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I’m often impressed by the results of a robust talent assessment process. Invariably, organizations that take the time and effort to do effective talent assessments create a clear picture of the overall capability of their organization. Invariably, robust assessments also uncover hidden talent gems; leaders discover that they have more internal capability than originally expected. They identify employees who can be expanded or take on more responsibility that were not on everyone’s radar screen.
Let me describe what I mean by a robust talent assessment process.
Many talent assessments are based on the observations of a single person – typically an employee’s boss. For a variety of reasons, this limited perspective seldom provides an accurate or reliable assessment of an employee’s present performance or future capability. It seems that familiarity breeds non-objectivity.
It is much more effective to get multiple perspectives during a talent review. Input should come from not just the employee’s boss but from peers, other leaders, the boss’s boss, etc. There have been times when I specifically limited the contributions by the immediate manager if I felt the organization had a history of hiding talent or limiting internal movement.
Robust talent assessments are behavior-based and objective. I usually go into a talent review looking for evidence of specific competencies and facilitate the discussions to elicit behavioral examples of those competencies – what the person actually did and what impact the action had on others or the business. I emphasize to the assessors to avoid inferences about personality traits or why a person behaves the way they do. These types of assessments are unreliable and provide no useful purpose. (That’s why my bias is to do talent reviews “live” through facilitated discussions with teams of leaders and not have managers fill out forms.)
Finding hidden talent also requires a change in perspective about performance and potential. There are competencies that drive job performance and there are competencies that give an indication of future potential. The content and results of a talent review can be significantly enhanced by assuring that the assessors understand the competencies that make a difference. For example, “functional knowledge” often gets too much emphasis in talent reviews and in determining who to hire or promote. Functional knowledge is important but is not the best predictor of performance or potential. It is also a competency that can be typically learned after a short time in the new role.
Leaders also tend to lean towards candidates that had the exact previous experience so that the person can “hit the ground running” in a new role. Conversely, I emphasize that leaders should be looking for someone who can “hit the ground developing”; for whom the new role provides a unique challenge that will create an opportunity to enhance the employee’s skill set and add to the overall capability of the organization. Potential should be given equal (if not more) weight than performance in assessing talent.
Your best source of top talent may be right under your nose. But it takes a robust assessment process and a new perspective on talent to uncover it.]]>
Why would the world’s #2 Most Admired Company want to be better at firing than hiring?
Let’s look at a real life situation to understand.
Based on the concerns of an organization’s Board of Directors, a colleague and I conducted a leadership talent assessment. The Board was concerned about the complaints they had heard about ineffective and lackluster leaders.
The results of the assessment were not pretty. The overall capability of the leadership talent was low and there were several non-performing leaders in critical roles. The Board asked the president to deal with the “dead wood” which he did, though reluctantly, since the organization did not have a history of terminating due to performance (or terminating at all). After the President legally and compassionately addressed the low performers, he called us in to meet with him. We wondered what was up. When we walked into the normally staid President’s office, he effusively thanked us and shook our hands. He stated that the terminations were one of the toughest things he’d ever done in his career but one of the best. He told us that a number of employees had made a special effort to come by to thank him. The employees also described some of the poor behavior of those who were terminated. Beyond being ineffective or abusive, it turned out that some of the behavior was also unethical. Many employees said of the terminations, “It’s about time!”
The moral of the story: There is a huge payoff to identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture.
Unfortunately, this case study is not unique. I encounter many companies that are reluctant to address non-performers. Instead, they pass them around to different departments in the hope that the deadwood will do less damage. Or they continue to reduce their duties and performance expectations. These practices are sometimes defended by leaders expressing that the company is a “family” and that “we take care of our family”. Often times, it reflects a lack of managerial courage. HR can also be a contributor due to an over-emphasis on due diligence and documentation to avoid litigation, even though the risk of that occurring is often low.
The impact of marginally performing leaders is significantly underestimated. Nobody wants to work with them, nobody wants them on their team, they reduce engagement, they drive turnover and they hamper productivity. In addition, they are not good identifiers and developers of talent. They are the “poison apples” that block change and contribute to an unhealthy culture. In most cases, these are not bad people with negative motives. They sometimes reluctantly moved into a leadership role because it was the only way they can make more money, not because they are excited about leading others.
I often find that longer service employees fall into the marginal performance category because the company has not invested in their development or required to keep them up to date. By this time in their career, however, it is quite difficult to enhance skills that should have been developed much earlier in their tenure. Resurrection is much harder than birth.]]>
Don’t think there’s a talent abuse epidemic? See how many of these endemic, waste-of-time practices you’ve seen in your organization or other companies.
