Posts Tagged ‘Talent management’

When I was in the seventh grade, during our school’s annual track and field day, I was assigned to the shot put event.  That was a bit of a problem.  Back then, I wasn’t what you would call skinny – I was downright scrawny.  I could barely pick up the shot put, let alone heave it across the field.  Let me tell you, I was definitely scrawny but I was scrappy too.  I practiced hard.  The gym teacher worked with me and, day-by-day, I got better.  It hurt and I hated it, but I got better.

After what seemed like an eternity of training, track and field day arrived and I threw the shot put farther than I had ever thrown it.  It was a personal best.  And I came in … dead last.  Thirty-seventh out of thirty-seven boys.  I had worked hard, I had gotten better, and I had gone from poor to just a little less poor.  My immense effort went largely unrewarded.  That’s what happens when the talent doesn’t match the task.

The truth is, many of us have been sold a bill of goods.  It started with Napoleon Hill when he said, “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  Which is just plain nonsense.  Think about this:  I can conceive of playing in the NBA, and with enough self-delusion I might even be able to believe it.  But I won’t achieve it because you can’t coach tall … or fast.  In other words, I don’t have the talent.

Talent is the capacity for near perfect performance.  It’s something you’re born with or that develops very early in life.  Talent can be cultivated, but it probably can’t be created.  The good news is, everyone has talent of some kind.  But each of us also has some non-talents – some things we just don’t do very well and probably won’t ever do very well.  (My list of non-talents includes anything requiring a power tool, math past the 8th grade level and throwing the shot put.)

If you want exceptional performance in your company (and who doesn’t?) there are two crucial activities that you and all your managers must engage in.

#1 – Identify the talent of each of your people

#2 – Match that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished

Identifying the talent of subordinates and matching that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished just might be the most important contribution to organizational success a manager can make. A wonderful, if somewhat awkward, question is:

Who Does What Well Around Here?

That question focuses on the right thing – it focuses on talent, on what a person can do.  Far too often, managers are in “cop mode”.  They’re on the lookout for what’s wrong.  Certainly there are times when a manager needs to take corrective action.  But great managers spend a lot of time looking for what’s right with people.  To find out more about what great managers do, spend a few minutes with our free online management development course, The Foundation of Management.

In the last post we talked about the special needs of new Gen Y workers.  Now we will look at how every new employee, Gen Y included, is judged in their new organization.  Then we will see what savvy teams are doing to help newly hired Gen Ys hit the ground running.

Upon arrival at a new job, every new employee is judged (I know, we shouldn’t “judge” people, but we do).  They will be scrutinized by established members of the organization in three areas:

  1. Why are they even here? They require salary and benefits.  What do they bring and contribute to the operation (education, technical skills, certifications, clients, special abilities)?
  2. Will we be able to rely upon them?  What kind of person they are (how is their head wired, what are their values, integrity, reliability)?
  3. Are they going to cause problems with our other people?  How good are their people-skills (how well will they work with others)?

Knowing that every organization’s current employees will be judging new people in at least those three areas, the organization should be proactive.  For each area where the new person will be judged the organization should bias the system in favor of success for them.  Give them the strongest possible start in each area. Let’s look at these one at a time:

The Gen Y’s work contribution

Find ways to put new hires to work, in their chosen field, the first week. But only do so with help from a mentor, just a few years senior if possible, who is already adapting nicely in the organization.  Before any formal training begins, have the mentor show the protégé the facilities, introduce peers, demonstrate his (the mentor’s) job, in short – launch the socialization process.  This mentor’s own, specific job in the organization is less important than having good people skills and good work ethics.  You are trying to set a good example.  And remember that new people view the organization in ways established employees no longer can.  So listen for suggestions from new hires, even fresh from school GenYs, as to how the organization can improve.  When a great idea emerges, adopt it and publicize it. (In fact, documenting and showing the disposition of EVERY suggestion in an organization is a wonderful way to demonstrate that every suggestion is important; also noting why it was implemented, deferred or rejected can be a great morale booster.)

The Person

Assume the new Gen Y is a reliable, reasonable person of integrity and reinforce that with organization-specific ethics training immediately.  Studies have shown that a person’s failure to perform can almost always be attributed to either poor training or poor motivation:  they either (1) don’t know exactly what is expected of them, so they don’t do it or (2) they know what is expected but are not sufficiently motivated to do it.  So tell them what you want in the initial in-briefings about ethics, integrity, reliability and honesty.  Then show them people in the organization living those values and being rewarded for them.  People usually rise to the benchmark their peers and bosses set for them.

