6 Challenges for Talent Management; And How to Solve Them

by Aman Singh Das | February 24, 2011

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"We need to rethink what a good interview looks like, what a good review looks like. This is an educational curve we are yet to conquer."

How can companies execute integrated talent management processes that work?

The event: The Conference Board's annual forum for Talent Management executives

The panelists: Elizabeth McCarty, senior director of HR Business Excellence with Darden Restaurants (aka Longhorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, etc.) and Ronald Lawrence, VP for Organizational Development with VF Corporation (The Northface, Nautica, Wrangler, Lee, etc.)

While both panelists represented the retail industry—heavily dependent on hourly workers—the challenges outlined mirror almost every industry today, especially with a mass exodus of boomers from the workforce.

What Makes a Good Job Interview Good?

For example, the quote above signifies a reality of today's competitive job market, i.e., we can debate and analyze the "good" and the "bad" of job interviews and performance reviews all we want, but there are no established standards to cite. And none that guarantee success.

What you can take away from their challenges, however, is a) the urgency needed to retool traditional HR models that recognize (and applaud) cultural and generational diversity, and b) Whether they reflect your struggle(s) and how their solutions apply to your demographics.

So, without further ado:

What qualifies as a good job interview and how can human resources redefine compentency models to reflect what a top performer looks like?

1) We still don't know what a top performer looks like

"We might have clarity of expected objectives from a top performer but we don’t have defined scale or factors that go into defining a top performer," said McCarty, adding, "What are they really being measured on? What does 'successful' look like?"

One simple answer to this is an objective performance review that we are all too familiar with. But what McCarty is referring to is the often cold nature of this review that more often than not, does not take into account non-monetary objectives, holistic personnel development, and career progression.

Suggestions from the panel included differentiating between performance plans and development plans; and updating routine competency models.

2) How are we evaluating our workforce across cultures?

Not a lot of answers to this challenge brought up by Lawrence. For companies that extend beyond national borders, this is an acute barrier in equalized development, engagement and leadership training. One episode of Outsourced is enough to realize—outside the humor—how drastically cultural differences can influence employee training and development.

3) What do you do to get leadership to participate in talent management?

According to McCarty, it is essential that senior executives know that they own talent management, i.e., that developing their staff, implementing succession plans, mentoring and sponsoring high potential talent is crucial to their leadership—and the company's overall growth.

She also added that "if you're asking your management to do too much on performance reviews, etc., it will fail." Her suggestion: "Choose what is really important; make it simple and contextual to the executive's realm of work."

4) Global Wars: How do you convince managers to let go of their talent?

For sure, this issue is pervasive across all industries, be it professional services, finance, consulting or manufacturing. No manager wants to hand off their best employees to their employees. For example, Goldman Sachs' clear policy on division transfers is only too well known for industry insiders.

Solution?

McCarty had a unique lesson to offer: "[Darden has] started a reward system, where in we call them talent developers. We routinely ask division leaders why they aren’t willing to let go an employee to another brand or vice versa." Of course, terminology and titles are everything in the office culture. Calling middle management talent developers can be an effective way of sending the right message: Mentor your employees to do their best.

Lawrence, on the other hand, confessed that this is an ongoing struggle. "We conduct session meetings where we dissect behaviors: Why wasn’t someone promoted or transferred, etc.?" he said, adding that that really gets them thinking about every team member as an individual asset.

5) Scaling Diversity: How should HR approach global threats to talent acquisition?

Sustainability is a part of everyone's job today, says McCarty: "It's not like 10 years ago when it was unheard of or worse, relegated to a small, tiny department. Today we are all responsible for [not only our] team's [sustainability] but also the company's long term sustainability."

Referring to the exploding graduation rates in China, Lawrence added, "China scares me. We've got to get ourselves back on track and back in the game."

6) How can human resources help develop high potential (HiPo) talent?

For VF, this has meant selective coaching, Lawrence said, "Because it's expensive."

Ask yourself, the panelists advised: Is the person in the right job? Are they motivated? And if the answers are yes, then push them even more to learn, develop and look ahead.

Next: Why does the middle (management) matter?

Filed Under: CSR

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