Developing Talent Across a Business

Developing Talent Across a Business

In the very first piece of work that led to the SPICE Framework, Innovation People was tasked with reducing staff turnover in a business by 40% in six months.  This was in a business that had an overall staff turnover of 108% annually.

In very first piece of work that led to the SPICE Framework, Innovation People was tasked with reducing staff turnover in a business by 40% in six months.  This was in a business that had an overall staff turnover of 108% annually.

The approach we took in delivering this work was to develop training for new hires in the business, training for team leaders and first line managers across the business and leadership development for senior managers based on a common task we agreed together.  A research project ran through the work in each of the three areas of new hires, team leaders and senior managers addressing questions of retention based on talent development and the promotion of innovation in the business.

The approach taken to talent development was to look not only to the whole workforce but also to workforce supply in the communities from which the business recruited.  There’s nothing new in this, I guess.  What was new – or new to the business – was to treat the whole workforce as being included in a talent management programme.

Developing Talent Across a Business

Within each of the three areas of work, within delivery we sought to challenge the effectiveness of conventional approaches to talent management that might identify a top performing group for enhanced development and to exclude the ‘laggards’ of poor performers.  The approach taken paid dividends for the business.  And sure enough staff turnover was reduced by 40% within six months, with the resulting increases in business value, staff performance, etc.  What’s more the business introduced a company-wide talent development programme in the UK and went on to develop a similar programme in their US business, which Innovation People led.

Introducing the Well of Talent

At the heart of this talent development work was a simple approach developed by Bill Bolton and John Thompson which can be found in their excellent book, Entrepreneur, Talent, Temperament, Technique (Routledge, 2004).  Titled, the ‘Well of Talent’, this simple approach is based on six stages or levels of talent sought out in an entrepreneurial business.  See what you make of them:

  1. Followers – Those following procedure
  2. Operational Management – Changing Processes
  3. Enterprising Managers – Modifying Structures
  4. Leaders – Testing Ideas
  5. Entrepreneurs – Responding to Patterns
  6. Innovators – Discerning New Patterns

At the time, one reason for choosing this approach was the presumption that the more it is possible to give a colleague ‘agency’, or the capacity to make their own decisions the better.  And so it proved.

Of course, throughout it was important everyone should be able to ‘follow procedure’, but that word, ‘Patterns’ became more and more important, as the work progressed.

Identifying Patterns in Resolving Challenges

We’ve learned as our research developed the SPICE Framework went on that the ‘P’ of SPICE is Patterns and refers to the way individuals and businesses tend to respond to the world around them and, in particular in responding to challenges.  We found thorugh our research that we can split the way people respond to challenges in four main types of Pattern:

  • Paradigm – A preference for known and established systems and procedures
  • Puzzle – the simple and clearly identifiable solution
  • Problem – the complex solution with a number of possible outcomes
  • Possibility – the focus on the future

Three Action Points

Of course, everyone – wherever they are in the ‘Well of Talent’ – spots patterns and develops habits and conventions in pattern spotting.  Amongst the lessons we learned from this and many other projects are that:

  1. It is a mistake to build talent management strategies in a narrow band of performers within a business. Look to the whole workforce.
  2. Use a framework such as the Well of Talent with its six levels and have at the heart of your talent development strategy a readiness to identify the habits people display in spotting patterns and responding to challenges.
  3. Recruit for and foster Pattern spotting that meets business needs.

The SPICE Ecosystem™, the application environment Innovation People has developed, provided tools to support talent spotting.  In fact, we built a Behavioural Assessment for this purpose with Huddersfield University that can be used to assess individuals, teams and whole businesses as an aid to developing business resilience, entrepreneurship and innovation.  You can find out more by visiting

Written by Michael Croft

July 28, 2023