Essential Tools of Talent Management
There’s a problem that small-to-midsized but fast-growing private companies often don’t see coming until the damage is done. Namely – they don’t recognize until it’s too late just how much value is being lost owing to immature talent development, retention, evaluation and recruitment processes.
Why is talent overlooked?
There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Prioritization tops the list. The very nature of high-growth means that a company is so focused on opportunities that it often doesn’t notice the ways that sub-optimal talent processes nibble or even bite at performance. Next up is the pace of change. The fact is, with each new surge in sales, de facto, the organization responds and a new company is formed.
Or in other cases, the owners and managers simply have no formal experience in organizational performance. They don’t understand how talent lapses limit or damage performance and growth. In short, they can’t know what they don’t know.
And as highlighted in The Talent Imperative, a recently-released report from Forbes Insights and BMO Harris HRS -0.75%, that damage, at least at first, is hidden by overwhelming success in other aspects of the business. The opportunity is so lush that any organization can find ripe pickings, regardless of the preparation of its individual people for their roles, or the overall integration of talent and strategy as a whole.
What tools are needed?
The shift from an ad hoc to a strategic talent management program can greatly aid a company in the achievement of its business objectives. And while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for talent optimization, leaders should consider implementing elements such as:
1. Objective metrics
The need for metrics seems obvious. However, amid high-growth, job descriptions are often in flux, as is the nature of the associated opportunities. But regardless of these challenges, no company will ever be able to get the most out of its workforce without clearly defining roles and goals as well as addressing issues such as incentive compensation and advancement. What is it that defines success in this role? How is performance measured? Every employee should have a clear understanding of how they fit in. (Too often, they do not.)
2. Strategic alignment
Talent, too often, is treated as an afterthought. According to the survey conducted for The Talent Imperative, fewer than one in ten executives from midsized private companies say their talent strategies are intimately aligned with overall strategic planning. This can be a critical mistake, as any strategic plan must be executed by people. So incorporating the views of HR – injecting talent into strategic planning – becomes an essential and relatively easy to use tool for optimizing overall performance.
3. Targeted training and development
As talent and strategy become more closely aligned, companies will begin to get a better handle on their specific talent challenges. Often topping the to-do list: enhancing training and development.
One way to get things going quickly is to establish a mentoring program. Here the company assigns a more senior and experienced executive to develop a relationship with one or more high-potential individuals within the organization. Another tried and true means is to implement rotational assignments. Here, high-potential employees are exposed to a range of functions in the organization.
Another cost-effective means of training and development is to partner with local schools to develop – or merely refine existing – courses to meet the needs of the employer. Companies can also encourage more experienced workers to develop training videos.
1. Key talent identification/retention
Going hand-in-hand with talent training and development, fast-growing companies need to make sure that their most valuable employees are engaged and satisfied: with work/life balance, compensation, strategic direction and a host of related variables. Once dissatisfied, it is often too late to turn things around. Companies need to make a concerted effort to proactively identify and work to satisfy the needs of their most critical talent.
As talent processes mature, companies can begin to add elements that can lead to anything from performance improvement to breakthrough. Providing each worker – particularly their most valuable employees – with a clear job description and performance metrics is only a start. The most enlightened companies take matters a step (or two) further. That is, they engage with each employee to get a sense of personal abilities, aspirations and needs to develop a growth and development plan within the organization.
Where do they want to go in their career?
What can they do for the organization? What can the organization do to improve the work/life balance? What training or work experience will they need? If employers can better align the interests of individuals with those of the broader organization, employee engagement and performance are enhanced.
Talent mapping is a formalized process of linking the talent on hand to the talent that will be needed to support growth in order to assess shortfalls or gaps. As companies pursue greater alignment between talent management and strategic planning, they begin to see increasingly greater value in talent mapping.
A sophisticated, comprehensive and value-generating talent function will not arise overnight. Rather, as talent and strategic and operational planning become more entwined, the most pressing opportunities become more visible. Start with those areas determined to be of the most critical importance, and build overall talent capabilities over time. Again, the biggest mistake being made is ignoring talent altogether. Once genuine awareness sets in, the talent equation will begin to optimize itself.
Bill Millar, Contributor