Managers hoarding high-potential talent. High -performing, high potential talent can and should be allowed to make a difference a range of roles in an organization. In addition, navigating a variety of challenging experiences is the best way to develop raw potential. Unfortunately, some leaders abuse top talent by selfishly barricading them in the functions they head. There argument for doing this is, “I found them. They’re doing a good job. Why should I give them up?”
Following the Chain of Command. I recently heard a top executive of a large global organization berate his colleagues for having the gall to talk with some of “his people” without going through him first. A crucial capability in today’s complex and fast paced environment is building and leveraging informal and adaptive networks. Real work gets done in the white spaces of the org chart. Trying to force networks to follow the lines of an organization chart is nothing but abuse.
Training and Development is all “T and no “D”. Training, when properly executed, is good for improving some skills. However, most of the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for success don’t come from the classroom. The skills come from the “lessons of experience” or intentional development – navigating a variety of challenging jobs or assignments with a variety of different people. You are abusing talent if all you offer is a catalogue of classroom instruction. This is particularly a problem since a good bit of classroom training fails to have the desired impact.
You are still doing Performance Appraisals. A recent Conference Board survey showed that 95% of leaders are dissatisfied with their performance management system and 95% of HR execs don’t feel that they yield accurate information. And employees hate them. Yet many companies are still searching for the perfect appraisal form and rating scale. Every time I’ve done an analysis of performance ratings, I find no relationship to meaningful results or data that can be used for effective talent decisions. The amount of time wasted on this outdated practice is abusive to employees and leaders.
Poor performance is tolerated. Marginal performers have a significantly under-estimated negative impact on an organization’s performance, especially if they are in pivotal roles. Low-performing leaders’ teams are less productive. Poor performers destroy engagement, create turnover, and don’t develop talent. No one wants them on their project teams. Yet we are reluctant to confront this abuse or just pass the poor performers around until we find a place where they can do the least damage.
Using selection criteria that has no relationship to job performance. The worst example of this is GPA for college recruiting. We’ve known for quite a while that GPA predicts nothing. Another abuse is selecting on knowledge that can be easily learned in a short period of time in the new role. Add to that the over-dependence on personality assessments to screen out and you almost have a criminal case for abuse.
Have you seen other symptoms of the talent abuse epidemic? I’d love to hear about them.]]>
My recent blog on Why Training is a Dead End got a lot of attention and response – both positive and negative. A majority of commenters concurred that the standard model of classroom training has not been effective. We have known for a while that most development occurs informally by navigating challenging experiences laced with interactions with key others. When I ask learners about the first step they take when faced with a new challenge, the response is invariably, “I go talk to someone” or “I go talk to <name of a specific person>.”
There is also growing evidence from Organization Network Analysis that the strength/quality/volume of the informal connections in an organization drives overall performance. High-Performing and High-Potential employees not only do their job well but also help others succeed. And the network connections this support for others creates never seems to follow the lines (or dotted lines) on the org chart.
It seems obvious then that capitalizing on networks can be a real opportunity, particularly as a tool to develop individual and organizational competency.
Before the advent of the online social world, I worked at a company where I created Competency Brown Bag sessions. We assembled cohorts of leaders (didn’t call them cohorts back then) who were working on Individual Development Plans. We would select a specific competency that was a common need and then facilitate a discussion about the skill – what does the skill look like, what examples have they seen of someone using the competency effectively or ineffectively and what was the impact of their behavior, what assignments or experiences would help in developing the competency, what articles or books have they read that were helpful, etc. The cohorts then selected something from this “face-to-face blog” to add to their Development Plans. The Brown Bags were very popular and lead to meaningful impacts on skills and careers.
I am now seeing companies creating online communities that mirror the Brown Bags. Once mission-critical competencies have been identified and built into talent processes, the companies encourage volunteer communities to pop-up around the key skill sets. Crowd -Sourcing Development can dramatically multiply the effect I saw from the Brown Bags. Learners don’t have to wait for a meeting and can get information, support and ideas 24/7. The learners may also create their own cohort and meet virtually or face-to-face. If you were employed at Facebook, you’d probably call this “Hacking on Competence.”
Crowdsourcing Development is also a great addition to the growing trend to eliminate standard performance reviews and to replace them with more employee self-serve processes with an emphasis on quality conversations, regular feedback and self-development planning. Talent Management can also mine the crowd discussions for additional tools and support ideas.
The proverbial Grapevine matters and can be leveraged. Leaders need to understand the importance of networks and accurately understand how their organization network operates or if their networks are dysfunctional. Leader’s who demand that the chain of command be followed or who are threatened by informal leadership should be discouraged or removed. Employees should be recognized for and encouraged to not only focus on their jobs but to do whatever they can to help others succeed.