You won’t know an employee’s deepest values until they are tested in some way but you can often shape a Gen Y’s still-impressionable sense of right and wrong.  You do this with a clear position written in simple English (not by lawyers) for every behavior the organization will (and won’t) tolerate.  These points can be part of an initial briefing or provided by a mentor or boss and they must be reinforced constantly by management.  Some examples could include:

  1. Expense accounts – don’t pad them. Keep thorough records and spend the organizations dollars as carefully as if it is your family’s money.
  2. Speak plainly – say what you mean and mean what you say. (* with one exception, discussed later).  Don’t use big puffy words, don’t “spin” your positions and don’t exaggerate.  Don’t understate things either. Be factual and be evidence-based.  Steer away from drama of all kinds here.
  3. You are unknown here.  From the very start, build a reputation as a hard worker who pitches in to contribute, without complaint, who speaks plainly and honestly, who shows up early and stays late.  Succeeding here can be thought of as a marathon with occasional sprints.  You must be able to do both.
  4. When you need help, ask for it.  We are a team here.

Well, you get the idea  . . . . This sharing of values and standards, repeated and demonstrated over time, is how individuals are brought into a team with shared goals, interdependencies and mutual rewards.

The organization and the new hire must agree to “meet halfway” in the process of individuals joining the team.  In our next post we will see what savvy companies are doing to help new Gen Ys improve the people skills they will need to succeed and we will look at the number one thing a newly hired Gen Y can focus on to quickly be accepted in a new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Developing Organizational Bench Strength

by Sean Conrad on February 7, 2011

Today’s global market requires a greater level of corporate agility than ever before. The financial, economic, environmental, regulatory and business climates are constantly changing. Competition is getting fiercer. How do you ensure your organization has the bench strength it needs to compete and succeed, both today and tomorrow?

Identify and Define the Competencies that are Critical to Organizational Success

Start by asking: What differentiates your organization? Is it customer service, product excellence, technical expertise, market awareness or value-based selling? It’s important for every organization to know and understand what sets it apart.

Once you’ve identified your differentiators, take a close look at the underlying competencies, values or behaviors.

This requires more than just identifying “Customer Service” or “Communication” or “Teamwork” as your corporate competencies. You’ll need to identify the competencies required for success in leadership roles, as well as in each area of your organization. And you should identify the skills that are needed today, and those that will be needed tomorrow.

Then take it a step further. You need to define what each of these competencies means to your organization. What does demonstration at the various levels look like? Are there examples or scenarios you can describe to help better define each competency? What learning activities or work experiences can help develop each of them? If you use generic competencies and generic descriptions, you’ll get generic results. For competencies to be true differentiators, you need to “customize” them to articulate your unique corporate values.

Systematically Assess and Develop those Competencies in your Employees

As products and services become more and more rapidly commoditized, organizations need to understand that their only true sustainable competitive advantage is their people. So your people had better embody the competencies that support your success.

To entrench these differentiating competencies in your workforce, you need to regularly assess each employee’s demonstration of organizational and job specific competencies. Where performance gaps are identified, you need to ensure that development plans are put in place. You should also follow up to ensure the development activities are actually effective in improving performance. If they’re not, you’ll need to identify new learning activities that will.

This is where all the hard work you did in identifying and defining competencies really pays off. If you’ve been thorough, you’ll have clear definitions of each competency. You can use these definitions to communicate organizational priorities and values to your employees. You can also use them to help you identify or create learning activities that truly help develop these competencies in your workforce.

Regular competency assessments and development activities will also give you a view of how your organization is performing overall, and identify performance or skill gaps in departments, divisions, or the entire organization. Using the data from your assessments, and analyzing it in this way will give you key insights into your bench strength.

Identify and Retain High Potential Employees

While you want to develop the competencies that are your differentiators in all your employees, there will always be a smaller body of employees who excel at them. Your organization will also have employees who show potential for assuming broader roles or more responsibility. These are your high potential employees.

It’s vital that you identify these high potential employees. If they’re valuable to you, they’re likely also valuable to your competitors and to companies in other industries. Consider using your performance appraisal process or a separate talent assessment process to identify your high potential employees and assess their risk of leaving.

Once you know who your high potential employees are, you’ll want to take measures to ensure you retain them. Typical retention tactics include compensation and training/development opportunities. But since everyone is unique in what they value, and in what motivates them, you should consider a more personalized approach.

You should also pay careful attention to grooming successors for your high potential employees. Developing bench strength is about developing pools or groups of employees, not just individuals.

Conclusion

Identifying your core, differentiating competencies, and then developing them in your entire workforce, but especially in your high potential employees helps to ensure your organization has the bench strength it needs to compete and succeed.

