• Becoming a Superior Provider of Customer Value
  • Getting Your Talent Right
  • Maintaining Non-Union Status under Obama
  • When Stars Thrive, Companies Survive
The Voice of Business Growth is coming to the VoiceAmerica Business Network

    I will be hosting a weekly one hour program that will explore two growth fundamentals:
  1. A robust strategy that is in sync with the marketplace and that focuses on delivering value generates wealth, and,
  2. If you don't get the talent right, your business will never fulfill its strategic potential.
Premieres Monday, April 27 at 1:00 PM EST


Coming Attractions:

Strategic Talent Management: More than Your Father's Succession Planning
March 4, 2009
Workshop presented by Michael Couch to the Westmoreland County Human Resources Association

Strategic Talent Management: The Real Value of HR
March 13, 2009
I-X Center o Cleveland, Ohio
Workshop Presented by Michael Couch to the 43rd Annual Northern Ohio Human Resource Conference

Dramatically Improving the Impact of Human Resources: How to Run HR Like a Business
May 19, 2009
Workshop presented by Michael Couch to the Westmoreland County Human Resources Association

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Becoming a Superior Provider of Customer Value

Business growth is rooted in the value a company delivers to its target markets. Growth happens when potential buyers perceive that the value offered by your company is greater than the value offered by your competition.

So how do become a superior provider of customer value in your targeted markets? It requires both an understanding of what the market values and an organization that is capable of delivering greater value. Three key assessments can help answer the question:

  • Customer Value Analysis - Understanding how your targeted markets define value and how those markets perceive the value of your products and services relative to your key competitors.
  • Business Growth Assessment - Determining the extent to which your company is market value driven (including employee perceptions of the characteristics required to drive business growth) and capable of changing to enhance market value. Does your culture support the kind of business you are or want to be?
  • Organization Capability Assessment - Does your organization have the talent to deliver value and to sustain performance over time?

The gaps uncovered from these assessments of the market and your organization can be used to layout a roadmap to becoming a superior provider of value.

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Getting Your Talent Right

We've heard it from the top business minds of our times. I experienced it throughout my business career. Now I see it over and over with my clients:

If you don't get the talent right, your business will never fulfill its strategic potential.

So how do you determine if you have the right talent doing the right things?

There are many tools that have been used over the years to assess talent in an organization. Of all the approaches, there is only one that I've found to have the required

  • Reliability (consistency across people and time),
  • Validity (a relationship to performance and results),
  • Face Validity (acceptance by skeptical executives), and
  • Utility (the results are worth the time and effort invested).

That tool is a facilitated discussion of talent by teams of key managers. Don't get me wrong, testing and assessment tools should play an important role in creating the capability of an organization. It's just that, when it comes to getting everyone on the same page on talent and creating a comprehensive picture, a robust talent assessment process best fits the bill.

A talent assessment is not just any discussion. It is a thoroughly designed process with the following characteristics.

  1. It's the Discussion Stupid

    Effective talent review sessions require candid discussions about the key players in the organization. The discussions must be interactive assessments, not be a biased presentation by each manager or a monologue prepared by HR. The best assessment of talent comes from a discussion based on the perspective of multiple sources combined in a rational, consistent fashion.

  2. Just the Facts

    The talent discussions should only focus on employee behavior and its impact. It should not descend into psycho-babble on why someone is like they are. This is where an experienced facilitator plays a critical role in keeping the discussions focused.

  3. The More the Merrier

    Multiple perspectives are critical. I've had the most success with 3 to 5 leaders that have been exposed to the target talent from a variety of perspectives. They do not prepare for the sessions or bring performance reviews or other records with them.

  4. Don't Climb the Tower of Babel

    All the players need to be speaking the same talent language. Everyone who participates in talent assessments must be trained to identify the behaviors related to performance agility and growth potential.

  5. What Gets Measured, Gets Improved

    The output of effective talent reviews should be both qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative behavior observations should be recorded to support feedback and development planning. Consensus numeric ratings on factors like performance agility and growth potential can be rolled-up to a total picture of talent that can be analyzed from a variety of perspectives and tracked over time creating a talent dashboard.

  6. Once Is Not Enough

    Doing a talent assessment provides a snapshot of an organization's capability at one point in time. Multiple snapshots taken over time that are linked to business results significantly improve the utility of the process. I recommend that talent assessment be completed as part of the annual business planning process and that progress is reviewed at least mid-year, if not quarterly.

  7. HR is Not the Owner

    The Human Resources function plays an important role but should not be the owner of the talent review process. That ownership should ultimately reside at the top of the house and be shared by leaders at all levels. That level of ownership is a hallmark of high-performing organizations.

