Making Talent Management Work

"Talent management is a system, not a series of stand-alone processes."

No organisation can afford to put talent management on the backburner. The loss of experience as the baby-boom generation retires, the overall shortage of talented leaders, the absolute need to engage and retain high-potential employees at every level of the organisation, and an environment which demands that organisations continually do more with less, all combine to make talent management a Board-level priority.

How do organisations get it right? What lessons have we learned over the years? In reviewing their own talent management agenda what questions should those at the organisation's helm be asking?

Talent management is an organic system

No matter who holds the title the CEO is, and must be, the organisation's Chief Talent Officer. Line and functional leaders who see talent management as a secondary priority quickly become a business liability.

Talent management is an organic system, not a series of stand-alone processes. And like any system the whole can never be stronger than the weakest link. Business leaders who fail to align the talent management system with the emerging business context are destroying value. Top teams that support investment in only one or two aspects of development and retention of the internal talent pool and who fail to aggressively address shortfalls in the rest of the system are sowing the seeds of tomorrow's mediocrity.

The dilemma: leadership myopia all too easily leads to the assumption that positive feedback around one process is a valid indicator of the health of talent management in the organisation overall. Unless they are an integral part of the talent management system interventions such as 360º feedback, climate surveys and/or mentoring, no matter how well-supported initially, are destined to become yet one more administrative burden.

The cultural journey

Talent management starts with a robust understanding of the cultural journey. To truly make an impact talent management has to focus on "the organisation we need to be become." Working to become ever better at who we are and what we do (talent management that reinforces the status quo) is to orchestrate tomorrow's missed opportunity.

Although both are important, there is an important difference between climate and culture. Climate is a measure of how people feel about the organisation at a specific point in time. Culture describes the underlying systemic pillars that shape behaviour over the long term. Talent management means insight into and action around both.

The engine of talent management

The engine of talent management is talent acquisition. If the talent acquisition process is found wanting, every other talent management process is marginalised. One of the implications is that the value proposition of those charged with supporting talent acquisition (e.g. executive search) must move beyond "We know the market place better than anyone else."

Capability must encompass areas such as cultural measurement, role-specific competency profiling, team fit, leadership assessment, and executive integration. All these must be complemented by the broad range of skills and resources needed to enable the firm in question to become a full partner in supporting the organisation's talent management actions.

The team is the basic building block of organisation growth. The challenge: if the performance management process, compensation approach, talent acquisition outlay, succession work and internal focus on coaching do not embrace the team much of the effort and investment in talent management is for naught.

The coaching conversation

There is value in separating the performance discussion from the ongoing and complementary performance coaching conversation. The former is periodic, focuses on the achievement of goals (or otherwise) and sets out the coaching agenda. The latter is ongoing, and is about delivering that which has been agreed in the performance discussion (the coaching agenda). The most effective performance management processes balance "the what" (outcomes) with "the how" (behaviour aligned with the organisation's values).

Coaching has to become an integral part of every leader's thoughts and actions. Put simply, a leader who can't coach can't provide leadership; he/she isn't creating the space for talented employees to exploit their own potential.

Successful coaching is ultimately measured by the extent to which the employee moves to the next level of performance. In many instances this means helping the employee/team reframe outdated/dysfunctional mindsets. Coaching that makes a difference focuses, in the first instance, on what is working, no matter how embryonic (leveraging strengths, delivering affirmation, building pride, reinforcing early success).

Coaching is an integral element in the talent management system overall; the coach must model the leadership behaviour implicit in the emerging culture and deliver in-the-moment feedback and affirmation, all while continuously coaching the team. With that in mind, the wider value of the external coach (consultant), beyond coaching leaders in how to coach and/or supporting the accelerated growth of high-potential employees, needs to be regularly challenged and evaluated.

The succession process

When it comes to succession more is less. Succession work that makes a lasting difference focuses only on those leadership roles that are truly mission critical. The succession process must also take into account the future competitive environment; only then can the organisation start to understand which of its leaders have the skills, knowledge and development potential to succeed tomorrow in the (mission critical) role he/she holds down today.

There is a profound difference between succession and replacement strategies: a leader in a mission critical role who isn't actively developing both for their own role is failing to fulfil their fiduciary responsibility.

Leadership workshops

Leadership workshops supporting individual development must be seen as a reward for performance excellence, not a right that goes with the individual's role or level in the organisation. Leadership workshops make a difference when the content is valid and accessible; when the "customers' voice" is an ever-present subtext; when the learning challenges participants emotionally; when the level of abstraction contained within the material is aligned with the "conceptual horsepower" of those attending; when adequate time is set aside to challenge the ideas and views presented; when ideas, dialogue and practice are given equal weight; when reflection is part of the mix; and when the skills introduced have immediate practical application.