In most businesses, while high level goals may be set for the organization, employees rarely embrace these or feel any connection to them. Yet this is exactly what your organization needs to be able to execute on its strategy and achieve its goals – an engaged and committed workforce, all pulling in the same direction. So how do you harness the power of your workforce and get everyone contributing to the organization’s success?

Goal alignment.

Now I’m not talking about your traditional model of goal alignment, where goals are cascaded from the top level of the organization down to each successive level of management and finally “dumped” on employees at the bottom of the hierarchy. This is sometimes called the “people-centric” model of goal alignment. This model tends to result in employees who are disengaged, because they are typically not involved in their goal setting process.

Cascading goals takes a long time to setup. Every successive level of management must wait for the previous level to have their goals set, before they receive their own. That can often result in large groups of employees working for weeks or months without clear objectives. And if a manager changes roles in the organization or leaves it altogether, the chain of cascaded goals is broken and must be reestablished.

Another challenge with cascaded goals is they can set up divided loyalties or even apathy. Employees are invested in making their managers successful, rather than the larger organization. This can result in them taking actions or making decisions that help their direct manager, but hurt other parts of the organization. Plus, since there’s no direct link between an employee’s goals and the organization’s high level goals, employees lack a context for their work. This can result in employees who are less accountable and have less ownership for their goals.

What I’m talking about is a model where every employee sets their individual goals in collaboration with their manager, and directly links each of their goals to one of the organization’s high-level goals. This model is called “organizational goal alignment”. This talent management best practice ensures every employee is contributing to the achievement of organizational goals, and feels ownership and accountability for both their goals and the organization’s.

With organizational goal alignment, goal setting can be completed much more quickly, since it is done at the same time, across the organization, as soon as the high level organizational goals are established and communicated. Because high level organizational goals aren’t affected by changes in staffing or organizational structure, the goals links are more stable and enduring.

Organizational goal alignment results in goals that are linked across the organization. This allows for broader, cross-functional contribution and a more detailed understanding of everything involved in achieving the goal. So for example, an organizational goal to improve customer satisfaction can be embraced as the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just the managers and employees in the customer service department.

This model also gives employees at all levels of the organization clear visibility into how their work impacts organizational success. This typically enhances both their accountability and engagement by giving them an important larger context for their work.

And perhaps most importantly, organizational goal alignment shifts everyone’s focus to organizational success rather than simply individual success – a key ingredient in the recipe of  harnessing the power of your workforce!

A strong workplace culture that’s focused on employee high-performance can be an important contributor to organizational success. But it’s not easy to know how to build such a culture; in many ways, organizational culture can be intangible and it’s affected by many factors.

One of the powerful ways an organization can build a culture of high performance is by leveraging their talent management processes and practices.

At its core, talent management is really about management best practices. It’s about

  • hiring the right people
  • cultivating key competencies
  • giving employees the ongoing feedback, direction and context they need to succeed
  • rewarding and encouraging high performance

As an organization, you need to ensure you have sound processes in place that support your managers in effectively managing and leveraging your most important strategic resource – your employees. While the management practices listed above may seem basic, many organizations still struggle to implement them broadly and effectively.

Hire the Right People

When hiring, it’s important to start by thoroughly defining the job and its requirements. When doing so, make sure you identify the competencies that are critical to the role and to the organization. Then look for these in the candidates you interview. It’s vitally important to ensure the people you hire, especially those in management roles, have the soft skills you need to support your organizational culture. It’s easier to develop technical skills through training than it is to develop soft skills.

Cultivate Key Competencies

Competencies are about “how” you do what you do. They are one of the chief ways your organization differentiate itself from the competition. Ideally, they should underlie all your talent management processes.

While it’s important to identify required competencies when hiring, it’s even more important to do this for the organization overall, and for every employee. Start by identifying the key organizational, individual and leadership competencies you need to succeed. Then cultivate them in all your employees. You need to regularly assess employees’ performance of key competencies, and put training plans in place to develop them. In this way, you reinforce corporate values and culture.

Give Employees Feedback, Coaching, Direction and Context

Research tells us that to excel, employees need ongoing feedback and coaching, clear goals and a larger context for their work. So it’s important to incorporate all these elements in your performance appraisal process. But you also need to train your managers to both use the process/tool and effectively manage their employees’ performance. Few of us know instinctively how to do these things well. By providing managers with training, coaching and support in managing employee high-performance, you ingrain these practices in your organizational culture and foster high performance.

Reward High Performance

Another way to build a culture of high performance is to reward it. To do this, you need to make sure that performance is at the root of all your compensation, reward and promotion programs. You also need to make this direction visible to the entire organization. But be clear – performance means not only “what” is accomplished, but also “how” it is done. You need to recognize, reward and promote the high-performance attitudes and behaviors you want to foster in your workforce, and discourage the destructive ones. Don’t forget that rewarding high performance goes hand in hand with dealing with low performance.

Conclusion

Ensuring your organization has solid talent management processes in place helps communicate the organizational value and priority of employee performance. By training managers at all levels of the organization in effective people management practices and providing them with the tools they need to do the job effectively, you help build a culture of high-performance.

We all know the demands of starting up and running a business. With so many things to focus on, delegation and prioritization become important from an early stage. But many entrepreneurs mistakenly give low priority to talent management practices, relegate them to an HR administrator or even ignore them altogether, thinking they’re unimportant administrative activities.

Before we look at why that’s a mistake, let’s start by defining what we mean by talent management. Talent management encompasses the set of management practices and processes that support employee performance, development and recognition, throughout the employment lifecycle, from hire to retire. Talent management includes things like: job descriptions, goal setting/alignment, performance appraisals, competency assessment, employee development, compensation management, succession planning, etc.

Here’s why talent management is so important.

Good Talent Management = Better Business Results

More and more research is showing that mature, integrated talent management practices have a direct impact on corporate performance.

  • The Hackett Group recently reported that companies with more mature talent management capabilities have on average18% higher earnings, 54% greater net profit margins, and greater return on equity and assets than those without mature capabilities.
  • The Aberdeen Group’s latest research finds that companies who integrate their talent management processes see significantly greater performance gains, and can measure a correlation between their talent management efforts and business operational results.
  • IBM, HCI, IDC and others have shared similar findings.

When you think of it, these findings are not all that surprising. At their core, talent management practices are designed to help you get the most out of your only sustainable competitive advantage, your workforce.

Keep Your Employees Engaged and Productive

Study after study has shown that to be engaged and productive, employees need to have:

  • Clear goals and know what is expected of them in their work;
  • Regular feedback about their performance, what they are doing well and areas for improvement;
  • Opportunities to develop, prepare for career progression and address skill gaps.

We’re also hearing almost daily that employee engagement is at an all time low.

Good talent management formalizes the practices that ensure employees have what they need to be engaged and productive. It includes the setting of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, the identification, assessment and development of competencies important to the role as well as to the organization, and the assignment of development plans to expand knowledge, skills and experience. It also provides employees with regular, formal and informal feedback on their performance and encourages an ongoing dialogue on performance between the employee and their manager. All of these management best practices are known to foster higher employee performance, productivity and engagement.

Align Your Workforce

Simply making sure your employees have SMART goals isn’t enough. Effective talent management helps you align your workforce by tangibly linking each employee’s goals to the organization’s higher-level goals, mission and values. This gives every employee much needed context for their goals and helps them how their work directly contributes to organizational success. For the organization, it ensures that everyone’s efforts are focused on achieving the organization’s mission, vision and values, not just completing tasks and collecting a pay check.

Develop Competencies as a Competitive Differentiator

As business cycles shrink, and products and services become increasingly commoditized, your people become your only sustainable competitive advantage. Given this reality, it becomes all the more critical to identify the key competencies that differentiate your business, and cultivate these in your employees. Integrated talent management practices use competencies as the foundation for job descriptions, performance appraisals, development activities, and succession plans, and foster their continued development. In this way, they help your organization ensure its competitive advantage.

Identify and Retain High-Potential, High-Performing Employees

Identifying and investing in developing and retaining your high performing, high potential employees is key to your organization’s continued success. Even in tough economic times, retaining these employees can be a challenge. Talent management practices help you to more objectively and accurately identify your high-potential and high-performing employees, and then challenge, reward and develop them, so they remain happy, engaged and loyal to your company.

Identify and Address Performance Gaps

If you don’t know what your company’s weaknesses are, how can you address them? Mature, integrated talent management processes allow you to effectively identify and measure performance gaps by evaluating employees’ performance of goals and demonstration of key competencies. Armed with this data, you can take action to address performance gaps at the individual, departmental or organizational level, and then monitor the effectiveness of your actions in terms of improved performance. Identifying and addressing performance gaps in this way helps you to foster a culture of continuous improvement and development. It also helps prevents performance challenges in any part of the business from going unnoticed or unaddressed.

Drive Focus, Accountability and Efficiency

Having mature, integrated talent management processes help keep individual, group and organizational performance at top levels. Everyone is accountable for their personal goals, competencies and development plans, as well as those of the organization. It encourages everyone to regularly discuss progress, opportunities and challenges and improves focus, accountability and efficiency.

Conclusion

As entrepreneurs, we’re all focused on the success of our business. By ensuring our companies adopt talent management best-practices right from the start, we set our employees and our business up for success.