Creating a Talent Strategy : How essential is it ?
One of the most difficult transitions in anyone’s career is the switch from individual performer to manager or supervisor. Most people struggle with this change until they realize a simple truth; it’s not their job to get things done, but to get things done through others. And getting things done through others is a lot easier when you have talent on your team.
Whether you call them A-players, stars or high-potentials, the most talented people in an industry are not just 10% more valuable than their average colleagues they are often two, five or ten times more valuable. Because of this talented people have more choice in who they work with and for. This means that you need a strategy for finding, keeping and liberating talent.
Here are some guidelines for creating a talent strategy that gets results for your team and grows leaders for your organization.
Know What You Want: Not every role on your team requires an A-player. What skills or talents will make the difference for your division? One air transport company realized that they had no problem finding pilots but really needed negotiators to work with airports to get landing rights. Once they found the right negotiators their growth more than doubled. Maybe you need a graphic designer instead of a programmer, a caring customer service rep instead of a sales person or an architect instead of an engineer. And once you find that person don’t let their resume or appearance get in the way.
Always be looking: You can’t expect an A-player to be available when you have an opening. Keep an eye out for the skills and attitude you need all the time. If necessary, find a role for a talented person that becomes available.
Look Everywhere: Talented people usually aren’t looking for work so you may not find them on job boards. Yes, check out resumes, however, look at competitors, suppliers and your network for the people you need. One financial planning company regularly hires teachers to sell their products because of their ability to educate clients. What skills do you need that might be in other industries? When you get beyond the need for specific experience you open up a universe of possibilities.
Challenge Them: Beyond a certain point (usually a bit higher than average) pay ceases to motivate people. What really engages talented people is challenging work. Allow them to prove themselves. Give them challenging, important projects that make a difference. You’ll be amazed by their performance.
Talent Loves Company: High performers love working with other high performers. Instead of putting your A players on different projects put them all on one important project. They’ll thrive on each other’s energy and skills.
Get Out of the Way: The more talented people often require less help than most other people. Once you have given them clear goals and honest performance feedback your job is to give them tools and remove barriers. Learn to get comfortable with people who are probably far better than you at what they do.
Expose them to Senior Leadership: Don’t be afraid to show your people off to your boss and their boss. Talented people thrive on that kind of challenge and it shows the organization that you are a star magnet.
Become the Pipeline: Nothing will make you more valuable to your organization than becoming the go to person for talent. Give your people the opportunity to work elsewhere in the organization. Put them on cross-functional teams, loan them to other managers or even promote them into completely new roles.
Create Alumni: A large consulting company assumes that most of their talented people will leave within 5-7 years of hiring. They support their people as they move on and in so doing create a powerful alumni network that brings in more business and more talent. You won’t have A-players forever. Make sure that when they move on they think of you first.