Although measuring success is important, not everything delivered by the workshop can and should be measured. In addition to delivering "What to do differently on Monday," it is often important that leadership workshops strive to change the way participants see the emerging business challenge. Reframing mindsets, offering participants a new lens through which to see the world, and challenging established assumptions are characteristics of success that don't fit easily on a spreadsheet.

Finally, in that real learning doesn't begin until the participant returns to the workplace, there is a strong correlation between on-the-job follow-up and return on the investment made.

A "power to" approach

Talent management that thrives emphasises a "power to" rather than a "power over" leadership approach. This speaks to transparency, risk, and allowing talented leaders to have a real say in the development journey being charted. No less important: excellence means keeping it simple!

Talent management isn't new. Indeed, scratch the surface of any organisation that has sustained outstanding performance and you will find that talent management has played a large part in that success. The talent challenge per se may not be a recent concern but the urgency and need to get it right have never been keener. And the environment has never been less forgiving to those who stumble.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Employ the Head, Empower the Hand, Engage the Heart, and Enrich the Spirit (Part 1)

Four leadership domains

There are four things an employee (regardless of level) needs – not wants, needs – from their immediate team leader.

  1. A clear sense of direction – where are we heading? How will the business environment evolve? Where and how is technology going to change the business? What will tomorrow look, sound and feel like? What is our unique point of differentiation? Who is tomorrow's customer? The head.
  2. The discipline of delivery – a cadence, a rhythm, a regular and continuing pattern of behaviour where the agreed outcomes and feedback regarding those outcomes are always in sharp focus. It's about an organisation that, by way of design, is agile enough to support tomorrow's needed speed of delivery. In performance terms, it's the need for everyone on the team to know where they stand. The hand.
  3. To provide a learning environment – mentoring, coaching, stretch, building the team, a focus on learning how to learn. Currency in the job market. The heart.
  4. That the leader in question is someone who everyone on the team respects and trusts – consistent, authentic, affirming, displays humility, keeps people informed, is tough-minded when they need to be and, regardless of the circumstances, they listen, really listen. The spirit.

A consistent and compelling performance ethos, day-to-day focus, an engaged workforce, and a sense of belonging – all draw heavily on the four leadership domains outlined above.

Leadership balance

Lack of leadership balance – behaviour skewed towards one of the above to the detriment of the others – and innovation and responsiveness become a lost cause. Meanwhile, failure to fully deliver against any one of these (four) leadership imperatives and for those you count on most, the grass will inevitably look greener elsewhere. Guaranteed!

To lead is to hire, promote and build for succession – at a level of excellence. Anything less is unacceptable. Nothing is more important. To be in a position of responsibility and lack mastery in hiring is to actively mismanage a critical business asset.

The head describes success in strategic terms.

The hand outlines what, specifically, needs to be achieved.

The heart captures the people management capability demanded.

The spirit is all about character. Character matters.

Talent acquisition, specifically, and talent management, generally, that fails to embrace all four leadership characteristics is a gateway to yet more recruitment.

It is obviously essential to be "customer-centric". But, what does that really mean?

The head implies being fully informed as to where the customer's business is heading. It's to understand the customer's emerging value proposition. It's to see opportunity through the customer's customer.

The hand means getting inside the customer's business processes, delivering on time and maintaining the highest level of quality.

The heart recognises that the buy-decision is based on emotion. Selling is not simply how well you get across what you do or even how well you do it – it's, ultimately, how you make the customer feel.

The spirit is found in truth, authenticity and living the organisation's values. Spirit comes to the fore in passion, perseverance and, when needed, patience. It is also about challenging those on the front-line to improve the processes that dictate how the work gets done – and do so every day, in every way.

The emerging culture

In shaping the emerging culture, leadership that draws on the head and the hand can be termed as "cultural drivers". Meanwhile, the heart and the spirit act like cultural anchors. If they are not present, in full measure, being who you have always been is the best that can be hoped for. Don't even think about implementing sweeping change (e.g., breakthrough technology) if the heart and the spirit are found wanting.

From our own research and the work of others, only one company in five "manage" their culture. Then again, the organisation's culture will change whether you want it to or not … if you are not attentive, in ways that are less than helpful.

So far so good, but even the leadership qualities outlined will likely not keep your high contributors on board should the right opportunity beckon. They need more … they need to be inspired. They need to believe that what we choose to call "work" is making the very best use of their time and ability. They need to be able to bridge the challenge they face today with what tomorrow's success will look and feel like.

This equates to leadership of an altogether higher order... Part 2 coming soon.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Talent War Part 2: Five Tips To Retain Great Employees
transearchusa.com

Workers are quitting their jobs in droves across America.

In April alone, a record four-million people resigned. The average time younger workers are expected to stay in their current job is just over two years. And a McKinsey study showed only 7 percent of companies believe they can keep highly talented people.

