Top executives still see their utmost people priority as having “the right people in the right place, at the right time, doing their job well”. In a Workforce.com article, “What the CEO wants from HR”, Eric Wiseman, CEO of VF Corporation (Lee, Nautica, The North Face and other lifestyle brands) confirms this focus on talent by saying:
“I need a strong financial lever, and that’s never been more important than it is now. I need brands that are winning against the competition. And I need talent. Money and brands don’t do me any good if I don’t have the talent.”
Even for the average business, a talent-ready internal team is fundamental to fulfilling business operations and ensuring employees are actively engaged and retained within the business. A low cost way of knowing what your internal employee talent pool looks like is through “talent pipeline reviews”. These reviews will also decrease the reliance on external hiring and provide a target for meagre development budgets.
What is a Talent Pipeline review?
A Talent Pipeline review consists of the following sets of activities:
a) A leadership group meets to discuss the performance and capability potential for each member of a defined employee or manager group within the organization.
b) Action steps for in-job development, special assignments, mentoring or training are agreed upon. Following the meeting, development opportunities are discussed with team members and actively supported by their manager.
c) Vacant positions or special project work are filled wherever possible by the “reviewed” employees to facilitate internal skills growth.
d) Significant organizational skill gaps are resolved through targeted recruitment or training.
e) Details of meeting discussions, development actions and progress are tracked and reviewed at a later meeting. The cycle is completed annually or semi-annually.
The value of the talent pipeline review approach is realized when the employee group is more robust with capabilities to take on new roles when required. Two central parts of the talent review discussions are the coaching discussions (held with the employees after the “review meeting”) and their manager’s support to help them develop. In addition to identifying succession candidates for roles, tracking of employee moves demonstrates business impact with the reduction of “time to fill vacant positions” and an increase in internally-filled jobs.
When is the right timing to initiate Talent Pipeline reviews?
A key question for many business leaders is: what is the right timing for this kind of assessment and planning program to truly add value to the organization? Any time might be right within larger organizations (2000+) where more time and resources may exist to develop pools of potential leaders or critically-skilled candidates. Within smaller organizations (< 100) it may be too early to think about development when most people are working portions of 2-3 jobs and doubling down to get work done. Employee development in these smaller organizations often arises by “doing the job”. However, as an organization grows beyond 100 people, so do its leadership numbers and streamlining of roles. Managers and employees need to be more sophisticated in operating across the organization and typically have less visibility to development opportunities and career paths.
The following is a list of questions to consider whether the timing is right to implement a Talent Pipeline review program for your organization:
- Do you expect and need to plan for significant staff growth over the next 12-36 months?
- Are there formal succession plan requirements from the Board or regulators?
- Are leaders frustrated with not having skilled candidates to fill roles with internal company knowledge?
- Is there discontentment amongst employees about either too much external hiring or leaders’ lack of focus on career development?
- Is your organization considering an enhanced investment in learning but needs a baseline assessment of the team’s capability gaps?
- Is there a business product/service or strategic initiative being launched which will require new skills and a careful assessment of development needs for execution?
Talent pipeline planning can be integrated into part of the annual business strategy cycle by providing “current state analysis” and/or provide a foundation for business cases for other people-program investments. Talent Pipeline reviews can also be tacked on to any existing team performance alignment discussion held by a leadership group.
Make Talent Pipeline reviews priority over other development investments
Recently, during the implementation of a new talent review program a leader turned to me to say… “this feels like another HR tracking process”. Needless to say, the value became clearer to that leader after several semi-annual discussion cycles, employee development and job transfers. His team members realized that leaders were now focusing on them by providing work development opportunities. The employees were being challenged and started to see potential career paths for themselves. The talent within the organization was activated and we were delivering better prepared leaders for vacant positions.
On average, most business leaders resist adding people processes whenever possible (particularly in young, growing businesses). Human resources won’t often recommend talent pipeline reviews until after pushing for commitments to other learning programs. Perhaps it is time to re-think that prioritization. Talent pipeline reviews require less budget investment and can be more directly linked to strategy planning and execution.
A Talent Pipeline review is a highly actionable program. Leaders usually take direct development action after the review meetings without waiting for training budget. More than 90% of the time, employee development actions identified are “in-job” work, mentoring or within-department projects or committees. Talent discussions help a leadership group to focus on “who needs what type of development” and come to an agreement on employee work assignments for quick action.
