Does Your Business Strategy Prioritize Talent Management?

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1 ISSUE ANALYSIS Does Your Business Strategy Prioritize Talent Management? Successful talent management strategy starts with leadership By: Lynn Roger, Chief Talent Officer, BMO Financial Group Executive leadership teams at companies of all sizes dedicate significant time and resources to develop business strategies and financial plans that focus on long-term success. However, according to a recent Forbes Insights study conducted in partnership with BMO Harris Bank, many middle market companies are not placing equal importance on the people who will execute those plans. The study, The Talent Imperative: The Essential and Overlooked Ingredient for Corporate Growth, revealed that 83% of the more than 300 private company executives surveyed believe having 72

2 the right employees in place has a direct impact on revenue and is critical to their growth strategy. Yet, only 9% describe the relationship between their talent management and strategic planning initiatives as closely aligned. In fact, talent mapping the process of comparing existing personnel with future needs is rare in private businesses. Embedding a talent strategy in the overall business strategy is critical to a company s long-term success. The process of aligning these strategies must start with top executives if the company is to achieve an organization-wide, people-focused mindset that ignites its ability to acquire and retain top personnel. Align Talent and Business Strategies Business strategies typically fail through poor execution, not because they are inherently flawed. Even a detailed plan that focuses on achieving maximum ROI will likely fail without the right people in the right place to follow through. That s why talent planning should receive as much focus as financial planning. In the strategic planning process, companies must ask themselves, Do we have the right people, or do we actually need different capabilities? If it s the latter, how do we go about hiring new employees or developing new skill sets? Great companies gain strength through the diverse talents, skills, and experiences of their people. Diverse and inclusive workplaces drive peak performance and foster more successful and engaged employees. These top companies have leaders with strong cultural intelligence (CQ) that enables them to interact effectively with people of different backgrounds. CQ is a critical skill for better performance, especially for companies seeking to enter new markets in an increasingly diverse, global economy. It s a challenge to find, hire, and retain top employees. The improving economy has given the most talented candidates more choices, and these individuals are looking for a company that can clearly articulate how it will nurture their career aspirations. This can only be communicated if a formal talent management strategy is in place. Begin by Securing High-Level Buy-In A talent strategy must be driven by leadership rather than human resources or the group responsible for personnel management. This is essential to implementing a true talent mindset. A talent mindset is the belief that a peak-performing workforce is critical to success for both today and tomorrow, and that great talent is a competitive advantage that holds key benefits for employees and the entire organization. Leaders with a talent mindset are talent scouts and 73

3 advocates who drive a people strategy that embraces diversity and helps future leaders develop the skills they need to be strong enterprise leaders. They actually encourage employees to explore new responsibilities in the company. They know it will strengthen the business by creating a productive workforce with broader capabilities, and will result in more engaged employees who see career opportunities in the company. Embed a Talent Mindset Throughout the Company Companies with the help of HR and mid-level managers can help ensure their top executives adopt a talent mindset by: presenting real scenarios in which talent or a lack thereof could affect the firm s ability to achieve its short- and long-term business strategy, and emphasizing succession planning and that top executives legacies often depend on their ability to identify and develop those who will one day replace them. Employee engagement is key. Leaders must allocate training and development resources during budget planning and create specific action plans to groom the next generation of leaders. The best leadership development programs adopt a lattice approach, where future leaders are nurtured to possess a range of capabilities, rather than a narrowly-focused, vertical growth trajectory. Development programs should include talent management modules to ensure that when leaders are held accountable for managing talent on their teams, they re also being taught how to do it. An agile, versatile leadership team can serve as powerful role models and effective ambassadors for a company-wide talent mindset. Talent Strategy: Tactics for Implementation Once a talent strategy is adopted at the highest level, companies can take clear steps to continually evaluate and develop their employees: Implement talent mapping. Determine where the business is headed in both the short and long term, and identify if there are any talent gaps that must be addressed to achieve these goals. Review the bench. Closely analyze the demographics and psychographics including the skills, experience, age, diverse background, attitudes, and aspirations of your workforce to ensure the company has the right people in place to seize current and future opportunities in the business plan. An effective review requires leaders with strong CQ who understand the cultural nuances of the workplace and recognize that a diverse workforce is a valuable asset. Establish talent roundtables. As part of an effective talent review process, calibrate employees potential and performance with leaders 74

4 from all departments. These discussions are often referred to as talent roundtables, where leaders have the opportunity to gain insight into talent strengths and weaknesses and formulate action plans to close development gaps. Individuals should be assessed against a formal set of capabilities and competencies that are critical to success, outlined in a simple assessment template. All companies can align talent and business strategies and establish a people-focused mindset. It s a journey, often achieved in phases, but the process does not need to be complicated or costly. A successful talent strategy starts with leaders at the top acknowledging and making widely known that talent is a critical part of the company s business strategy. Client Spotlight: Eclipse, Inc. Talent Strategy Inspires Company-Wide Innovation After securing high-level buy-in and incorporating talent discussions into strategic meetings, Eclipse, Inc. has achieved its business goals and embedded a talent management process throughout the company. As a worldwide manufacturer of industrial heating and drying systems, Rockford, IL-based Eclipse, Inc. has focused on innovation to remain at the forefront of a highly competitive marketplace. Integrating a talent management program throughout the company has been key to its innovation. The successful implementation of this strategy occurred via the following steps: 1. Secure High-Level Buy-In Recognizing the need to have a more formal talent management program for the company s leadership, Eclipse worked with a human resources consulting firm to analyze the business. The effort resulted in the creation of a new executive-level position Vice President of Talent to report directly to President Lach Perks. Eclipse recruited Jim Corbett to fill the new role. He designed a program that made talent development and management a continuous process at the executive level that cascades throughout the 700-person firm. In addition to the new position, Eclipse increased emphasis on personal ownership of career development among the leadership team. 2. Align Talent and Business Strategies Talent agenda items now appear as initial discussion points for Eclipse s multi-day strategic planning meetings so attendees can analyze talent capabilities and needs, and implement plans for key business initiatives. Talent is a permanent resident on our strategic planning agenda, Perks says. Talent reviews are also a key aspect of strategy meetings, where key 75

5 leadership positions are explored in-depth. Meeting attendees identify potential successors and analyze plans for opportunities to develop new leaders. Corbett explains that the process gives Eclipse a sense of succession continuity and helps identify where gaps might exist. 3. Tactics to Embed a Talent Mindset Organization-Wide Corbett designed a talent management system that serves as a vehicle to facilitate and capture talent discussions, including methods to catalog and analyze existing talent in the company. The process began with the executive team successfully completing a cycle in the exercise before presenting it to other levels in the company. After about 18 months, the process cascaded down to Eclipse s operations worldwide. This talent strategy helped build understanding and ownership because it wasn t overnight that everybody got on board and understood how important talent development is, or how to best manage it, Corbett says. The strategy has led to the right kind of conversations and decisions over the past five years. Perks adds that the bar has been raised substantially at the company. When Jim first came on board, the conversations revolved around the quality of my staff as direct reports to the president, Perks says. Now, we re looking three or four layers down. 76

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