08th September 2014

Are You Wasting Your Time on Talent Management?


Before You Have a Talent Discussion First Have a Benchmark Discussion

Too often we’ve seen executives waste time in talent meetings, performance discussions, recruitment profiling and other talent exercises simply because there is no agreement on what ‘good’, let alone ‘great’ talent looks like.  From our experience, effective discussions start with a commonly held view of what the benchmark is.  The best talent management review sessions start by agreeing who is in the pool for discussion ,and who is out; that comes down to the standard or benchmark the reviewers have put in place.

Is there a commonly held view of what ‘good’ looks like in your organisation?

Our rule of thumb . . .

Our reputation for delivering great talent (in GT-SEARCH) and developing it (in The Talent Workshop) is built on the quality of people we identify or develop who can deliver great performance and really improve a business.  To this end we have developed our own ‘rule of thumb’ of the five factor groups that underpin an executive likely to make big a contribution.

While we think it’s our secret recipe, in reality, nothing in what we observe and have learned can’t be found in leadership text books, or in the research done by other leading consulting or executive search firms.  We have figured out a formula that works for us that transcends industries, companies and functions.  We’ve done this to help us deliver solutions for clients more efficiently and effectively.

Now we’re not about to give out all the ingredients of our secret sauce, but here are the five fundamental factors. The first two can be identified with an initial review of an individual’s career profile . . .

  1. The big resume markers; where someone has worked, who they have worked for and who has worked for them says a lot about the executive
  2. We look at the kinds of roles they have done.  We know that experience is the big teacher but some experiences teach more, and develop people better than others

The next three become apparent after just a few simple interview questions . . .

  1. As we get to know them we size up their agility to get on top of an issue; how they prioritise and set an agenda for themselves and others
  2. We look for evidence of how they get things done, overcome setbacks and demonstrate resilience
  3. We evaluate what they take accountability for, and how they get things done through people.

The combination of these factors is what makes an individual’s personal brand distinctive, and sets the standard for talent in your organisation.

The challenge of establishing a benchmark

Does your organisation have a commonly held point of view on what your ‘benchmark’ executive looks like?

We use the word benchmark consciously and carefully.  We’re not talking ‘high potential’ or ‘key talent’ or any of the other pejorative descriptors that HR people like to use.  We are talking about the ‘price of entry’ and ‘cost to stay’ benchmark you need to have in order to make all your talent processes effective and efficient.

When you set a benchmark that becomes your standard.  The higher or more specific you set your standard the lower the number of people in the recruitment or development pool.  The opposite is also true.  The lower the standard you set, the larger the pool of people who can be considered suitable.

Application of your benchmark

There are a number of ways your benchmark can be applied in your operation.  For example in . . .

  • Choosing who comes in your front door – there will always be the exception that proves the rule but, for the sake of efficiency you really need to ‘fish where the fish are’ so, by being crystal clear with your recruiters that you will only hire talent that meets your benchmark you will save a lot of time
  • Performance evaluation – an executive’s profile and their performance must be correlated.  Otherwise you’ve got something wrong in your analysis.  When we talk about how someone gets the job done we are not talking about applying some phoney baloney values-on-the-wall stuff, we are talking about the core competencies they leverage to get work done
  • Deciding on development paths – You know the target, so, if you are serious about development you have a detailed recipe
  • Career discussions –  Having a clear benchmark makes it easier to talk to aspiring executives about developing the skills and career characteristics of what it takes to get ahead

What next for your organisation?

Do this in the next week.  Ask the following question of five people whose opinions you respect:  “What are five underlying traits of a benchmark executive, without whom we could not operate?”

See if you get pretty much the same response from all five.  If you do, then you will have an understanding of the benchmark your organisation is working to.  You are in the fortunate situation of being able to spend some time discussing and debating whether that standard is right for the organisation to meet its goals today and in the future.

If you don’t get a consistent response then you have a great opportunity to begin the organisational dialogue on what the new benchmark could be.

Justin Miles
Managing Director
Generator Talent – Melbourne Office

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