While there are many reasons for the resignations, which we illustrated in the part 1 of our series on filling the skilled labor gap, in this article, we provide five tips to help you keep and develop your talent.

Read "Talent War Part 2: Five Tips To Retain Great Employees" leadership insights

Talent War Part 1: The Skilled Labour Gap
transearchusa.com

More than nine million jobs are open and waiting to be filled in the United States right now. Even more eye opening is that the number of job postings has skyrocketed over 40% since February, according to government statistics.

Why are companies finding it so challenging to fill roles with talented people? Simply put, we are experiencing a skilled labour gap.

Read "Talent War Part 1: The Skilled Labour Gap" leadership insights

Diversity In The Biotech C-Suite Q&A
fiercebiotech.com

"If you're paying attention even a little bit to the diversity of the biotech C-suite, it's easy to see that there are few women or visible minorities at the top. But just how bad is the situation?"

The following is a Q&A with Fierce Biotech and Darren Raycroft, partner and managing director at executive search firm The Bedford Consulting Group.

Read "Diversity In The Biotech C-Suite Q&A" leadership insights

The Succession Imperative

If you don't have the leadership you need, regardless of what else works, you still don't have much. As for a crisis, it might not - as has often been suggested - create leaders but it lets you know about the capability of the ones you have.

The leadership challenge describes a talent management system with a good many moving parts:

  • The capacity to attract talent
  • The talent acquisition process
  • Executive integration
  • Performance management
  • Leadership development
  • Building great teams
  • Traditional and tech-enabled teaching/training
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Expediting the organisation's diversity and inclusion goals

And at the centre of that system, the straw that stirs the drink? The organisation's approach to succession. If talent management is the vehicle that supports business longevity, succession - an often misconceived, misaligned and misunderstood process - is its engine. It is a critical investment that you cannot afford to get wrong.

The narrative around succession is, invariably, drawn to big jobs with big companies. The reality is that every poor succession decision destroys value. In family businesses this is especially the case. Unfortunately, the evidence demonstrates that organisations don't exactly excel at succession.

Ultimately, the true measure of a leader isn't what they achieve while in office - it's what they leave behind. That even after the heaviest storm … you can still clearly see their footprints in the sand.

Insights from "It's Time To Rethink Succession".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Psychedelic Medicine Renaissance: A Movement Looking For The Right Leaders
home.bedfordgroup.com

In the cresting Psychedelic Medicine industry, it will fall to a particular quality of leader to keep things trending upwards and marching forward, while avoiding potential and predictable hazards.

So, what are some of the qualities that will distinguish the leaders we need? What type of person can help turn the growing interest in Psychedelic Medicine into an era-defining industry?

Here is a list of the five top core competencies required in psychedelic medicine industry leaders.

Read "The Psychedelic Medicine Renaissance: A Movement Looking For The Right Leaders" leadership insights

FOCUS and the Power of Paradox
Posted

For someone in a leadership role, 'focus' is dynamic. It's recognising that even a small act can cast a long shadow. For those with a strategic mandate, focus has to address both the here and now and look to the horizon. It is about initiating action, but also ensuring that the way forward supports the culture the organisation needs to create. Focus, for the business leader, thus, becomes a way to think and act.

Download "FOCUS and the Power of Paradox" today.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Psychedelic Medicine: The First Five Executive Roles To Hire For
home.bedfordgroup.com

Whether you're starting a venture from the ground up or pivoting to something new, the quality of the people driving that momentum will define its success. In an area as new and nuanced as Psychedelic Medicine, getting to the right leadership team needs to be a priority.

The right talent in the exciting and competitive space of Psychedelic Medicine will mark the difference between those ventures that struggle to survive and those that thrive.

Read "Psychedelic Medicine: The First Five Executive Roles To Hire For" leadership insights

Culture: You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure

Levels of change

Historically, there have been three levels of change:

  1. Transactional - do more of what we have always done, better.
  2. Transitional - significant change but we have time to evolve.
  3. Transformational - reinvention and do it now.

A fourth - exponential change - is knocking loudly on the door.

Exponential change is a series of continuous step changes, where each step is significantly greater in scope and intensity than the one that went before. Any successful change agenda that moves beyond being better at what you have always done is, literally, about changing the culture. The engine of that change? A leader who first knows how to successfully introduce the culture conversation.

How important is culture measurement?

You can't manage what you don't measure. If you don't know where you're going … don't be surprised if you don't get there. No less problematical, it's difficult to raise the bar if you don't know how high it is. Think of it this way - not measuring culture is to buy something online with the assumed belief that if you didn't choose the size it will, nevertheless, fit you when it arrives. Without measurement, culture drift can be assumed.

