Best Practices in Talent Management: How the World’s Leading Corporations Manage, Develop, and Retain Talent
Marshall Goldsmith and Louis Carter, Co-Editors
Pfeiffer/A Wiley Imprint
Ultimately, the effectiveness of best practices depends on those who execute them
As co-editors Marshall Goldsmith and Louis Carter explain, the material in this book focuses on 14 dynamic enterprises (i.e. Avon Products, Bank of America, Corning, CES, Ecolab, GE, IRS, Kaiser Permanente/Colorado Region, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Murray & Roberts, Porter Novelli, Southern Company, and Whirlpool) that were selected by the Best Practice Institute because they have succeeded in implementing talent enhancement programs – “although, to be fair, to call them ‘programs’ is not entirely accurate, as they are in reality vital strategic components integrated into the companies’ core operating values.” Indeed, had they not been so integrated, neither they nor their companies could become, much less remain, vital and dynamic. There is a separate chapter devoted to each of the 14, written by one or more of the contributors who were invited to participate. It is important to keep in mind that in an age when several companies “built to last” haven’t and others once great are no longer even good, at least a few of the 14 in this book may no long be exemplars of anything, except perhaps of how quickly an organization can become weakened in one way or another.
I appreciate the material provided in the Conclusion introduced by this explanation: “In order t0 present a fuller and more complete picture of the best practices in talent management, in March 2009 the Best Practice Institute [of which Cater is founder and CEO] released results from a groundbreaking survey of some of America’s most dynamic companies.” An overview is provided in the Conclusion. Then in the Epilogue, William J. Rothwell suggests several “key take-away points” from each of the 14 mini-case studies. From Ecolab, for example, “This case is outstanding for illustrating how a talent program can be built on, and leverage, the organization’s culture and values. These values include, according to the case, (1) spirit; (2) pride; (3) determination; (4) commitment; (5) passion; and (6) integrity. The talent program was based on internal interviews of company executives.” Obviously, brief take-away points merely serve as triggers to recall insights that are developed in much greater depth, in context.
Presumably Goldsmith and Carter are responsible for the reader-friendly format that most of the contributors adopt (with only minor modification) and graphic devices such as Figures that consolidate a wealth of information about an especially important subject such as Avon’s “Talent Investment Matrix” (Page 6), Corning’s “Program Snapshot – Week One” (50), Ecolab’s “Success Indicators for Business Drivers at Each Pipeline Level” (90), “IRS Leadership Core Responsibilities” (119), McDonald’s “Performance Drivers” (162), and Microsoft’s “Key Stakeholder Roles for HiPo Coaching program” (196). Because they are best practices, these and others examined in the book should serve as exempla that suggest possibilities rather than as templates to be adopted without revision or modification. That is to say, doing what is right and doing it right pose entirely different challenges.
Those who share my high regard for the material in this volume are urged to check out George Anders’ recently published book, The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, as well as Dean Spitzer’s Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne R. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson.
Here is an excerpt from still another outstanding article written by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, featured online by The McKinsey Quarterly (January 2012), published by McKinsey & Company. To read the complete article, obtain information about the firm, access other resources, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees in four avoidable ways.
As a senior executive, you may think you know what Job Number 1 is: developing a killer strategy. In fact, this is only Job 1a. You have a second, equally important task. Call it Job 1b: enabling the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy. A multiyear research project whose results we described in our recent book, The Progress Principle [Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press, August 2011], found that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Even incremental steps forward—small wins—boost what we call “inner work life”: the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day. Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, inner work life affects the bottom line. [See Sangeeta Agrawal, James W. Asplund, James K. Harter, Emily A. Killham, and Frank L. Schmidt, “Causal impact of employee work perceptions on the bottom line of organizations,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, July 2010, Volume 5, Number 4, pp. 378–89.] People are more creative, productive, committed, and collegial in their jobs when they have positive inner work lives. But it’s not just any sort of progress in work that matters. The first, and fundamental, requirement is that the work be meaningful to the people doing it.
In our book and a recent Harvard Business Review article [See Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, “The power of small wins,” Harvard Business Review, May 2011, Volume 89, Number 5, pp. 70–80.], we argue that managers at all levels routinely—and unwittingly—undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct subordinates through everyday words and actions. These include dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off project teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers.
But what about a company’s most senior leaders? What is their role in making—or killing—meaning at work? To be sure, as a high-level leader, you have fewer opportunities to directly affect the inner work lives of employees than do frontline supervisors. Yet your smallest actions pack a wallop because what you say and do is intensely observed by people down the line. A sense of purpose in the work [See Robert Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best . . . and Learn from the Worst, New York: Business Plus, 2010; and Sutton’s related article, “Why good bosses tune in to their people,” mckinseyquarterly.com, August 2010.], and consistent action to reinforce it, has to come from the top.
[Next, Amabile and Kramer identify and then discuss the "four avoidable ways" or “traps” by which "leaders kill meaning at work. To read the complete article, please click here.]
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Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School and co-author of the aforementioned The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Originally educated as a chemist, Teresa received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. She studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Steven Kramer is an independent researcher and writer in Wayland, Massachusetts. He is also co-author of The Progress Principle. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from UCLA, and his doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Virginia.