Alison Ettridge Feb 22 8 min read

Spot the Moonwalking Bear

At the end of last year my good friend and TIC Podcast co-host, Toby Culshaw, published Talent Intelligence, a book that has become the definitive guide to talent intelligence (TI). I thought I was pretty well versed on the world of talent intelligence having carved out a space in the industry over 10 years ago but as a tech CEO it was so interesting to read a book written from ‘the other side’ – by one of the best practitioners in the business.

In the book, Toby likens TI to the TFL safety initiative in which the viewer fails to spot the moonwalking bear as they’re so focused on the task in hand.

Did you spot the moonwalking bear?

TI allows you to see the moonwalking bear!

It lets you look into the blind spots and see from a fresh perspective. It’s a great analogy to begin the book which is the first comprehensive discussion of TI that I’ve seen.

About the book

The book includes a foreword by none other than Josh Bersin as well as contributions from Philips, Barclays and Kimberly-Clark. The book has lots of practical advice including how to identify where in the organisation talent intelligence can have the biggest impact, which functions HR professionals should partner with, and how to set metrics and long-term TI goals.

I was privileged to be invited to write a chapter and so in the chapter which explores ‘Examples of Talent Intelligence’, you’ll find practical use cases for TI and real life examples of its application based on case studies with our clients. The aim of my contribution was to showcase how TI adds the most value when it’s used strategically.

Here is what I took away from the book:

  • Ethics will become critical: There is a huge piece around the ethics of talent intelligence that currently isn’t a big enough part of the conversation. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is how Toby puts it and as talent intelligence evolves, that’s going to become more important. I think there will come a time when practitioners will rightly demand transparency in their data supply chain from their data providers – and providers will need to prove their data is trustworthy.
  • Keep it strategic. To quote from the book "the shifting of mindset from operational to strategic is critical". To build a high performing TI function Toby says it’s vital to separate TI from filling jobs in any way, shape or form even if it’s being used for sourcing and recruiting. The value of TI is in de-risking decision making, assessing feasibility and exploration; not filling jobs faster. This is at the heart of what we do at Stratigens.
  • Build your team. TI practitioners are a rare breed. They often sit in analytics but the skills required are quite different and that’s not always understood. In Toby’s experience it’s the soft skills that make a great TI team member: critical thinking, creativity, innovation, dealing with ambiguity, problem solving and an inquisitive nature. I know from our experience that we need a blend of brilliant data scientists, analysts and visualisation specialists.
  • Set simple KPIs. Decide what you care about measuring and use what systems you have to measure against your KPIs. At Philips Toby used a CRM, at Amazon he uses a project management tool. There isn’t a purpose- built system so make use of what you can. Keep KPIs themselves straightforward once you have got the business bought in to them.

There are lots more great practical tips in the book and at the end of each section they’re summarised in ‘Toby’s Takeways’ so even if you only have time to skim through for now, there are some really insightful nuggets of information there.

TI is much discussed but little understood so this book is well worth a read whether you’re new to it or already a seasoned practitioner. If you want to hear more, Toby was a guest on the TIC podcast where he talked about the book (listen here), or you can buy a copy of the book here. If you do, please leave a Google review for Toby! You can also read a selection of the case studies I cover in the book chapter on our website here.