Time was when 'staff satisfaction' was the catchphrase on the lips of every human resources specialist. Later, it became 'staff commitment', and most recently it has been replaced by 'staff engagement'. According to Raymond Cheng Wai-man, principal consultant with Hong Kong Productivity Council's (HKPC) Total Enterprise Management Consultancy, staff engagement implies a stronger sense of affiliation with the organisation compared with the other two terms, and is an especially topical concept for employers facing the challenge of talent retention caused by fierce competition in the manpower market. 'Satisfied staff speak for the company. Committed staff go further and are willing to stay with the company. But engaged staff do not just stay with the company they strive their best for the company. Given limited resources, employers should give priority to engaging their most competent staff,' Mr Cheng said at a recent seminar organised jointly by HKPC and Classified Post to introduce the former's SmarTalent Development Programme as a tool for engaging outstanding talent. The programme equips an organisation with a comprehensive process for systematically identifying, selecting, assessing and developing its best talent, and planning for their succession to senior management positions. It helps an organisation project an image of valuing talent and shows the capable aspirants it hires a clear avenue for career advancement. It enables the organisation to attract and retain competent employees, thereby building a solid talent pool to support the achievement of strategic objectives and facilitate longer-term leadership succession. It also helps an employer in a volatile labour market retain and attract talent with less pressure for raising salaries or outbidding other material rewards offered by competitors. 'SmarTalent stands for systematic management approach to retain talent. It recognises that organisations face resource limitations and champions the focused use of finite resources for breeding the most promising talent,' Mr Cheng said. 'But identifying and selecting the most eligible high-fliers is not an easy task, which is why senior managers often complain that they have no capable staff to support them. One of the things this programme does is help employers pick their best people.' The step-by-step approach starts with helping an organisation map out its future competency requirements based on its strategic directions. On this basis, further steps ensue to select potential candidates, assess their competencies from multiple perspectives, draw up their individual career development plans, fast track their development with training to close identified competency gaps and acquire skills and knowledge for strategic development, help senior management prepare a succession plan, and further shortlist a pool of best talent for moving up the succession ladder. Mr Cheng said the programme allowed an organisation the flexibility to develop talent pools that were cross-level or level-specific. It also ensured accurate and objective talent evaluation by using a combination of assessment tools with complementary strengths, including competency-based interview, psychometric assessment, 360-degree assessment, analysis presentation interview, business case group discussion and in-tray exercise. 'It is often the case that these competent people know very well already their own strengths and weaknesses and just lack the drive to improve. This assessment will drive them to do so,' he said. Best practices The programme aims to identify an organisation's best talent for focused grooming to become its future leaders. It is a step-by-step approach for picking, assessing and training promising talent, building a talent pool and mapping out a management succession plan. It also helps employers in a volatile labour market retain and attract competent talent with less pressure for raising salaries or outbidding other material rewards offered by competitors.