If you were to ask employers what HR issues keeps them awake at night, chances are talent management would be top of that list.
How to attract, retain and develop top-tier candidates is no small feat, with organizational development and leadership success dependent upon a strong talent pipeline.
With that in mind, we spoke to Diane Locke, managing partner at Ellis Locke & Associates, a leading talent management consulting firm. Locke is also the head facilitator of the outstanding Talent Management course at Queens University IRC, which teaches participants how to implement effective talent management strategies in their own companies.
We asked Locke about the biggest mistakes employers make when it comes to building a successful talent management strategy.
“One I see often is that many organizations understand the importance of succession planning, but invest more time and energy identifying high potential talent than they do developing that talent,” she prefaced.
“This really misses the point of the exercise. Organizations should be committed to investing in the development of talent if they are to be effective – which doesn’t mean just sending them to courses – that’s not the most effective way to develop people. It all comes down to identifying opportunities for deliberate practice that result in real-world experience.”
In doing this, Locke believes people develop transferable skills which position them for advancement. This can also result in greater retention – because, lets face it, if you’re not developing your employees then they will inevitably leave you.
Locke revealed that another blunder made by organizations when navigating talent management is poor communication.
“Talent management decisions impact our employees’ level of engagement and their livelihood,” she told HRD. “They should not be left to guess about these matters – inquiring minds want to know.”
High performing employees want to know that they’ve been identified as such – according to research from the Center for Creative Leadership. Of those identified, 14% will have been actively looking for
roles outside of the company already – making it even more important to tell these talented workers that you’re planning on developing them.
“Many managers don’t know how to tell someone they have not been identified as high potential in a way that is supportive and allows people to feel valued and respected,” added Locked. “As a result, they avoid having these conversations or may do so in a manner that results in disengagement or attrition.”
So, how exactly does management identify future leaders within their organization? Locke believes it begins with reflective analysis.
“If you are trying to identify high potential talent, you need to differentiate between performance and potential, or the ‘Peter Principle’ will come into play,” she told HRD.
“Even when people understand the difference between performance and potential, they may not know what to look for to spot potential. It’s helpful for an organization to set clear criteria to define what behaviours they equate with high potential, so everyone is on the same page.”
Another way of pinpointing your future leaders is to look outside of your own judgement. Locke explained to us that managers shouldn’t rely solely on their own opinions, and instead take in the perspective of other employees.
“It’s critical to factor in multiple perspectives since some employees are good at ‘managing up’, but others in the organization may have had a different experience of these individuals,” she continued. “A lot of organizations use the 9-Box Framework to facilitate calibration discussions that allow for multiple perspectives to be considered.
“Assessment tools can also play a role in introducing greater objectivity to measure characteristics that contribute to high potential. By introducing science and analytics, organizations are better positioned to make evidence-based decisions.”
However, Locke would remind employers that it’s important not to rely solely on such tools to make these important decisions.
“They simply provide additional information to be factored into the overall decision.”