I think my posting will be on “The Job Description is Dead! Long live <????>”]]>
The irony of the situation completely escaped the execs; here was an organization with a culture that was not effective at driving innovation or process improvement but the leaders wanted to perpetuate that culture in their selection and promotion practices. Therein lies the major error in reasoning behind the Fallacy of Hiring for Cultural Fit. Hiring and promoting based on culture fit is only effective if you have a high-performing, aligned and integrated culture to start with.
Another factor in the Fit Fallacy is that I find that most leaders don’t have a clear understanding of organizational culture and the cultural components that drive revenue growth, returns, productivity, engagement and innovation. Leaders talk about their cultures being customer-driven, entrepreneurial, employee-first, etc. but often are not effective at articulating exactly what that means in daily practice. Or, more importantly, they have not clearly defined the leadership competencies associated with culture. Without a definition of the critical competencies, companies fall back on things like personality, gut feel or looking for candidates from companies with perceived “similar” cultures as selection criteria.
An additional component of the Fit Fallacy is that I seldom find that organizations have a homogenous culture. The culture in different units, functions or locations of the same organization can sometimes exhibit wildly different cultures. This is particularly true of businesses that have grown through acquisition or that have businesses in significantly different locations or markets. Even different departments in the same location and same business can exhibit different cultures due to varying leadership competence. So which culture should you try to fit?
The remedies for the Fit Fallacy are not simple but have a high payoff in business performance.
Only then will hiring for Cultural Fit no longer be a Fallacy.]]>
Since then, as I’ve worked with clients as they adapt the talent practices to the new realities of work, I’ve updated the talent equation by changing “manages easy” to “leads easy” because effective leadership is changing dramatically and looks nothing like managing. I’ve also added the critical component of intentional development. Traditional training and development is just not having the impact it should and must be radically updated.
Hire Slow. Technology has significantly changed the recruiting process but I still see plenty of faulty, low impact employment practices. Companies are stuck on worthless selection criteria (like GPA for college grads) and an overemphasis on functional/technical knowledge that can be rapidly learned in the new job. Chipotles’ CEO made headlines recently when he stated that, “We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.” There also continues to be an over-reliance on or misapplication of assessments, personality measures being the worst culprit.
Lead Easy. Millennials and their effect on the workplace is a hot topic. However, it’s my view that what organizations need to do in response to generational differences is not unique from one decade to the next. That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. “Leading Easy” is a great way to describe the style needed to support career success.
Develop Intentionally. Traditional training and development has not been very successful ot worth the huge investment. (See my recent blog post on Training is a Dead End for more in this). Development needs to be more informal but targeted. It also needs to built into daily work and not be seen as an event. Companies are contributing to both business and personal growth by creating development cohorts of similarly situated learners who are assigned a real business challenge.
Fire Fast. Our host stated that there is no room for “brilliant assholes” at Facebook. During a similar visit to Google, our host said that Google was better at firing people than hiring (and their hiring process was impressive). There is a huge payoff to identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture. Marginal leaders create disengagement and drive turnover. Non-performers drag down the performance of any team on which they participate.]]>
Consider the results of a Corporate Leadership Council survey of 1500 managers in 53 organizations around the world:
Surprised? Not me. Most L&D functions have followed the same approach to adult learning for decades, an approach that just does not work. Formal event-based classes or structured eLearning with standardized curriculum may be effective at imparting knowledge but are not typically effective in transferring knowledge into practice and are woefully inadequate in achieving meaningful behavior change. If you guessed that only about 15% to 20% of training content gets applied in a way that makes a difference, you wouldn’t be far off. That means that of the roughly $60 Billion spent on Leadership Development annually, $51 Billion is wasted. Match that waste with the data from a survey conducted by Chief Learning Officer magazine in which 77% of respondents did not feel that employees were keeping up with the needs of the business. The picture is unsettling.
The chief reason for training’s dismal record is that the competencies critical for success in today’s workplace, competencies like agility, adaptability, resilience, critical thinking and managing complexity, cannot be developed from a training event. Training addresses knowledge. What are needed are competencies – critical knowledge, skills and abilities that are reflected in behavior at work.
We have known since the 1980’s that key work-place competencies are developed informally by navigating challenging experiences laced with social interactions with others who can provide ideas, role models, support and coaching. Instruction can play a role by providing specific knowledge that is needed right at the time the learner needs it – not weeks away in a classroom where most of the content is irrelevant and out of the context of the work challenge. This is the 70:20:10 model of development. I regularly confirm the model when I ask people to draw a map of their career growth. When we review where the most significant development occurred, it invariably involves a key job, hardship, project or assignment and important other people. A training event seldom, if ever, comes up.
From my perspective, several significant changes need to occur to halt training and development’s inexorable march to extinction.
