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What’s your attitude about talent?

Has your company ever rejected a job candidate with an impeccable resume and impressive performance track record because their workplace values and behaviors clashed with those of your organization? Has your company ever fired a high performing executive because they burned through the people who worked for them?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you work for a company with an ‘attitude’ about talent. Performance alone doesn’t cut it. Having loads of skills and oodles of experience is not enough. You demand something more – those intangible qualities, only demonstrated through behaviors that show a person really ‘fits’ with your company and its culture. Most importantly, you employ a talent management system that ensures people with the right blend of characteristics for your organization are continuously hired, motivated and developed.

Some companies treat talent management as a process for getting the most out of people while expending the least effort and resources. This approach may work nicely with financial capital and physical assets but it is usually counterproductive with humans. Others see talent management as primarily about appraisal and reward - a process that directs the lion’s share of pay and perks to the top echelon of performers. The rest must either shape up or ship out. But this approach can be highly divisive and lead to debilitating conflict and resentment within the organization.

Companies with an attitude about talent believe the purpose of talent management is to build and sustain an organization of individuals who not only execute the business model and strategy well but exemplify the culture, values and behaviors the organization values most. They employ a well-designed and reinforcing system of management practices that meld together people with diverse skills and complementary behaviors in ways that deliver high fulfillment to workers and outstanding performance for the organization.

Want to develop the right attitude about talent and create a system that puts it into practice in your company? My research on companies with consistently high performing talent suggests several key elements of a successful system:
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IDENTIFYING AND ATTRACTING TALENT - The recruiting approach is meticulously matched to the interests of the people sought. Success depends most on knowing the target – understanding in detail the attributes most desired in the people sought and having the patience to wait until they are found or developed. Electronic Arts and Cisco for example personalize their approach to recruiting by targeting individual candidates and tailoring their communications and interactions to them.

HIRING AND INDUCTING NEW WORKERS – Fit is the top priority before and after talent is brought on board. Hiring twenty people to find five keepers is viewed as wasteful and expensive. Explicit criteria are used to screen and evaluate candidates, validate their professional and personal skills and attitudes, and test a candidate’s abilities, experience and behaviors. The fit process doesn’t stop once someone is hired. It is instead extended several months after a candidate joins and its emphasis is broadened to include not just validating the candidate’s credentials but ensuring that new hires are quickly integrated into the workplace and made comfortable and productive. Trilogy Software for example, has created a boot camp for new hires that provides them with a deep immersion into both the work and the culture of the company.

LEVERAGING AND DEVELOPING TALENT - Ordinary companies ‘talk’ empowerment but ‘walk’ command and control. Companies with a talent attitude give employees a share of ownership and decision authority, make sure workers understand the big strategic and operating picture and how what they do affects it, and allow them freedom to choose what, when, where and how they work. They also pay lots of attention to the growth and development of staff. Development is viewed as a series of experiences. Knowledge transfer and learning among peers and between managers and staff is a top priority. WL Gore & Associates for instance, employs an open environment in which employees at all levels can apply for funding to projects. New staff are assigned mentors from Day One to coach their development and performance paths.

APPRAISING AND REWARDING EMPLOYEES – Performance measures and rewards are used to reinforce not drive behavior. Pay and benefits are viewed as important but the bulk of the efforts are concentrated on non-monetary factors that positively motivate people to perform. A mix of timely recognition and rewards are employed. Intuit for example, uses personalized recognition and awards to convey to employees that they are appreciated and that they really matter to the company.

BUILDING AND SUSTAINING RELATIONSHIPS WITH WORKERS - Relationships are developed and nurtured with everyone in the workforce. This talent relationship management effort involves a continuous and dynamic process that develops long-term, individualized relationships with talent during and after they are “employed” by the organization. Gensler for example, keeps up relationships with staff that leave and welcomes them back whenever possible. It views rejoining employees as sources of new knowledge and fresh ideas that can be injected immediately into the organization.

Tony DiRomualdo is a business researcher, writer, and advisor with Next Generation Consulting. He works at the intersection of people, business strategy, and information technology to help companies create a committed and high performance workforce. Tony can be reached at td@nextgenerationconsulting.com.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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