The Talent Pool is a unique programme developed by the University of Birmingham to support doctoral research students in developing their enterprise skills. Businesses can then tap into this talent through the commissioning of specific short-term consultancy projects and/or work placements. This is what happened when one such company recruited a Talent Pool student.
Imagine the scene. At a weekly management meeting, one manager puts forward an excellent idea: to review our methodology for recruiting and working with overseas agents. The idea is fully supported by all. However, with the whole business support team fully engaged, and under additional pressure covering for holidaying team members, how can we find a way to fully research the subject as well as implement any suggested changes?
We have all been there, I am sure. Whatever time and budget we have, it’s never enough!
On to the next meeting, this time with one of our long-serving training specialists, Steve. In the initial chit-chat, I explain our predicament. He immediately comes up with a suggestion, “Have you thought to apply for a Talent Pool PhD student to do the research for you?” My reaction was “I’m not sure about that. Will a PhD student have enough practical business knowledge? And, how readily would they be able to apply academic knowledge to a very practical business operating in a niche sector? Further reluctance, “Would a student take the project seriously and what valuable senior management time would we need to support the student?….”
Steve was in the know. He assures me we would have a range of suitable candidates to interview; highly capable and able to work with minimal support. So we go for it. A one page application form is completed, quickly followed by three candidate CVs and we agree to interview them all. The selection is made.
We are extremely impressed with the selected candidate’s business knowledge and more importantly, his business experience. Expectations are raised considerably from the very beginning. Having a quick and easy application process was a real bonus.
So the project begins. The student quickly grasps what Righttrack is about and how the aims of the project fit with our overall export strategy. He has various meetings with senior managers to discuss progress. We are able to meaningfully discuss business issues relating to the project. The student always has something to add, either from his research, existing knowledge or business experience. His knowledge is far beyond his years.
During one discussion we discover that our current platform for collecting business intelligence from our existing agent is nowhere near robust enough. This can immediately be put right. Good, a tangible result.
In 15 days over four weeks, our student works mainly remotely, checking in by conference call at agreed times and visiting the office in-between. The management team eagerly await the project feedback.
Our PhD student presents a comprehensive report that will enable us to prepare a clear, five-year strategy to increase our exports beyond the Gulf region. It will help us clarify our thinking about implementing a franchise model. The project experience has also helped us challenge some of the processes already in place and improve certain areas of how we deal with agents.
Working with Talent Pool has enabled us to bring an important task forward. From a personal perspective, the whole experience has been thoroughly enjoyable; it has been enriching to work with this very bright young man.
So, if you have a project that is on the backburner due to limited resource or capacity, I would urge you to contact Talent Pool and take advantage of a valuable opportunity. It certainly is worthwhile.
In 2011, Kasmin was awarded an OBE for Services to Training & Export. She is renowned for her extensive experience, creativity and cutting-edge approach to Learning & Development. Since founding Righttrack in 1988, Kasmin has worked on hundreds of development projects spanning a broad range of soft skills subjects such as Customer Service, Management & Leadership, Equality & Diversity and Sales, for the likes of Gucci, Virgin Media, IKEA and BP, to name just a few.