What is your Talent Pool Like?  Do you have Strong Employees?

talentpool1Talent, attitude, motivation and training taken together are the most important single success factor for your business. In all of your day to day leadership activities, you must search out the most talented and begin to mentor and nurture those with the most potential.  You must instill the importance of mentoring and cultivating talent in all leadership and management roles.

For your initial assessment and review,  Human Relations should have meaningful data to offer regarding the talent pool, as well as a set of policies, tools and processes designed to motivate and reward the right behaviors and the most talented employees.  (If the data or processes are lacking, this is a red flag for a top priority.)  Using this data, it is  very important to get a “feel” for each department.  A highly talented, highly motivated and high achieving team is easy to spot.  The opposite type of team is also easy to spot.  It is important to use tools and metrics in your assessment of each team and individual, but using your gut instinct is, too.

One valuable exercise (that many managers hate) is to do a function by function stack ranking of all employees.  I believe that this should be done in the absolute sense, with junior and senior employees ranked in the same pool.  The exercise can be even more insightful if you add salaries to the sorted results.  Of course, the reason functional managers hate stack ranking is because they believe it is implicit that whoever they rank at the bottom is a target for dismissal.  While this is sometimes true, the immediate value of the exercise is to shine a light on the talent distribution and force managers to look critically at their teams.  Once the stack ranking is done, managers need to be challenged to address poorer performance by doing what they were hired to do: manage their teams to best-in-class performance.

In your review of personnel, you are not only looking at the profile of your staff.  You are also looking at the performance of the HR group in managing and improving your staff.  One good way to get a feel for how well any “meritocracy” efforts are working is to track the last several years of performance reviews (numerically weighted) against salary increases, bonuses and / or stock grants.  If there is low variance, it is likely that “pay for performance” is not being managed properly.  I believe that this is a big problem in terms of morale and retention of the best and brightest.

Another good metric is to review the management initiated employee separations that have been done over the past several years.  While some organizations can do a great job in hiring only the best talent, it is important that your organization is willing and able to weed out employees that don’t pass muster.  An important aside here is to recognize that managers, like everyone else, are trying to fit all of their tasks into the hours available.  That they rely more on the most talented and productive staff is very understandable.  However, the result of this behavior can be that lower performing employees tend to have fewer deliverables, more amorphous responsibilities and are rarely coached or mentored.  It is the responsibility of the General Manager to disrupt this situation where ever it exists.

As you work through any talent assessment, it is essential to communicate to the leadership team that the purpose of a focus on talent cultivation – and any weeding out that may be needed – is for the good of the team.  Talent loves working with talent, so motivation and enthusiasm can be infectious.  What you need to develop is a culture of excellence, excitement and pride in accomplishment.  The tools, processes and behaviors of your HR team need to help you make this happen.