Talent Management: Seemingly Overlooked Best Practice

This post is inspired by the HBR November 2008 Article (“Winning the Race for Talent in Emerging Markets” by D.A Ready, L. A. Hill & J.A. Conger). This article is intersting for several reasons including the description of a Framework for attracting and retaining talent (page64).

The framework outlines 4 key factors:

  1. Purpose – guiding mission and values, global citizenship, and committed to the region
  2. Culture – authenticity, meritocracy, connection, and talent centricity
  3. Brand – known for excellence, and leading global company
  4. Opportunity – challenging work, accelerated career track, continual training/development, and competitive pay

Over the years, I have had significant contact with professionals and technical people and I have gleaned one lesson that has struck me as intriguing. Their fundamental frustration, even anger, over not being used effectively. When I reread this HBR article, I recalled this recurring lesson: Professional/Technical people have a passion for being used effectively. The link in the article is the “challenging work” under the Opportunity Factor.

As the reader knows, my fundamental beginning place in TM is role effectiveness within the roles business model system.

For me, the TM improvement efforts start with clues I pick-up from people complaining how their efforts and contributions are wasted. Yes, some of this is just complaining, but by asking “why” several times I often arrive at a root opportunity that if acted upon enables the organization to make better use of its current talent, thereby, moderating the need to undertake other TM strategies.

For me, it is more than just providing challenging work. It is also about respecting what the work takes for excellence to materialize.

One of my more interesting examples is where I was asked to examine and report on the need to increase the number of first line managers to lead skilled staff in various remote locations (i.e., one manager could have one or more remote offices reporting to him/her, so the manager was always not somewhere and this was proving troublesome). The situation had evolved over time as the organization faced economic constraints and engaged in various cost cutting moves including dealing with overhead costs.

The organization could not afford going back to historical staffing levels, but it knew that some increases were necessary – what principles should be used?

I started by examining role effectiveness and efficiency and learned that there was one intriguing system force that meant that these managers had reduced opportunity to get out and visit the remote offices – and this was leading to increased numbers of operational issues.

The management they reported to were making demands that included:

  • reporting requirements that were to be completed by mid morning each day (reporting on metrics usually),
  • having at any one time several #1 priorities, and
  • being expected to be available whenever a more senior manager had a question or issue.

I suspect that this list is not a surprise for many organizations.

The point I made was NOT to beat up the senior managers for ensuring their legitimate needs were being met. It was the impact of how they approached getting them met – they ended up stripping out (for each first line manager) about half a working day each day in not doing what they were supposedly being primarily paid to to do.

Looking at this and some other systemic role effectiveness deterrents I was able to create three principles that when cast in the form of questions enabled the accountable senior managers to determine how many additional first line managers they needed. Also, the senior management team became more respectful of what it took to be effective in the first line role and they quietly made adjustments in how they had their important needs met.

For the client this resulted in an increase in first line manager roles – about half of what they were expecting and prepared to make. This also meant they were able to work within existing budget levels which was an extremely welcomed outcome.


About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
This entry was posted in Decison Making, Performance Management, Risk & Uncertainty, Strategy, Talent Manangement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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