I gained some new insights on Organizational Culture (and reinforced some previous ones) listening to a panel discussion with four finalists in the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Culture Leaders of the Year from 2015. Much of the discussion centered on the question, “How do you sustain and build an effective culture during rapid growth or change?” The insight from the panelists was that the short answer to that question is, “Intentionally”. Their observations and real-life examples confirmed my belief that building an effective culture must be a deliberate, planned and thoughtful leadership process that should not be left to chance. In other words, effective cultures must be built, they don’t just evolve.
From my experience, intentional culture development starts by understanding what organizational culture is, assessing your current culture, determining the culture needed or desired to drive your business and then pulling all the right culture levers you can to create the change. The Culture Panelists highlighted a number of levers that were critical to creating and sustaining their high-impact cultures.
Work on the importance of worker “morale” began in the 1920’s. Morale morphed into job satisfaction in the 1930’s. Conclusions about the impact of job satisfaction on key business results varied greatly over the ensuing decades, depending on how satisfaction was defined, the measurement technique used and the quality of the research. As a result, the value of addressing employee satisfaction came to somewhat of a dead-end. Satisfaction turned out to be a necessary but not sufficient factor in impacting key organization outcomes.
The more promising concept of Employee Engagement arose in the 1990’s. In general, engagement’s correlation to measures such as employee retention, customer service and productivity tended to be stronger than those found with satisfaction. Emphasis placed on “correlation” because correlation was often misinterpreted as causation. Therein lays the rub with engagement – the old chicken-or-the-egg paradox. Measuring and addressing employee engagement has its benefits. But the debate about engagement actually leading or predicting meaningful results roils on.
Enter Organizational Culture. Organizational Culture had a genesis similar to satisfaction – widely diverging definitions and fuzzy concepts that were interesting but not very useful. That was the case until research conducted at the University of Michigan by Dan Denison identified the factors that comprise the perception of any organization’s culture, factors that could be reliably measured, understood and improved. Initial and subsequent research found a strong correlation of the culture factors to revenue growth, return on investment, quality, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Even better, Denison’s more recent research confirmed that culture is a leading indicator and driver of organization performance measures such as Return-on-Assets, Sales Growth and Market-to-Book Ratio.
Engagement trumps satisfaction but culture trumps engagement. Organization leaders can drive future business results by understanding and improving their organization’s culture.]]>
Gaining answers to these and other questions was the force behind a Culture Benchmarking Trip to Silicon Valley in which I participated. The purpose of the trip was to unearth some culture nuggets that could be applied to business challenges back home.
What culture take-aways can organizations obtain from the nether world of Google where perks, compensation and Disney World like campuses are over the top? Well, as it turned out, we can learn quite a lot.
Transparency and Trust
When we asked our host to describe the culture at Google, the most common terms we heard were transparency and trust.
Google culture is based on the inherent belief that employees are, as are host described, “good, smart people who want to produce good work”. Google’s researchers constantly gather and analyze data about employees and the workplace. They share the data and involve employees in deciding what’s right.
Google’s selection process is rigorous and is built upon competencies that are directly linked to Google’s strategy, mission and vision. Cognitive ability, leadership ability, and the ability to contribute to the culture (a competency referred to as “Googliness”) are at the top of the list with role-related knowledge given less emphasis. Our host commented that hiring is the responsibility of
Google was founded on innovation and continues to grow based on a relentless culture of innovation.
The physical environment is designed specifically to enhance innovation. Google’s office layout is meant to increase collaboration by encouraging “casual collisions”. They knock down walls where not needed, creating an environment where employees sit close together. Google allow’s working virtually but prefer that employees be on-site to promote collaboration.
The work pace at Google was not laissez faire. Googlers work against tight deadlines and high quality standards. Our host was very upfront in saying that all the perks and services were provided to allow employees to stay focused on their work.
The role of leaders in shaping and maintaining culture was obvious. They described a flat organization structures with few layers. Most career movement is horizontal rather than vertical. Leaders were variously described as needing to be accessible, real, transparent and accountable.
Google is truly unique in its size and its capabilities. Most companies may not be able to (or need to) match Google’s work environment, compensation and perks. However, we can learn from their emphasis on identifying and creating a robust culture based on transparency, trust, talent, productivity, innovation and leadership. You don’t need to be Google to do that.]]>
The Situation: A mature and growing business wanted to assure their continued success. The growth has been and will continue to be organic – expansion into new territories, taking market share and innovating new products, processes and concepts. The leadership team identified nine organization capabilities that needed to be sustained or improved to drive growth.
