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Talent Management in the New Business World
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An Important Process

Take a moment.

Think about the employees who work for your organization.

Are they the very best? In many organizations the tentative, awkward initial answer may be “No – not really”. As the questioning gets tougher, to include “How do you know?” or “Are you really sure?”, the level of conviction will probably drop even lower.

The simple truth is, the team with the best players puts itself in a better position to win.

You must then ask yourself – are you playing to play, or playing to win?

In this “new” business reality, lack of clarity on the level of talent required to succeed is not exactly what your organization needs to survive. In fact, going forward, having a rigorous, cyclical, ongoing process around Talent Management may be the most important differentiator between success and failure - today, and into the future.

While many organizations have several components to their Talent Management program, they are not likely to be fully aligned or woven into an effective system – from front to back. There are often serious gaps between the various steps of the process. Compare this to a hobbyist who decides to rebuild a classic car. They may actually own all of the individual pieces to complete the car, but until they are assembled in the correct manner, there is no finished product.

These gaps and disconnects must be fixed in order to get the most out of your investment in your people. If your program components do not yet exist, or are in need of a complete overhaul, now is certainly the time to get to work.

To maximize the effectiveness of your Talent Management program, it must be built upon four key components – Differentiation, Assessment & Ranking, Performance Management, and Transparency. If you can excel in these four areas, you can rest assured your leadership pipeline, and overall talent bench strength, will be prepared for what the future holds.

Differentiation

One of the weakest components of many Talent Management programs is the lack of differentiation between employees. What ex-GE CEO Jack Welch would call “superficial congeniality” is a huge concern in today’s market. Managers and leaders alike must understand the critical importance of differentiating their employees’ overall value to the organization. While certainly not a new concept, all people leaders must know definitively how their employees stack up, and direct the appropriate resources to each individual depending on whether they are A, B, C or D players as denoted by the Talent Matrix below (image omitted).

Understanding the Players
A Players – These are your most valuable employees. It goes without saying that they must be treated accordingly, by offering the highest levels of development and feedback.

B Players – These individuals are your true technical experts. Their development should focus on interpersonal skills; encourage them to work on group assignments to broaden their repertoire.

C Players – Strong team players, however, this is business and these employees must be given hard goals, and monitored carefully.

D Players – Once an employee is categorized as a D, there should be a clear path to separation.

Assessment & Ranking

Once your organization has developed a mindset of differentiation, there must be a series of rigorous assessments to help you assign your employees to the appropriate population within the Talent Matrix.

While there are several profiles for each position, most organizations choose to use one or more of the following tools. These tools can be customized and the scores aggregated across large populations of employees, to determine organizational strengths, weaknesses, and gaps.

Behavioural Competencies – While not actually an assessment, organizations can benefit from choosing to develop a customized set of behavioural competencies. These become the backbone of each element of their Talent Management Program, from recruiting, through to targeted training and development programs. By using a set of behavioural competencies, your organization can compare the results from these various elements to ensure consistency across a number of programs.

Why use Behavioural Competencies? – they provide a backbone to link programs.

Early Talent Identification – A relative newcomer to the world of organizational assessment, many organizations are seeing the benefit of reaching deep into the employee population to find their future leaders. Early Talent Identification (ETI), or similar assessments, base their results on predictive indicators of future success. By using an ETI assessment, your talent pipeline can be filled with employees who would otherwise not be identified for succession until later in their career, losing valuable development time.

Why use Early Talent Identification? – it helps you identify your future leaders at all levels.

360 Degree Feedback – Effective use of 360 degree feedback is a trusted means of assessing your employees by their manager, peers and direct reports, thereby giving you a crystal clear picture of their fit within your organization. By rating your employees against your organization’s Behavioural Competencies, and their respective performance dimensions, you can target development opportunities to each individual.

Why use 360-Degree Feedback? – it provides a holistic view of each employee.

Performance Management and Improvement

Talent Management is an ongoing, challenging and dynamic process. Performance Management and Improvement are the keys to providing ongoing support. While most organizations have an annual “Talent Audit”, the assigning of employees to boxes in the Talent Matrix, Performance Management and Improvement are ongoing informal processes.

Performance Management
Traditionally, Performance Management programs have been completed annually. For several years now, however, many organizations have been conducting evaluations quarterly, to ensure that milestones are reached. This allows organizations to track their overall progress more accurately.

Organizations are also allowing employees to have a certain level of input into the setting of their objectives and development priorities, as well as the final scoring. This ensures a much higher degree of buy-in from both the Manager, and the Employee.

Effective Performance Management allows you to:
  • Monitor individual employees in setting objectives
  • Deliver suitable training and development opportunities
  • Provide documented feedback and forced ranking

Performance Improvement
One of the biggest revelations in Talent Management is the birth (or rebirth) of Performance Improvement. While Performance Management focuses on individual performance and development, Performance Improvement identifies organization-wide gaps, which need to be addressed in the near future, and rolls them down into individual performance management portfolios. These two processes, when working together, ensure the organization is monitoring its overall performance, and is also continually adapting to the changing business environment it is being presented with.

Effective Performance Improvement allows you to:
  • Identify qualities required of future and emerging leaders
  • Develop appropriate high potential fast tracking programs
  • Ensure proper personnel in succession plan streams

Transparency

As in many aspects of business, and life, perception is reality. In the world of Talent Management, transparency is the key to success and, more importantly, credibility. Without transparency, your Talent Management program is set up to fail. A lack of transparency leads to one of the most harmful words in the people management business - favouritism. No matter how quantifiable your metrics, no matter how rigorous your process, if you are not candid and transparent about the purpose and outcomes of the process, the effectiveness of all of your efforts will diminish significantly. The perception of your employees will be that your Talent Management program is fraudulent, and based on qualitative measures, not quantifiable ones.

Be prepared to defend challenges with pure numbers, and continually reassure your employees their efforts will be measured based on hard facts.

While it is against the nature of some people to deliver bad news, you and each of the people leaders within your organization, owe it to your employees to vigorously and factually present your case, as well as have the appropriate follow up in place to deal with each employee on a case-by-case basis.

Conclusion

The vital role Talent Management plays in organizations today is that it can create the winning conditions every other aspect of the business can use to move forward. As a leader, there must be an unrelenting vigilance to ensure that, at any moment, you can be assured that you have the very best employees working within your organization, and that every effort is being made to develop them for future challenges.

By having a fully-integrated, comprehensive Talent Management program, your organization will have a strong advantage over less focused competitors, and will be far more likely to create the future rather than be consumed by it.

About the Authors

Kyle Couch
Kyle is the Vice-President - Client Learning Experience for The Beacon Group. His primary responsibilities include the creation of all Leadership Development initiatives, trend spotting for The Beacon Group and its clients, as well as client relationship management.

Kyle’s work with clients is focused primarily in the areas of Emerging Leader Development, Creativity and Innovation, and Change Management.

R. Douglas Williamson
Doug Williamson is President & C.E.O. of The Beacon Group. Doug leads the company’s associates in their activities providing state of the art Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Strategic Planning and Performance Management services and solutions to both private and public sector organizations in North America.

Throughout his business career Doug has been actively involved in initiating positive change within many different organizations while improving the overall performance and effectiveness of countless senior level executive teams.

About The Beacon Group
The Beacon Group is a Canadian-based professional services firm providing support to clients throughout North America and around the world. We focus on helping organizations leverage their investment in their people. With our full line of service offerings, we are not only able to help organizations understand their strengths and weaknesses, but develop and deliver programs that address key areas of concern, and enhance current strengths.

Visit The Beacon Group at www.thebeacongroup.ca
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