In the culture conversation, it's important to relatively quickly capture the culture the organisation has today (roots) and the culture that is needed (wings) for the firm to be successful in the future (two years out being a meaningful time-frame). A measure of culture that identifies today's culture but doesn't clearly capture where you need to be is just another way to say, "We know where we are, but other than that, we are pretty well lost."

Intellectually appealing as many of the sociological, linguistic and approaches focusing on values congruency may be, if the cultural journey isn't described in business terms, the top team - keeping in mind that most senior teams have a notoriously short attention span -will quickly move on to the next topic. To wit, language that sounds as if it belongs in a third-year psychology class belongs in a third-year psychology class.

StrAgility

Today's level of unprecedented uncertainty demands a culture that is both strong and agile (StrAgility). Strong enough to build commitment to the culture the organisation needs moving forward. Agile enough to "enable" the right change scenarios to unfold.

In addition to measurement, a "strong" culture draws on: a compelling purpose; the organisation's values; ensuring that "the customer" sits in every meeting; a sense of urgency; middle managers who connect strategy with action; tough-mindedness when demanded; and clear goals supported by the discipline of delivery.

"Agility," meanwhile, draws on: trust; diversity; inclusion; the right organisation design; an ethos of innovation; psychological safety of the team; ongoing coaching; appropriate freedom to act; a risk-orientation; and leaders who know how to work at the level of mindset.

As to the future, only an optimist standing on stilts would dare to even imagine that things are going to slow down any time soon. It's not a matter of one-size-fits-all.

Shaping the organisation's culture

A conversation with the Board benefits from its own way to shape the conversation - and thus measure - the organisation's culture. Working with the top team, similarly, must be approached differently. Assessing culture as central to talent acquisition? Here we are describing a third type of measurement. And when it comes to company-wide assessment of culture - again, its own measurement approach is necessary.

The challenge implicit in any approach to measurement is to steer the conversation away from a discussion/assessment around an aspirational culture (what those involved would like to see … an easy trap to fall into) to one where the future being described is both pragmatic and meaningful. We need to make this change. Is the change outlined attainable? Are the priorities clear? Are the timelines outlined practical? Do we have the team to do this?

Key question(s): Movement without measurement is momentum without meaning. How do you measure culture?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

One Culture Or Many?

Is it possible for an organisation to have only one culture?

In a multidivisional organisation, it can be assumed that the different divisions will have somewhat different cultures. It's also the case that, even within the same division, the likelihood is that there will be subcultures (manufacturing vs. sales). And in the network organisation, different entities that do the same thing may well work (successfully) very differently. An international dimension only complicates things further. Where the businesses are very different there may well be a case to take a portfolio approach.

The assumption that different business entities - regardless of location, history, clock speed, product and/or customer base - should behave/operate in the same way is undesirable and unworkable. That does not mean that a degree of "oneness" cannot be achieved.

A common, compelling purpose, shared values, an overall push for diversity, inclusion, being customer-driven, a mutual philosophy around collaboration, the discipline that goes into talent acquisition, support for the local community, the need for candour, pooled best-practice and leaders who care can all build "sameness" while still recognising the value of "difference".

Conversely, attempts to enforce one approach with regards to, for example, compensation and/or talent management can create a degree of coercive tension that is less than helpful.

"Tight - loose" is a useful metaphor.

Tomorrow will be different. We know we have to organise and approach delivering value for the customer differently but we can't simply throw all the cards up in the air and start again. And how do we move forward if we can't change everything at once?

The answer? The "innovation garage" - a carefully chosen part of the business is parked separately to the rest of the organisation. The goal? With tomorrow's customer in mind, explore and experiment with:

  1. What it means to be customer-driven.
  2. Tomorrow's organisation design.
  3. Future technology.
  4. The most effective way to work.

In other words, create tomorrow's culture, today.

Attempts to build "one culture" may be a forlorn hope but it's important to identify and understand the different cultures involved.

Key question(s): Do you have one culture or many and, if the latter, how do you manage that difference?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Coming Down the Mountain: Coming Out Of This Crisis Stronger

Breakthrough technology, uncertainty and the unprecedented and ever-increasing speed of change demand an organisation that is a fit for the challenges of the 21st century. We are describing not just a better, but a very different kind of way to operate. An organisation built to change; one where disruption, agility and speed of learning dominate the leadership conversation.

Which brings us to the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis has three stages. Stage one: acceptance. Stage two: survival. Stage three: growth. And the winners will be? Those who come out of this crisis stronger.

Amid the veritable avalanche of "me too" advice on how to get through this crisis it is easy to overlook two central questions:

  1. "How will your business come out of this stronger?"
  2. "As a leader, how will you personally come out of this stronger?"

"Part One: Coming Down the Mountain" looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

Download your complementary copy today »


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

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