What We Did: Working with the internal team, we helped design and facilitate an intentional development process that had two objectives: 1) Develop specific recommendations on the nine strategic capabilities that could be implemented in the next fiscal year, and, 2) Improve the leadership skills of those involved in the challenging, strategic assignments. Nine Cohorts of high potential leaders were formed and were assigned to one of the strategic capabilities. The cohorts were given nine months to achieve the initiative’s objectives. Our support for the initiative included:
The Result: To a person, the Cohort participants felt that the time on the project was beneficial – they broadened their scope and perspective and valued the cross-functional interaction. The executive team confirmed that this was an invaluable leadership development opportunity and was a new and different way to solve problems. They plan on replicating the approach in the future.
The cohorts generated over 35 recommendations from which the executive team selected the highest priority projects for the next fiscal year. Project Teams were formed to implement the recommendations. (The Project Teams will also be designed to be intentional development opportunities).]]>
The Hype: The cited differences between generations are often quite small and the wide range of individual differences within a generation are often ignored; the distributions overlap and the average of a group tells just part of the story. Those born at the ends of the generation groups are significantly different and actually more like the prior or next cohort. In additional, much of the research is based on differences in concepts like traits, attitudes and motives that predict little when it comes to the world of work. Figuring out what to do specifically about an individual or a small part of your workforce on things that are nebulous isn’t of much use.
The Paradox: What organizations need to do in response to the highlighted generational differences turns out to be the same from one decade to the next. That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. Therein lies the paradox.
Successful people exhibit a similar set of strategic, operational, positioning, interpersonal and personal skills across generations (and across cultures.) They develop those capabilities by navigating a range of diverse and challenging experiences from which they build a repertoire of behaviors. Values may differ across generations but the behaviors that make a difference at work have not.
So what’s an organization to do? The most effective practices for Millennials are what high-performing organizations have been doing all along, no matter the generation:
What generation would not be excited by an organization like that? If the Millennial Hype gets organizations to focus on something that’s more sustainable, then maybe its worth it.]]>
Is your company evolving, taking a strategic approach to talent and adding to the STM discussion? I thought it might be enlightening to answer this question by describing what STM is NOT so here is my list of Top Signs That You Are NOT Taking A Strategic Approach To Talent.
If you’d like to read more about signs of Strategic Talent Management, check out this whitepaper on my website.]]>
We often refer to these folks as “High C’s”. Once a leader shows some interest in them or they take on a new challenge, High C’s often flourish. A typical response you get when you approach a High C about expanding their world is, “Really? You think I can?” or “Huh, I didn’t know that the execs knew I existed”.
Uncovering hidden talent is a real opportunity since many organization’s are now concerned about filling their pipeline. Identifying and tapping into this reservoir of capability should be a one objective of any talent assessment process.]]>
If a company has established its vision and values then its leaders need to be seen as epitomizing those precepts in a concrete fashion. The vision and values need to be translated into key leadership competencies and built into talent processes. Otherwise, the organization will struggle to achieve its strategic intent.]]>
This means that culture develops in an organization either unintentionally or intentionally. If an organization is haphazard and inconsistent in the selection and development of its leaders, than the culture is haphazard and inconsistent as well. Leaders create an organization’s culture whether they planned to or not.
Intentional culture change starts by identifying the leadership behaviors (competencies) that reflect a high-performing culture. By selecting leaders on the competencies and developing the target competencies in present and future leaders, culture can be sustained or improved. The culture pipeline can also be filled from the bottom-up by selecting entry-level employees on the culture-critical competencies.]]>
Chipotle Mexican Grill’s CEO, Monty Moran, also made headlines when he stated that, ““We don’t care about experience very much. In fact, I think experience at another fast food restaurant is as likely to be a negative as it is to be a positive. We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.”
So what do these innovative, high-growth, much-admired companies use as the criteria to select talent for critical roles? As you read deeper into the articles, you find that they both focus on the ability to learn and competencies that are related more to future potential versus short term performance. Googles Bock indicated that, “the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.” Mr. Moran acknowledged that new hires with little QSR experience may make more mistakes initially but learning agile people quickly learn form the mistakes, don’t repeat them and eventually come up with better ideas.
Assessing learning ability does not require a capability akin to conducting a Vulcan Mind Meld. When I visited Google headquarters last year, our People Operations host described how they have chucked everything in favor of behavior-based interviews. They typically use five validated, structured interviews with the fifth being solely an opportunity to train new interviewers – the results are not considered. Beyond learning ability, Google’s interviews also look for behavioral examples of competencies such as Emergent Leadership (the ability to take the lead when needed in a team situation not whether you were the captain of the cheerleading squad), Ownership and Humility (being willing to step up and help solve a problem but also step back and consider the ideas of others) and Collaboration.
