We all recognize that talent matters. The difference between a great organization and one that just gets by comes down to the quality of the people. Almost every week, I interact with an organization that discusses their recognition of the importance of talent, but laments their failure of execution. The typical complaints relate to three core concerns: the inability to hire highly effective workers, build on the strengths of their current employees, or retain star workers once they become disengaged. In looking back over the course of my own career, it is easy to recognize a few stars that left would be sufficient to create a world-class team.
In the simplest sense, talent building involves assembling the right people, developing those people, and keeping those people. As an analogy, if we think of building a talent “house,” we need to assemble the right materials, build a solid and functional structure, and maintain our house. A less than ideal “house” can result from a failure in any of the three areas.
If we want to assess our talent building efforts, what do we need to know?
Analyze the internal and external talent pool
An organization needs to know the capabilities and performance levels of its staff as well as the distribution present in the relative labor market place. Every organization should be able to place the quality of their staff compared to the market. In addition, predicted potential of each team member should be determined. For succession planning as well as performance management, an organization needs to know who is “in the pipeline” from a growth standpoint.
Assess gaps between available and needed
Based on an organization’s business goals and performance level, the talent needed for the desired level of attainment should be compared to current labor pool. The gaps between desired and actual account for where you need to invest, improve, and develop. Any organization has two choices: buy or grow. The desired talent can be purchased in the market place or current staff can be developed. In most cases, the ideal approach is a mix of both.
A living talent plan needs to outline for individuals as well as the organization future strategies. The plan should clearly document the current and desired state, strategies for closing the gap, and the necessary action items or steps. Individual plans provide the most value when customized steps specifically identify those actions most likely to lead to success.
Execute and Revise
Although developing the plan puts an organization ahead of its peers, execution and maintaining the plan determines the real degree of success. As we all have seen, influencing human behavior holds its own challenges. How many times have you been asked to deviate from any type of plan or procedure? A client once summed it up well: “exceptions are actually the rule.” However, if the plan is well developed, the best possible outcomes will typically come from following it.