  8. Not Just the Top of the House

    We're not talking solely about creating back-up lists for the C-Suite, Building a strategy-driven organization requires that talent at all levels is being prepared to move onto new roles with greater scope and scale.

Don't get me wrong, testing and assessment can play an important role in improving the capability of an organization. It's just that, when it comes to getting everyone on the same page on talent and creating a complete picture, a robust talent assessment process best fits the bill.

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Maintaining Non-Union Status under Obama

The new administration is firmly behind legislation that would fundamentally alter a company's ability to grow. The Employee Free Choice Act would abolish the secret ballot in union representation drives and would institute binding arbitration to finalize bargaining agreements. Another legislative initiative, called R.E.S.P.E.C.T., seeks to narrowly define the role of a supervisor. The result - unionized first-line managers with roles redefined by union agreement, not by business leaders.

With the changing labor climate, what's a company to do? Waiting until you detect organizing activity is not the answer. One reason is that the campaigns will most likely be stealth campaigns that will be difficult to detect. The Free Choice legislation could also create the situation where there's not an opportunity for a company to mount a counter-campaign. Cards get signed and negotiations begin - no vote. The other more critical reason is that it's not what the company does during an organizing drive that makes a difference in the outcome. It's the approach you take with your employees in the months and years preceding a drive that makes the difference.

It's not incidental that high performing organizations are significantly less unionized. Engaged workers are less likely to be interested in joining a union. Engaged workers have a direct, positive effect on customer perceptions and on the business' financial performance. Building an engaged workforce directly addresses the factors that, if lacking, cause workers to vote for representation. Those factors include:

  • Fair and consistent compensation
  • Input into decision-making in their area
  • Appropriate amount of decision making to do my job well
  • Opportunities to learn and develop new skills
  • Management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  • Reputation of the business as a good employer - consistency and fairness
  • Collaboration across departments
  • Confidence in senior management to ensure the company's long-term success

How vulnerable is your company on these factors? Now would be a great time to assess the engagement of your workforce and address any gaps. Not just to maintain non-union status, but to grow your business.

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When Stars Thrive, Companies Survive
By Peter Berner

Two things are certain in these times of extraordinary uncertainty.

Businesses will rely on their best and brightest talent to pull them through this rough patch of economic challenges.

Equally certain: Despite the worn out mantra that "Our people are out greatest assets" companies will continue to make plans and act in ways that say that human capital is expendable.

The rush to slenderize operations, reduce costs, hunker down and demand more-with-less has begun big time. Beating expenses out of the P&L is logical, appropriate and often essential to survival.

However, now is not the time to snare high performers in the stagnating net of cost controls. It is exactly the time t o make selected investments in their growth and development as we call on them to do the exhausting job of tugging the enterprise through to a recovery. Now is exactly the time that top performers can most benefit from the guidance of an Executive Coach.

All too often we expect the heroes to suck it up and just take the pain with the rest of the organization. The unspoken message sounds something like "be happy you have a job". They deserve better; and so do the stakeholders who will benefit from the efforts of a company's best performers to save the enterprise.

The payoff and benefits of providing an Executive Coach to star performers can be substantial.

  • Stars in tough times face extraordinary challenges- larger than they have ever managed. They can easily become overwhelmed and de-motivated; a coach can provide the wisdom and discretion to manage challenges appropriately.
  • Stars need exceptional relationship and communication abilities to inspire and motivate the organization to step up to uncommon challenges; a coach can provide the grounding and training in Emotional Intelligence that effective leaders must have.
  • Stars can put the organization at risk through aggressive expectations and unguided exuberance; a coach can provide the restraint to avoid overstepping one's competence.
  • Stars greatest strengths can become fatal weaknesses as they overuse the sources of their success; a coach can help them understand how to avoid this self-sabotaging behavior.
  • Stars want to know that they are respected and appreciated. They want to see tangible signs that the organization wants them around for the long haul; a coach can provide tangible, constructive proof that the organization is committed to the career success of the star.

It's easy to exceed expectations when things are going great. It takes a rare talent and personality to do it when things are really tough. And things are really tough right now. No organization can afford to lose the very bench strength that will help them survive. Before these heroes take flight (from today's high expectations and diminished rewards, or tomorrow's resentment at being used and abused) they need to be supported as they tackle these extraordinary expectations.

Allocating scarce resources to coaching, to help your premium players help you get through these tough times may just be one of the best and smartest survival strategies that you can deploy.

People may be expendable, but the right ones still are your greatest asset. Protect it.

Peter Berner is an Executive Coach and the President of Pilot Workplace Advisors, a Pittsburgh, PA based Human Resources Development firm offering organizations the tools to manage the intensity and velocity of today's workplace challenges.

Contact Peter Berner at:
[email protected]
412 928 2058

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