Most importantly, Talent Pipeline programs support and execute upon the organization’s overall business plan, as well as help the organization meet Board and regulatory requirements. They keep a leadership group actively focused on their peoples’ development for high employee engagement, reduce productivity loss from job vacancies and enhance overall productivity for business results.
Take the challenge to improve your leadership and company performance without spending a cent on expensive executive coach, off-site leadership training or a consultant.
Praise, don’t criticize – get psychology today article. Just for today only provide positive feedback. Catch 3 people doing something right!
Allow people time to come up with a solution without budding in. You are smart – you may have built the company from scratch or came in to take it to the next level, however, you don’t have a market on brains. It you could do it all yourself you wouldn’t need employees. Look hard for the better solutions someone else came up with.
Listen more than you talk today. Really listen – not even for a moment think of what your response is going to be while they are talking. This one will be very difficult. Observe how your staff reacts!
Get out of your cave
Be open to at least one new way of doing something and refraining from the way that you have ‘always done it’ . Yes it has worked for you in the past and that helped with your success, however, if we never changed the way we did things we would still be living in caves.
Take a hike
Walk around the office or plant. Get to know your staff better. Ask them what prevents them from doing their job. This is an opportunity to connect and find out their view of the world. While doing so, make sure your sincerity and professionalism shine through. Don’t dismiss, roll your eyes, think of how much greater (smarter, successful) you are, challenge ideas or use what you hear as ammunition later. Just commit to trying to connect, understand and learn more. More personal than an employee survey.
Reflect after each day how it went. Did you feel awkward? If you did, you know you can only improve. Are you up for the challenge?
There is much commentary today on the effectiveness of leadership and its true value in driving bottom line results. Many leaders discount the impact of enhancing their leadership behaviours would have on overall culture and employee experience. Many also think that positive engagement and organizational culture do not directly improve bottom line business results, and ignore the many studies which demonstrate this. Unfortunately many leaders succumb to increasing day-to-day pressures and do not dedicate time or money to self-improvement or make efforts to focus on enhancing employee engagement.
On June 1st within a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, comments on “The Only Thing That Really Matters” for leadership. He recognizes the negative affect on employees who feel undervalued because of lack of acknowledgement or being put down. This has a lasting effect on productivity and commitment to the organization. He references Doug Conant, outgoing CEO of Campbell Soup, as “a rare example of a CEO who truly appreciates the relationship between personal value and the bottom line”.
The positive affect of basic acknowledgement motivates employees in their work and better engages them in the organization. This ultimately leads to higher productivity and retention. The very basics of effective leadership activities are what leaders can control to create positive perception of “value”, i.e. “my leader understands me and what I contribute”. Effective leadership techniques can be boiled down to:
Giving and receiving effective feedback to enable and support performance and development
Acknowledging employees’ contribution at both an individual level and macro-team level
Within a team, getting to know each employee and recognize what motivates and inspires them
Rewarding strong performance and proactively dealing with performance issues
Creating a sense of fairness, equity and respect within the environment and its processes
Demonstrating a motivating vision of where the company is heading, with a relatable mission which places the customer as the top priority.
Making balanced, timely and effective decisions to keep the business moving forward
Communicating to individuals what their part is in driving organizational success and expected behaviours to make it happen
Involving and challenging team members in shaping their work and growing with and within the organization.
Although these basics seem simple, many leaders forget their value and many times disconnect their actual personal behaviours from their intentions. To paraphrase Jim Collins in Good to Great, one of the top attributes of Level 5 leadership is the ability to look through the window at the team when things are going well and in the mirror when things are going wrong. It becomes even more difficult to achieve the same commitment to strong leadership behaviours across a large leadership group.
Convincing a group of leadersto grow their leadership capabilities to create a stronger experience for employees while they are busy managing an effective operations requires focus, diligence and the right mechanisms for development and sustainment. It takes time to enhance leadership functions, clarify expectations, develop leadership talent, enhance communications, optimize collaboration, reflect on actual leadership effectiveness through feedback and monitoring processes, and relentlessly take the next step to improve leader functioning. A dedicated focus on a cycle of leadership improvement will pay off in greater employee perception of value, improved engagement, stronger productivity and ultimately better business results.