How to recruit, hire, onboard, and retain the workers who possess the character, talent, and skills your company needs
This is one of the volumes in a series of anthologies of articles that first appeared in HBR. In this instance, its nine articles focus on one or more components of a process by which to “win the race for talent” and then prevent “your company’s top talent from jumping ship as good replacements become harder to get.”
Having read all of the articles when they were published individually, I can personally attest to the brilliance of their authors’ (or co-authors’) insights and the eloquence with which they are expressed. Two substantial value-added benefits should also be noted: If all of the articles were purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $60-75; they are now conveniently bound in a single volume for a fraction of that cost.
Here in Dallas, there is a Farmers Market near the down area at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now provide a brief excerpt that is indicative of the high quality of all nine articles:
In “How to Keep Your Top Talent,” Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt review a core set of ten best practices for identifying and managing emerging talent. Here are the first five:
“1. Explicitly test candidates in three dimensions: ability, engagement, and aspiration.
2. Emphasize future competencies needed (derived from enterprise-level growth plans) more heavily than current performance when you’re choosing your own employees for development.”
3. Manage the quantity and quality of high potentials at the corporate level, as a portfolio of scarce growth assets.
4. Forget the rote functional or business-unit rotations; place young leaders in intense assignments with precisely described development challenges.
5. Identify the riskiest, most challenging positions across the company, and assign them directly to rising stars.”
Other articles I especially enjoyed include Tamara J. Erickson and Lynda Gratton’s “What It Means to Work Here,” Timothy Butler and James Waldroop’s “Job Sculpting: The Art of Retaining Your Best People,” and “Let’s Hear It for B Players” co-authored by Thomas J. DeLong and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan.
If asked to select only one book that provides the most valuable material to supplement what is offered in this volume, it would be Bradford D. Smart’s Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People, Revised and Updated Edition, published by Portfolio/Penguin.
Note: I recently re-read several books that were published a while ago. Here is my review of When Professionals Have to Lead.
In this volume, Thomas DeLong, John Gabarro, and Robert Lees present what they characterize as “an integrated leadership model” that is designed to “stimulate thinking and facilitate changes that high-performing firm leaders want to enact.” Although their focus is on the professional service firm (PSF), all of the information and counsel in this book can also be of substantial value to other kinds of organizations. In fact, decision-makers in those (e.g. manufacturers) must also offer professional service of the highest quality, especially now when competing in what has become, as Thomas Friedman describes it, a “flat world.”
Here are two brief excerpts that suggest the thrust and flavor of the co-authors’ insights and writing style.
“The integrated leadership model is incomplete if any one of the four core behaviors is left out. The model is powerful only if leaders set direction, get commitment to the direction, execute, and by their actions set personal examples as leaders.” (Page 42)
“For many partners and other senior professionals, on-the-spot corrective feedback, coaching, and mentoring are not seen [by the high-need-for- achievement personality] as central to the task trajectory of getting a project, deal, or matter done, so these aspects of leadership are ignored. We call this self-feeding dynamic the `PSF Paradox’ [in that] because they too are high-achievement personalities, senior professionals are not disposed to give junior professionals what they need to stay motivated or develop – even though they too had the same needs early in their career.” (Pages 163-164)
With regard to the last excerpt provided, I am reminded of what recent research conducted by the Gallup Organization revealed: only 25% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 55% of them are just going through the motions, and 20% of them are working against their employers’ interests. How could it be otherwise when senior professionals are unwilling and/or unable to provide corrective feedback, coaching, and mentoring to junior professionals in the same firm?
To their great credit, after carefully identifying the “what” of effective leadership in personal service firms, DeLong, Gabarro, and Lees focus most of their attention on how to achieve and then sustain high-impact performance, especially now when leaders in PSFs face unprecedented challenges in a global marketplace and are engaged in a constant battle against disconnection. Integrated leaders are “connectors” who “create a safety net to catch those professionals who may be ready to leave the system or who are not [sufficiently] engaged in the enterprise.”