|March 2012 Article:
Development of the Fittest
An article by Doug Williamson, President & C.E.O. of The Beacon Group
Who owns the 'burden' for executive development and talent retention within an organization? The executive or senior manager who aspires to greater things? Should they be spending their time planning their career path and seeking out new development opportunities? Or is it the employer who must take the lead in this process, through identification, selection, reward and recognition?
Rather than turn this particular debate into yet another version of the old "chicken and egg" dilemma, we might very well be best to rely upon a wise quote from a noted expert in the field, Noel Tichy, who put it this way when he was working with Jack Welch at GE. His advice to both executives and organizations was "control your own destiny, or someone else will!" In today's 'free-agent' talent market, this advice can be directed at both the aspiring executive and their employer. If the 'game' of retaining talent is played well, both parties end up winning.
The Right Stuff
The central problem rests with the fact the traditional mindset that underpins most executive development and talent retention, must be changed. The "survival of the fittest" mentality that most organizations have relied upon since the end of WWII to validate who has the "right stuff", must be changed.
The new focus and approach has to centre on the overall "development of the fittest" and that involves a more complicated dual-track approach. Simply put, if your organization fails to adequately provide its high flyers with both applicable work experiences and plentiful training and development opportunities, your top players will more than likely leave.
A core premise, within the new credo, and a very big philosophical change from even 10 years ago, is that an organization should not aim to treat all of its aspiring executives in the same way. In fact, the progressive organization should pro-actively "discriminate" when it comes to their High Potential Officers.
Simply put, Talent Management means that the organization needs to find and create unique development solutions and streams for each and every manager with potential. There is no "one size fits all" approach and generic formulae do not do enough to differentiate between capability, motivation and learning style.
Organizations need to implement or at least augment their talent management processes or they may find they simply do not have any talent to manage. As it has been said, "the strongest swimmers jump ship first, because they are the ones who are capable of swimming to shore." If you don't find unique ways to hold on to your best swimmers, you can expect them to leave.
The Soft Middle
There is another important point to make and it has to do with the "soft middle" within most organizations. The fact of the matter is, while we may praise the "high potentials" there is no question the "soft middle" plays a major role in keeping most organizations afloat. They may not have the same upside or even the same work ethic, dedication or aspirations but an organization that hopes to win in the market has to make sure it’s "B Players" are better than the competition's "B Players".
In an important way, developing a new, stronger and more robust talent management process has two additional benefits. Aside from rewarding and recognizing your strongest team members - the "high potentials" - you send a strong message that will entice the moderate performers to rise to the occasion. In so doing, you pass ownership of that responsibility to the employees and improve the overall fitness of the organization.
Steps to Developing Your Talent Pool
The issue of "talent management" is so critical to the long term success of an organization that it should have elevated priority, especially in these more challenging times. It is a major differentiator from both a recruitment and retention point of view. As well, it is a means to secure your intellectual capital base and hedge your exposure. Organizations need to move away from thinking of workers as costs and employees as assets.
In the new world, employees need to be thought of as "investors" who choose whether or not to invest their efforts and talent based on the "value proposition" their organization puts forth to them. Are your employees investing? If the answer is no, or not to the fullest, you may wish to consider the following.
Note the Importance - Most companies use a far too reactive and standardised approach to succession planning and leadership development. In today's environment, a more dynamic focus on these two processes is fundamental in terms of the success and survival of your organization.
A Place for Everyone - Too often companies only keep tabs on a select group of high potential candidates. Due to rapid fluctuations in market trends and consumer demands, every employee's talents, abilities, and potential should be logged for immediate access. Dig deep down into the organization and focus on early talent identification.
Ongoing Process - The bottom line for development and assessment is that, on an
ever-increasing basis, fast feedback loops are becoming the norm. In baseball, a player's stats change after every at bat. How often do your employees get assessed?
Make Tough Calls - Top performers are no longer the only group requiring rigorous evaluation. The market overall is going to demand more and more of you. Dealing with underperformers, therefore, is just as important in keeping your organization's effectiveness at maximal values.
About the Author:
Doug Williamson is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Beacon Group, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in Organizational Transformation and Effectiveness programs as well as Talent Identification and Leadership Development.
To learn more about Doug Williamson visit his web site at www.dougwilliamson.ca or to share your comments email Doug at email@example.com