Signs of poor talent management depend in part on the size of the company, its HR system infrastructure, data analysis capability, and the company’s stage of growth/decline. That said, if an organization is sophisticated enough to have a talent strategy in place, the following are common indications that something is about to go off the rails.
- A Gap in Succession Plans:If few leaders have legitimate “ready now” replacements, the company will face a talent gap when those individuals move on. This creates a need to reactively hire from the outside – a costly and at times risky proposition. Companies with a strong development culture will have people, well… at the ready.
- Lackluster Talent Reviews: If leaders struggle to identify enough “A Players” i.e. employees who are high performers with high potential to move up (often referred to as Box 9 Employees) there might be a tendency to fill gaps with sub par stand ins. Leaders should never be afraid to ask: Are our best good enough?Then selectively go to the outside for niche players in tough markets.
- A Dip in Employee Engagement Scores – specifically those related to manager effectiveness. Having strong managers at all levels can be correlated to greater engagement and customer loyalty. Access to professional development and career advancement is a backbone to this equation.
- A Vague Talent Brand: Companies have to be clear on the Employee Value Proposition as it relates to development and advancement. Not all employees will want to advance, but rest assured everyone wants the opportunity to do so. In that way it’s like a gym membership. People may not go, but they want the option. Tell people that your company offers growth opportunities and then fail to provide them and you’ll have a bigger issue on your hands.
- Lack of Recognized and Rewarded Talent Developers:If other managers aren’t clamoring for your people, you simply haven’t done enough to develop them. Leaders should be talent developers and selflessly spark internal movement both upward and laterally. If someone works for you for a year and hasn’t learned something that makes them more marketable, you failed as a leader. A key indicator is that people should be lined up to work for you. Get enough managers to create that kind of buzz and you fix the development issue organically. The organization, if they truly value the concept of “people as our greatest asset”, should compensate managers who develop talent.
- Lack of Accountability/Communication: There are three parties in employee development. The company, the manager, and the employee. All are involved, but you have to clarify primary accountability and communicate that to all stakeholders. My preferred philosophy related to the gym analogy above: The organization supplies the equipment; the manager can act as trainer, but in the end the employee has to do the pushups. If people are uncertain about the rules, you have a problem.
- Poor Development Plans: Companies should audit employee plans. Do people have them? Yes is a good start, but the real question is, are they meaningful? People should strive for only one or two specific items that tie directly to real work. This way, development isn’t a separate, burdensome activity.
While you may not always be privy to all of this information, keeping alert to the signals above may provide clues as to when to jump ship or capitalize on opportunities this lack of strategy presents. In the end, you must manage your own career.
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