HR: The Talent Investor

I’ve been constantly on a lookout for great content whether it’s through books, conversations or watching videos. Lately, I started watching Shark Tank on Netflix because of my increased interaction with business people and investors. I wanted to find out more about what they look for and also, how businesses pitch in to secure the desired funding.

I must admit that I’m hooked ever since I started watching it! Besides the fact that it is really interesting due to its reality show setup, I also gained some perspectives on how it is applicable to the HR profession.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Lesson #1: Potential speaks louder than immediate value

A good product comes into the tank, shows some good sales figure and no investors buy into it in the end. Why? Because they didn’t see a long-term growth potential of it. Worst still, they felt that the product has already hit its peaked at present.

In the field of talent, HR should also look beyond the present. Instead of simply considering the immediate fit, it is also critical to think about the growth trajectory and long-term fit which are key to ensure sustainability and scalability of the business. I recall how line managers often say, “This person seems ok for now, let’s hire him to do the job then see what happens later.” More often than not, what happens later is attrition and a huge cost to the organization.

Lesson #2: Noises are ever present

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Not all Sharks are interested in every single deal. But they would usually still have their comments even though they are out of the deal. It irritates those Sharks who are still in the game but the good thing is that the experienced ones are able to block out the noises and still make a sound investment decision based on their own judgment.

In our daily hiring and talent management work, HR professionals will hear noises from the business due to the varying perspectives and priorities. What’s important is to keep an objective mind, be clear of the goals and stand firm for what you believe in. That enhances credibility and delivers value to the business.

Lesson #3: Timing is key

Opportunities don’t always wait. In business, if you try to play hard to get or just want to wait out for that perfect offer to come, you might just lose the great offer in front you. When you pass the moment, you may lose the opportunity forever.

Likewise, talents are in constant demand and do not like to wait. Back in my corporate days, I’ve seen too many cases where companies sit on a candidate’s profile for too long despite finding them a good fit. Why? Because they feel that there is this perfect candidate that is coming along the way. Sadly, the unicorn doesn’t happen most of the time and when they are ready to offer the candidate, a few months have passed, the candidate gets frustrated and has moved on from there with another opportunity. A good talent is lost because the moment is gone.

Lesson #4: Look beyond the tangibles


Investment is beyond money, it’s also about the network and expertise that comes with it. At Shark Tank, investors occasionally join forces and with their respective network and resources, commanding a much higher premium than an individual Shark will typically ask for.

Likewise, for HR teams, if you are able to offer beyond just the tangibles of salary and benefits, that’s where you get a winning edge. By collaborating with your line managers and being clear of what you can offer as a team rather than just the regular checklist items, you stand a higher chance of creating a higher perceived value and in turn, become a stronger draw for the candidates.

Lesson #5: Branding matters

Every episode, it always starts from the profiling of each Shark’s story and the areas which they are good at. This constantly reinforces a certain image and enhances their personal brand when people approach them. Kevin O’Leary, for instance, is seen as a shrewd investor where some people rather not work with while Lori Greiner is the Queen of QVC where many of the fast-moving products love to go to her. A strong story enhances the brand and it sells!

Branding is important for the organization as well. What it stands for, what value does it bring, what kind of people you will potentially be working with etc. A strong brand creates attention and helps an organization become a talent magnet. This in turn reduces the effort to attract and retain the top talents because not only will you attract the right people, people within the organization who believes in what you stand for stays.

Closing thoughts

As an HR professional, we are in the business of talent investment. From the point of hiring to managing the talents and eventually exiting them, it’s a process of investing in them to help the organization grow in a sustainable manner. This means that we need to stay sharp, have a portfolio mindset and know what it takes to be able to able to draw attractive talents to us.

HR shouldn’t focus purely on transactions. It’s in a business of making a difference in people’s lives and in turn, delivering organization results that are tangible and meaningful. Before that, we need to equip ourselves with the ability to be comfortable with numbers and projections. That in some way, besides training of competency, can be complemented with HR technology in the market.

Exciting times ahead for fellow “Talent Investors” so keep hustling and I’m sure we have a bright future ahead for our profession!

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