Google is one the worlds most admired companies. Analysts have attributed some of Chipotle’s success to its unique culture that is created and reinforced through its hiring and promotion process. But try to convince an engineering-based company that GPA’s are worthless! That’s a urban myth that’s hard to crack. I’m glad the issue is getting some popular press.]]>
I typically start a culture change process by assessing the current state and identifying the high-impact culture factors that the company can address in the next 12 to 18 months. Then comes the hard part – figuring out which change “levers” the company can pull to create meaningful culture movement. In my experience, there are three key levers.
This does not entail just writing an article in the company newsletter. It starts by clearly identifying the business case for culture change and the vision of where the top leadership wants to take the organization. This lever requires answering questions like why should we change, what do we want to change to and how we’ll know when we’ve arrived?. This should be conducted through in-depth dialogues with the organization’s top leaders who must internalize the answers and commit to moving forward. The business case and vision can then be built into a stakeholder analysis and multi-media communication plan.
A significant lever for culture change lies in the behaviors of leaders. Much of what makes up culture is created and sustained by the abilities and actions of key leaders. Therefore, identifying culture-critical leadership competencies, assessing current leader capability and developing leadership skills directly linked to culture is key to any change initiative. It may also involve the tough work of identifying “poison pill” leaders who are resistant to change and therefore have to be moved out of the way.
3. A Plan
Culture change is hard work (but with a big payoff). Change doesn’t happen automatically even if you have a great business case and top-notch leaders. The plan starts with the one or two culture factors the organization is going to address at any one time. Then project management kicks in. Detailed action plans need to be established with time frames, accountability, resources, and contingencies. In addition, tracking and measurement processes need to be developed and implemented.
You can learn more about culture by checking out my whitepaper Leveraging Culture to Drive Business Performance.
If your organization is interested in learning more about culture or is considering undertaking a culture change journey, I would be glad to offer a no-obligation overview for your top leaders.
Not in My House: Functional managers protect talent that reports to them, see them as “their employees” and do not offer them as candidates for advancement or development opportunities. They may even get upset if other managers talk to “their people” about opportunities. As a result, talent pools are limited and do not reflect the real bench strength of the organization. Agile, high potential and high professional talent becomes frustrated and leaves the company. Alternatively, their careers may derail due to over-reliance on a single benefactor.
Lists for Lists Sake: Completing talent discussions just to have a succession plan or back-up list.
The Impact? The actual hit rate on back-up lists is typically only about 15%, contributing little to improving organization capability and providing a low return for this effort. The true capability of the total organization to achieve strategic targets is not assessed or improved. In addition, High Professional (as opposed to High Potential) talent, critical to maintaining a company’s core competencies, is overlooked and may become disengaged. In addition, a large pool of talent that is often “under the radar” but has significant potential to grow is overlooked.
Take a Pill: Development of high potential talent is limited to “take a training class” rather then meaningful assignments or broader-based development. Talent is slowly developed or not developed at all. High Potential and High Professional employees get frustrated by a lack of challenging work and growth opportunities. Training budgets are usually “fickle” so development can be erratic if training is over-emphasized. The return on training investment is not realized.
Nothing Gained: A lack of or inconsistent follow-up on organization development action items from talent discussions. As a result, the long-term capability of the organization is not improved. Initial momentum for the process is eventually lost. Employees see a varying level of support for the process and wonder what’s happening. Key talent may be come frustrated because the only hear words and see no action.
Resurrection is Much Harder Than Birth: Spending too much time and resources on blocked, low learning agile, low potential employees, trying to fix them. The overall capacity of the organization to grow is hampered. A Return on Improved Performance is not realized because the investment is going to those with a very low chance of improvement. High potential talent becomes frustrated and leaves.
So what to do if your company is infected by some of these derailers? You can check out some potential remedies or preventive measures by going to Talent Management Derailers. The whitepaper also identifies 7 other potential derailers and remedies.
Take Ownership. Developing leaders for the future should not be left to HR alone, though that function plays a key role. Leadership Development should be owned by the top team and included in key goals and objectives that are cascaded down the organization.
Build the Business Case. The workforce planning numbers are compelling enough but the investment in development should be framed like any business investment. What specific results do you expect to see from an investment in leadership talent? What is the business intent? What resources are needed and how will the return on the investment be tracked?
Understand Effective Development. We know what it takes to develop effective leaders at all levels. (See my free whitepapers Fixing Leadership Development or Leadership Development Redefined) Despite this knowledge, billions are wasted every year on development that doesn’t work. Much of the development waste comes from execs deciding not only why development is needed by also dictating who, what, when, why and how. This is where HR needs to step up and clearly outline the keys to any development effort.
Know What Success Looks Like. Part of what we know about what makes development effective is that it should be based on a clear definition of the competencies needed for success, given the challenges and opportunities facing a business. (See The Elegance Of Competencies). Top leaders should be involved in developing the target competencies. They should also understand their own strengths and weaknesses on these skills and model effective development themselves.
