Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Development of the Fittest
Who owns the 'burden' for executive development and talent retention within an organisation? The executive or senior manager who aspires to greater things? Should they be spending their time planning their career path and seeking out new development opportunities? Or is it the employer who must take the lead in this process, through identification, selection, reward and recognition?

Rather than turn this particular debate into yet another version of the old "chicken and egg" dilemma, we might very well be best to rely upon a wise quote from a noted expert in the field, Noel Tichy, who put it this way when he was working with Jack Welch at GE. His advice to both executives and organisations was "control your own destiny, or someone else will!" In today's 'free-agent' talent market, this advice can be directed at both the aspiring executive and their employer. If the 'game' of retaining talent is played well, both parties end up winning.

The Right Stuff

The central problem rests with the fact the traditional mindset that underpins most executive development and talent retention, must be changed. The "survival of the fittest" mentality that most organisations have relied upon since the end of WWII to validate who has the "right stuff", must be changed.

In his book "High Flyers" author Morgan W. McCall Jr. argues the new focus and approach has to centre on the overall "development of the fittest" and that involves a more complicated dual-track approach. Simply put, if your organization fails to adequately provide its high flyers with both applicable work experiences and plentiful training and development opportunities, your top players will more than likely leave.

Talent Management

A core premise, within the new credo, and a very big philosophical change from even 10 years ago, is that an organisation should not aim to treat all of its aspiring executives in the same way. In fact, the progressive organisation should pro-actively "discriminate" when it comes to their High Potential Officers.

Simply put, Talent Management means that the organisation needs to find and create unique development solutions and streams for each and every manager with potential. There is no "one size fits all" approach and generic formulae do not do enough to differentiate between capability, motivation and learning style.

Organizations need to implement or at least augment their talent management processes or they may find they simply do not have any talent to manage. As it has been said, "the strongest swimmers jump ship first, because they are the ones who are capable of swimming to shore." If you don't find unique ways to hold on to your best swimmers, you can expect them to leave.

The Soft Middle

There is another important point to make and it has to do with the "soft middle" within most organisations. The fact of the matter is, while we may praise the "high potentials" there is no question the "soft middle" plays a major role in keeping most organisations afloat. They may not have the same upside or even the same work ethic, dedication or aspirations but an organisation that hopes to win in the market has to make sure its "B Players" are better than the competition's "B Players".

In an important way, developing a new, stronger and more robust talent management process has two additional benefits. Aside from rewarding and recognizing your strongest team members - the "high potentials" - you send a strong message that will entice the moderate performers to rise to the occasion. In so doing, you pass ownership of that responsibility to the employees and improve the overall fitness of the organization.

Steps to Developing Your Talent Pool

The issue of "talent management" is so critical to the long term success of an organisation that it should have elevated priority, especially in these more challenging times. It is a major differentiator from both a recruitment and retention point of view. As well, it is a means to secure your intellectual capital base and hedge your exposure. Organisations need to move away from thinking of workers as costs and employees as assets.

In the new world, employees need to be thought of as "investors" who choose whether or not to invest their efforts and talent based on the "value proposition" their organisation puts forth to them. Are your employees investing? If the answer is no, or not to the fullest, you may wish to consider the following.

Note the Importance - Most companies use a far too reactive and standardised approach to succession planning and talent development. In today's environment, a more dynamic focus on these two processes is fundamental in terms of the success and survival of your organisation.

A Place for Everyone - Too often companies only keep tabs on a select group of high potential candidates. Due to rapid fluctuations in market trends and consumer demands, every employee's talents, abilities, and potential should be logged for immediate access. Dig deep down into the organisation and focus on early talent identification.

Ongoing Process - The bottom line for development and assessment is that, on an ever-increasing basis, fast feedback loops are becoming the norm. In baseball, a player's stats change after every at bat. How often do your employees get assessed?

Make Tough Calls - Top performers are no longer the only group requiring rigorous evaluation. The market overall is going to demand more and more of you. Dealing with underperformers, therefore, is just as important in keeping your organization's effectiveness at maximal values.

Our Monthly Rant…
Welcome Back Kotter

In the hit TV series of several years ago, actor Gabe Kaplan played the role of a teacher who had to maintain control of a motley crew of teenagers. This is, of course, very similar to the role the Head of HR or the CEO often find themselves to be in. To quote Warren Bennis – "It's like herding cats".

The challenge is – do you want to treat all people the same or do you need to treat them differently? Do you treat them the way you would want to be treated or do you treat them the way they wanted to be treated?

The point here is really quite simple. Your job is to get people to perform and to do so in a way that they realise their full potential. Not everyone has the same potential so you will need to find the right way to entice each person to "invest" more of themselves.
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