently presented the results of a particularly interesting survey [i] on the subject, which was conducted among 400 respondents.

What is particularly encouraging is that, for the majority of those questioned, talent management is a critical factor in the success of a business (71% of respondents).

French touch or French talents?

Although talent management is now a well-established practice in French businesses, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that the very concept of talent remains somewhat elitist compared to the one used by Anglo-Saxon businesses, for whom every employee is a talent in his or her own right. Consequently, only 40.5% of French companies would use talent management for all categories of employees.

So how can we explain this phenomenon? It is probably due to the fact that to the French mind, the concepts of talent and potential are strangely confused. Matters become clearer when we learn that for the French companies questioned, potential is first and foremost “a capacity to develop” (according to 74.4% of respondents in the survey) and “a capacity to handle the greatest responsibilities/hold managerial positions” (68.9%)!

It is small wonder, therefore, that the annual interview and staff appraisal are the essential elements in talent evaluation in France (85.2% and 74% of respondents respectively). And so, employees would first have to approach their line managers and the HR department if they wish to bring up the issue of having their talents assessed. Because it is evaluation, rather than identification, that always comes up in the survey results.

Should we evaluate or identify talent?

We believe that, first and foremost, it is the identification of talent which should remain the primary issue. It should be a process of identification in which the interested parties themselves must be involved throughout their careers, however many times they change jobs. 

The aim is to enable them not only to identify their own talents, ensure that they keep them up and develop them, but also to bring these talents to the attention of their family, friends and work colleagues. So many talents have been “spotted” thanks to effective communication based on good initial knowledge of the “product”.

Talent and sense of personal effectiveness

At first glance, the identification of talent would appear to be no easy task. French culture tends to encourage the individual to consider only something which has been “objectively” evaluated by the system as a “talent”. Whether this is the school system, with its corollary of grades, or even the company, with its relatively unsophisticated grids of hierarchically arranged criteria, French people have a quite natural tendency to rely on a third party to assess their skills, the term “talent”  not yet having become part of the prevailing discourse or habits.

So evaluation predominates, to the detriment of something which might be better, maybe even just a first attempt at identifying what individuals themselves consider to be their personal talents. What would children quite naturally say they are good at? Piano playing, drawing, singing, using a specific software package?  Yet so many talents are just waiting to be expressed quite simply by the subjects themselves if they are just invited to do so and are provided, if need be, with appropriate support to enable them to count how many strings they have to their bow.

So what does this involve exactly?

It involves identifying the beliefs that individuals have about their abilities to perform a particular task. The American psychologist Albert Bandura calls these beliefs a “Sense of personal effectiveness” (SEP).

The issue is particularly important because, for the psychologist in question, it is precisely this “sense of personal effectiveness” which underlies motivation and action and, consequently, human achievements and well-being.

This is a fundamental element which has a profound impact not only on the choice of activity and environment but also with regard to the energy which people put into pursuing the goals they have set themselves and the level of perseverance they demonstrate.

But we must not fool ourselves; if someone has developed a heightened sense of personal effectiveness for a particular activity, this does not necessarily mean that they are particularly fond of it. Over time, they might, in fact, have simply acquired a certain “competence” in some activity or other without particularly enjoying doing it.

In other words, we should make a clear distinction between enjoyment and sense of personal effectiveness.

The “Talents & Transitions Patchwork ®” method allows this fundamental distinction to be drawn in a relatively simple and original way. This is primarily why it has been widely used, for a number of years, by many professionals in career development support.

An innovative method for identifying and developing talents.

Taking its inspiration from socio-constructivism, the “Talents & Transitions Patchwork®” method published by the British publisher OTT Partners [ii], encourages the narrative approach for those receiving support, by enabling them to express in a metaphorical way the different work-related and non-work-related situations which make sense for them. The constituent activities involved in these different experiences are examined by the advisor and the person receiving the support in terms of three dimensions: enjoyment, sense of personal effectiveness and the relative importance of each. The method enables people to reconstruct the course of their personal experiential history and, by means of a close and “well-resourced” examination, identify what their personal talents are and the activities in which they feel particularly at ease (gifted?). Supported in this reflective exercise by a careers advisor trained [iii] in the method, participants gradually acquire the ability to imagine what will come next in their own story or, in other words, identify precisely those ingredients and types of professional activities which might suit them. All they then have to do is to report back effectively on this research and try to identify employment opportunities which best meet these criteria.

Practitioners who have been using this method with their clients for a number of years have noticed how quickly their clients have developed the ability to identify their talents and, in addition, use most of the work-related and non-work-related experiences they have had to great effect to further their career.

Isn’t talent management just up to the interested party him or herself in the end?

This is indeed the opinion currently shared by many careers guidance professionals who are helping their clients acquire the ability to make career-related decisions for themselves.

David Bourne, psychologist, psychology lecturer and researcher, and operations manager at the head office of the National Employment Agency (Safeguarding Career Paths Service), is an expert in the field of employment transitions at EPALE.



[ii] OTT Partners Ltd, exclusive publisher of the “Talents & Transitions Patchwork®” method.

[iii] A three-day training course is available for professionals who wish to use the “Talents & Transitions Patchwork®” method 

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