Here’s what I see as benchmark efforts to prepare for the Silver Tsunami:
This definition is very close to my definition of succession management. That’s no coincidence. I view them as strongly linked talent management processes. (Go here for more information on building a robust Succession Management Process.)
Want to read more? Here’s a free whitepaper that further describes the components of 21st Century Leadership Development]]>
Not all jobs are created equal. Some roles play a pivotal role in identifying, creating and delivering value for the markets and customers outlined in the strategy. Leaders should help identify these mission-critical or pivotal roles and then differentially invest in assuring that the best talent is placed and retained in these roles.
Traditional performance evaluations are worthless. It’s time to throw them out (and the ratings that go with them) and to replace them with a robust process of cascading goals down through every level of the organization. Managers and employees should be focused on having regular, meaningful discussions about goals, progress and next steps. Replace the ratings with calibration sessions or talent reviews (see #5 below).
Competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities related to success in the organization. To deploy a given strategy, the competencies critical to success must be defined at every level of the company. Then the competencies can be used to integrate selection, promotion, and development processes that support and drive the strategy.
Talent assessments (or what I prefer to call Organization Capability Assessment) are essential to assure that strategy can be deployed. Armed with knowledge of mission-critical roles and strategic competencies, candid and objective talent reviews can build an overall picture of the organization’s ability to execute. Properly conducted assessments will highlight capability gaps and where talent investments will have the biggest payoff. Progress can be tracked and the capability assessment can be updated as the strategy unfolds.
Translating strategy into roles, goals and competencies, integrating talent processes with competencies and then assessing overall capability are the hallmarks of strategic talent management. It creates a clear line of sight from talent to strategy and allows the talent strategy (and HR) to become a driver of the business strategy.]]>
A comment by our Facebook host really stuck with me. When we were talking about their approach to talent, he said that Facebook, “hires hard, manages easy and fires fast.” I thought that was a brilliant but simple summary of an effective talent strategy. Simple, yes . . . but how do you operationalize hard, easy and fast? I’ll give it a shot.
I’ve always said that if I had only $100 to spend on talent, I’d spend $90 on selection and $10 on identifying and developing high potentials. A bit of an exaggeration but meant to highlight the important role that selection can play in building the capability of an organization.
Most firms focus on “screening-out” candidates. I prefer to emphasize “screening in”. Companies often set requirements that have nothing to do with reality and, therefore, are not valid. College GPA is a good example. GPA does not predict future performance or potential but shows up quite often. Keeping a high selection ratio (the number of candidates per opening) is an important determinant in the utility of hiring. Get as much valid information about as many candidates as possible and keep them in the running until the very end, then pick from the best on all factors.
Another downfall I often see is selecting or screening candidates on competencies that are easy to learn or that can be picked up in a short time on the job. Functional or technical knowledge is often the culprit here. Hiring managers like to see people who have exact experience in their specific industry or function. This has the effect of significantly narrowing the talent pool. Managers like to say that they want to hire someone who can “hit the ground running.” I counter by pushing them to find talent that can “hit the ground developing” and that has potential for the next two roles.
My background is in testing and assessment so know when standardized testing can make a difference. Unfortunately, I seldom see good examples. There are too many questionable assessments available, proffered by someone who bought a franchise and has no testing background. They emphasize using the test to screen out candidates, immediately lowering the utility and validity of the whole process. Personality-based assessments are the worst examples. Even if the assessments are well constructed, I find that companies do not use the tool appropriately (for example, wanting to set pass or fail scores). If you want to add testing to your selection process, use the data to add to your knowledge of the candidates, not as a screen. And work only with reputable firms that employ licensed psychologists.
Millennials and their effect on the workplace is a hot topic. However, it’s my view that what organizations need to do in response to generational differences is not unique from one decade to the next. That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. “Managing easy” is a great way to describe the style needed to support career success.
Successful people exhibit a similar set of strategic, operational, positioning, interpersonal and personal skills, no matter their generation. They develop a repertoire of behaviors by navigating a range of challenging experiences with guidance, support and feedback from leaders and peers Values may differ across generations but the behaviors that make a difference at work do not
So what’s an organization to do? It turns out that the most effective practices for Millennials are what high-performing organizations have been doing, no matter the generation.
Our host stated that there is no room for “brilliant assholes” at Facebook. Google said that they are better at firing than hiring (and their hiring process was impressive). There is a huge payoff for Identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture. Marginal leaders create disengagement and drive turnover. Non-performers drag down the performance of any team on which they participate. Low performing, low potential employees are terrible at hiring high-performers; they don’t know high performance when they see it. I could go on and on about the significant drag that brilliant assholes and other marginal employees have on organizations. It is a drag that is often ignored. Managers lack to courage to address the problem so non-performers are moved around, hidden or given less and less responsibility.
