Talent Management – Basics

There is a lot of buzz these days around Talent Management (TM), and rightfully so. Whether companies admit it; employees are their most important and valuable assets.

Ask any shopkeeper if it is important to have employees that are engaged, customer focused, service oriented and trustworthy. Undoubtedly you’ll get a resounding YES!

Even in mega corporations understand this…for example FedEx’s Company Culture is People-Service-Profit. They know, for a fact, the important role that each and every employee plays in the success or failure of their business.

“Take care of our people; they in turn, will deliver the impeccable service demanded by our customers, who will reward us with the profitability necessary to secure our future.” – From FedEx Company Culture Webpage

What is so surprising to me, is that as every business grows from a small “mom & pop” shop – to a larger and larger organization, they sometimes loose sight of those simple facts in the transition – and unfortunately in some cases never recover – Enter – Talent Management.

I believe that Talent Management doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. It really is one of those business ideas that people forget they already know about. As a matter of fact, I want to take a moment to try and help remind business leaders of what they may have forgotten about Talent Management using a very basic example – high school gym class, the Dodge Ball Game.

1)   When you were in gym class and two team captains were picking teams – what happened? Did they pick the worst players first or the best players?

  • It’s the same in business – The first step in any sound Talent Management Strategy is making sure you have the right people in place. So you need to make sure you are hiring the right people and retaining the right people.

2)   Before the game started, typically the teacher / coach would go over the rules of the game? And/or if there was a very competitive captain, they might sketch out a game plan. Something like – “ok, Vinnie, you’re going to stand here, Jack you’re going stand there, when the whistle blows, you both throw the ball at Bill at the same time, he’s their best player and we need to take him out first. Jane you wait half a second and then throw your ball too, just in case Vinnie and Jack miss.”

  • Once we have the right people in place, you need to make sure they know what to do. They need to know what your plan is…they need to know What to Expect and What is Expected (of them).

3)   I can remember a time I was on a great team. Once the game started, there was this incredible flurry of activity. People were shouting and yelling from all directions. But the interesting part was, I distinctly remember tuning everyone else out and being able to focus on my teammates. We communicated with each other and worked together as a team to get the other team out. We coached each other, gave each other direction – we were giving each other feedback.

  • To effectively manage talent you have to give constant feedback. You need to consistently give employees both praise and criticism, where appropriate. Help them understand if they are meeting the expectations you set.

4)   The other thing I remember was that after the first game, when we were all catching our breath, the gym teacher came out to the people that weren’t necessarily the best players and tried to help them. He would try to show them how to throw or the best place to stand and position their bodies. In essence, he was trying to develop those that had skill gaps.

  • In every business there is going to be a need to address skill gaps within your employee population, even with your top performers. The key is to recognize this and address it consistently and with purpose. Talent Development is an integral part of any robust Talent Management Strategy.

5)   Back at the gym – if we were doing well, it would be tough to get someone to “sub-out”(let some else come in into the game while another sat out). Why? Because there was no need to…we had the right players. But I always remember that at some point there would be a need to replace a player that was just not cutting it. We needed to address under-performers.

  • I heard someone once say that you have to try to change people’s attitude and aptitude through coaching and development. And if that doesn’t work, you have to Change People.

6)   Finally, at the end of class you would get a grade. The teacher was grading your performance. Sound familiar?

  • Performance Reviews are another great tool to help people see the cumulative effect of their efforts on the goals and expectations you set with them. It’s also a great time to set the expectations going forward.

Of course these concepts are very high level and need significant time and effort to enact. But I would argue not as much as we think. Most of us already know and understand the basic components of a successful Talent Management Strategy… It’s just a matter of remembering to use them.

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