Stack of Rocks with One Pink Rock

Talent is a firm’s most important asset

Numbers don’t get results, people do

Talent Management is not HR’s job, it’s the job of everyone
…Blah…blah… blah


Question: How many times have you heard these statements and ones that are similar?

Answer: Too many!

The truth for many companies today is that their organizations put tremendous effort into attracting employees to their company, but spend little time on developing, retaining and identifying high potential talent. Why is this?

From our perspective it’s because most organizations do not look at talent from a business perspective.  Here’s what we mean – To manage the business of talent you need to embrace these two principles:

Principle # 1: Some positions are more critical than others to the success of your business

Principle # 2: Some people are more critical to this success

Let’s take a practical look at each of these principles.

Principle # 1: Some positions are more critical than others to the success of your business

This Principle is key. You must embrace it.  If you don’t, our experience is that you won’t be successful in aligning your talent actions to achieve your business results. It’s that direct!

To determine which roles are most critical in the organization, consider both the role’s importance to your business objectives, and how easy it is to replace talent in this role.  By considering both, you will be able to determine the highest risk positions.

Here’s how to make this happen in two steps:

  • Step One: For each role, determine its importance to the organization
  • Step Two: Determine the ease of replaceability

See the Diagram below and answer each of the key questions given to help you determine each role’s “Importance” and “Replaceability” for your organization.

Now that you have defined which of your roles is critical to achieving your business plan, you need to set about reducing the risk to your business success.  Here is how you do this:

Reduce your risk in the following seven ways:

  1. Develop a clear understanding of the role by defining its competencies. Creating a leadership competency model aligned to the organization’s strategic plan is a practical thing to do.
  2. Use competency-based assessment tools, like those rd&partners provides, to select and develop high potential talent.
  3. Make promotion decisions carefully, based on competencies that have been validated for leadership success.
  4. Provide executive coaching to people in these roles to help them become top performers.  Coaching is about taking leaders from being good to being great.
  5. Make a strong effort to retain current people – but only if they are performing well.
  6. Develop succession plans for critical roles.
  7. Train/develop others to succeed in this role.

Principle # 2: Some people are more critical to this success

Just like the first Principle, this Principle is equally important to the success of managing your high potential talent. You must embrace it with both arms, for the cost of losing a top performer in a critical role can be much greater than losing other people.  Clearly, as a leader you must pay attention to, and invest in, retaining top performers who are critical to your business success.  Bottom line: You must accept personal responsibility for their retention.

Here are some things to know and some things to do in practical terms:

  • One of the strongest retention mechanisms is the quality of relationship between a person and their immediate boss.
    – People don’t quit a company, they quit their boss.
    – Managers must know their key people well enough that they are comfortable approaching their manager with ideas, concerns and issues.
  • Make their work challenging and meaningful. Ask them, as key people usually have a point of view on this.
  • Get feedback to learn from your key employees.
    – Ask key employees for feedback on how they can be more effective in their roles, or what would make them more satisfied. Here there will be things you can do, things you can’t do now, and things that you may never be able to do.  The key is to communicate which one it is. Key people want to know!
  • Treat employees as if they were your best customer.

Clearly, in order to successfully manage the business of talent, you can now see how important identifying high potential talent is, how that talent is both role- and person-specific, and that it should not be limited to only the top tier positions in the organization.  Following our practical suggestions as outlined can have significant bottom-line impact.  For example, well-treated employees treat the customer better, and happy customers pay their invoices faster. This leads to better account receivables (aka improved cash flow) – the real engine of all businesses. Achieving this outcome should be reason enough for you to start “managing the business of talent!”