High-performing companies regularly assess talent and quickly address both opportunities and challenges. Google has eliminated the typical performance review (see Manage Easy) but conducts regular “calibration” reviews of talent. My experience is that regular, objective and candid reviews of talent at all levels are hallmarks of top-notch talent management systems.
That’s my take on hire hard, manage easy and fire fast. Nothing earth shattering but high impact. Where to start? Fire fast to get the quickest benefit then hire hard and manage easy.]]>
There are plenty examples of well-defined and delineated strategies making a difference in an organization’s success. What we now know is that there is neurological foundation for the benefits of a sound strategy – creating and deploying strategy matches how the human brain operates.
One of the leading researchers in the field of Neuroscience of Leadership is David Rock. He has created a model that identifies five organization factors that have a significant effect on human reactions, linked to new research on how our brains operate. He calls it the SCARF model.
Status: the perception of being considered better or worse than others
Certainty: the predictability of future events
Autonomy: the level of control people feel over their lives
Relatedness: the experience of sharing goals with others
Fairness: the sense of being respected and treated equitably, especially compared with others
When an organization’s perceived level on any of the five SCARF factors is low, then employees feel threatened. Its a reaction that occurs deep in our brains – a more nuanced version of the fight or flight syndrome. The feeling of threat is often reflected in lower engagement and productivity, creating a number of leadership implications. One implication is the role strategy plays in organization success.
So why do you need a strategy? The SCARF model posits that, without a well thought-out and communicated strategy, employees will feel threated by a lack of relatedness, a lack of certainty and/or a lack of autonomy. Even if its not expressed, the feeling is there. A strategy that clearly establishes the organization’s direction and intent, cascades goals and objectives to all levels and establishes a shared vision will help drive engagement and productivity.
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My colleague and I, as we are want to do, took the concept a little further and decided that this should be called the “Effervescent Model of Leadership Development”. (We considered calling it the “Build it and They Will Come” model but that was taken.) We envisioned a process of bubbling, eruptions, fizzing or other such emissions that magically spewed forth the next generation of leaders. Absurd, yes, but at least it was worth a laugh.
So no, I do not think that effective leaders naturally bubble to the surface, any more than I think that effective business processes occur by spontaneous generation. Effective leadership development has to be much more intentional. It begins by understanding the strategy and direction of the organization. Different strategies demand different leadership capabilities.
Once strategy-critical competencies are identified, then existing pools of leadership talent need to be assessed against those competencies. If leaders are not capable, then they will struggle to deploy the strategy. Any talent gaps have to be addressed by selecting new leaders or developing the existing ones.
When I work with organizations to assess talent, we often find that they have more leadership capacity then they realized. We find capable talent that is not deployed effectively, is reporting to the wrong manager, is not challenged, is at risk of leaving, doesn’t realize they could have greater impact, etc. We do not find much “natural bubbling”. We always find opportunities to significantly improve the organization’s leadership capability by well-planned and executed talent initiatives.
The Effervescent Model of Leadership is sure to go flat (sorry), leave adherents with shortage of leadership talent and little return on their talent investment.]]>
Often times, I get a reaction from someone involved in the facilitation that goes something like, “How did you do that? We’ve never gotten that much done before. What’s your magic?” Well, after careful consideration, I have decided to reveal the magic of my high-impact facilitation ability.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, my home planet was about to explode and my parents, Dean-El and Roberta-El, put me in a rocket . . . . . wait . . . . that’s not it. The real “magic” isn’t superhuman (though many years of experience doesn’t hurt.) There are two important potions in facilitation magic.
Design, Design, Design. This is a secret that I learned many years ago from my mentor and facilitation guru, Jerry McNellis. This magic occurs long before the actual session begins and involves querying stakeholders to gain a thorough understanding of the situation at hand and what is to be accomplished. It takes the superhuman capabilities of questioning, listening and observation. I’ve done facilitation-on-the-fly (mostly in emergency situations) but it is never as effective as a well designed and tested process. The result is a laser-like focus that doesn’t waste anyone’s time and gets more done than anyone thought possible.
Dumb Facilitators That’s right, the stupider the better – that’s why I have excelled. No, seriously . . . by “dumb” I mean someone who can stay out of the content and focus on the process. It always surprises me when a potential client is looking for a facilitator that is an expert in their industry. Why? Don’t they already have experts? What are all those people doing on the payroll then? They don’t need another industry expert. What they really need is someone who can effectively tap into the existing expertise, stay above the fray, make sure the process is on target, can ask insightful (dumb) questions and can know when to call audibles or make mid-course corrections.
There you have it – the non-magic of high-impact facilitation. Go forth and cast your spell!]]>