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.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
Here is a brief selection of comments by those who contributed articles to the Harvard Business Review on Talent Management anthology. Each originally appeared in the HBR.
From “What It Means to Work Here”: “The best strategy for coming out ahead in the war for talent isn’t to scoop up everyone in sight, unless you want to deal with fallout: high turnover, high recruitment and training costs, and disengaged, unproductive workers. Instead, you need to convince the right people – those who are intrigued and excited by the work environment you can realistically offer and who will reward you with their loyalty – to choose you.” Tamara J. Erickson and Lynda Gratton
From “‘Players’ or ‘A Positions’? The Strategic Logic of Workforce Management”: “While conventional wisdom might argue that the firms with the most talent win, we believe that, given the financial and managerial resources needed to attract, select, develop, and retain high performers, companies simply can’t afford to have A players in all positions.” Mark A. Huselid, Richard W. Beatty, and Brian E. Becker
From “Growing Talent as If Your Business Depended on It”: At companies that are good at growing leaders, “operating managers, not HR executives, are at the front line of planning and development. In fact, many senior managers now hold their line managers directly responsible for these activities. In this worldview, it is part of the line manager’s job to recognize his subordinates’ developmental needs, to help them cultivate new skills, and to provide them opportunities for professional development and personal growth.” Jeffrey M. Cohn, Rakesh Khurana, and Laura Reeves
From “Make Your Company a Talent Factory”: “If functionality is about focusing your company’s talent management processes to produce certain outcomes, vitality is about the attitudes and mind-sets of the people responsible for those processes – not just in human resources but throughout the line, all the way to the top of the organization…Our research shows that the vitality of a company’s talent management processes is the product of three defining characteristics: [begin italics] commitment, engagement, and accountability [end italics].”Douglas A. Ready and Jay A. Conger
From “How to Keep ‘A Players’ Productive: “One of the biggest challenges for A players is their inability to set boundaries for themselves. Ordinary people usually know how to step back from situations where vague requests make them uncomfortable; but insecure overachievers typically exceed expectations because they are prepared to operate outside their comfort zones in their efforts to win recognition.” Steve Berglas
From “Managing Middlescence”: “Burned-out, bottlenecked, and bored. That’s the current lot of millions of midcareer employees. In our research into employee attitudes and experiences, we heard many stories of midcareer restlessness, a phenomenon we call middlescence…Like adolescence, middlescence can be a time of frustration, confusion, and alienation but also a time of self-discovery, new direction, and fresh beginnings. Today, millions of midcareer men and women are wrestling with middlescence – looking for ways to balance job responsibilities, family, and leisure while hoping to find new meaning in their work.” Robert Morison, Tamara Erickson, and Ken Dychtwald
From “Off-Ramps and On Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success”: “Perhaps most interesting, 24% of the women currently looking for on-ramps [to resumption of employment] are motivated by ‘a desire to give back something to society’ and are seeking jobs that allow them to contribute to their communities in some way.” Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce
From “It’s Time to Retire Retirement”: “If companies are to win back the hearts and minds of baby boomers and other generations of mature workers, they need to start with the work environment itself, which has become increasingly alienating to anyone over the age of 50. Human resource practices are often explicitly or implicitly biased against older workers, and these biases can seep into the culture in a manner that makes them feel unwelcome.” Ken Dychtwald, Tamara Erickson, and Robert Morison.
For further reading:
Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths and Strengths-Based Leadership co-authored with Barry Conchie
Lance Berger and Dorothy Berger’s The Talent Management Handbook: Creating Organizational Excellence by Identifying, Developing, and Promoting Your Best People
Dean R. Spitzer’s Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob