Talent Management Programs can seem daunting and cumbersome to leaders and HR inside organizations. Yet, when you refer to the “talent” of the company, you are referring to the most precious commodity within an organization. Companies do not exist without people and when you think of and plan for the appropriate development of these precious commodities, things can get complicated and seem complex. However, if you keep in mind that people are people and we are all one of them, it really can simplify what often seems to be quite complex. We all know how we like to be treated and what motivates us and keeps us engaged in our work. We all also know that this is unique for everyone; however, if you follow the five d’s of Impactful Talent Management (or consider these the five “dos”), your organization can implement impactful yet simple talent management and development programs.
1. Define what you are talking about.
The first “do” is to have clear definitions. You want to be clear what you mean when you refer to the talent of an organization. Is it the entire workforce or is it a subset of the workforce who is considered “talented”? Most companies use talent synonymously with the words employees or workforce; yet, some refer to “talent” as the high potential employees. Neither is right or wrong, but the most important thing is to be clear with your definitions. If talent equates to the overall workforce, then who are the high performers or high potentials? Are they just that (high performers or high potentials) or are they called something else that distinguishes them from the overall workforce? Whatever you decide to call your workforce and your high performing and high potential employees is fine; just remember to define it clearly and be sure everyone is on the same page and speaking the same language. You must also define the critical roles and leadership positions within the company that require the development of specific talent and skills. These types of skills required can then become the focus of the development programs for the talent in the organization. Defining all of these things to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language is the first “do”.
2. Describe what it all means; be transparent.
Next is to be transparent about the talent management definitions, process, and programs. You must be open with your workforce so that they understand what it all means to them. Refer back to the opening paragraph about treating people like people and reflect for a moment about yourself. Do you operate much better and feel much more comfortable and confident when you have an understanding about your career development and the process your company employs to manage and develop employees? The same applies to the rest of the workforce in your organization. They want to know how they are performing and understand what their potential is and what their possible career paths may be. Be up front about this information with the employees and be sure they are well educated on what it takes to advance within your company as well as what it means if they choose not to advance.
3.Discuss career aspirations with employees.
The third “do” is vital to ensuring that your talent management and development programs are impactful. You must know what employees’ career aspirations are before planning out their career development path. You must also know what motivates and inspires them at their particular career stage (i.e., young professionals might be motivated by something drastically different than mid-career professionals who have families at home). Often times, leaders decide that an employee is high potential and could possibly be the next CEO of a company because of the employee’s performance and drive. However, what if that employee has no desire to be the CEO of the company? It is unlikely that this individual will continue to be successful moving toward that position if he or she does not want it and is not committed to doing what it takes to get there. You must have an open honest discussion with employees about what their aspirations are and whether or not they are willing to do what it takes to reach their desired goals. In the same vain, it is important to know if employees’ aspirations are completely out of alignment with their performance. For example, if an employee expresses desire to be the CEO of the company but, based on past performance and a seemingly unwillingness to take on new assignments, it is clear to the leaders and HR that this person will never advance past a Director-level position, then someone must let this person know the hard truth. Someone must tell him that his aspirations are not in alignment with his performance and then let him know what he must do to better align with his aspirations. It then becomes the employee’s choice as to whether or not he can or will make the effort to do what is required and becomes a test of time to determine whether or not he can be successful in his efforts. It is truly impossible to plan appropriate talent development without understanding the individual employee’s career aspirations.
4. Decide who belongs where.
This next key item is when the various talent identification processes and tools come into play. After you have your definitions of the “talent” in the organization and the critical positions for which you need to ensure you have a pool of skilled employees for, it is time to decide who belongs in which category. This is also where leadership and 360 assessments and performance ratings, as well as the important career aspiration discussion results come into play. These all aid in determining who has the skill and the ability to take on certain positions and who may have the potential to be in a role eventually, but perhaps may need some additional development to prepare for the specific role. These decisions around who belongs in what talent pool and who is considered a high potential versus a subject matter expert, versus a critical technical leader will all feed into the specific talent development plans for the workforce.
5. Differentiate the development.
The final “do” is to actually pull together specific and differentiated development plans for the employees. This type of development can take several formats. First, you want to consider development for all; that is, the general leadership development and basic technical skill development that will be required of all employees in the organization. Next, you want to have special differentiated talent development for the high potential employees who will be the future senior leaders of the company or have been identified to fill critical technical positions in the future. Often times companies have very targeted and focused development courses for this population. And lastly, you want to be sure each employee (especially those high potential future senior leader) has a specified, differentiated development plan to address his or her specific development needs. This type of plan needs to be developed in conjunction with the employee, their leader and the HR department so that it is a managed plan. This will help to ensure that these individuals get exactly the type of growth they need to be ready for the future critical leadership roles.
If we go back through these five “dos” to simplify yet create impactful talent management solutions, we can see how they all are items that each of us, as individuals, would respect and want from our companies and leaders. Remembering to treat people as we want to be treated keeps things in perspective and oftentimes can help simplify seemingly complex items.
Next article topic: Key Steps to Conducting Effective Career Aspiration Discussions with Employees.