Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Four-Step Talent Management Road Map

Despite the increasing pervasiveness of talent management, most organizations have only slight knowledge of how to evaluate the effectiveness of their talent management practices, determine their capabilities or develop a strategic road map for the evolution of their processes. Yet, understanding such factors is critical to drive greater measurable and perceived value in an organization's talent management function.

The key to improving an organization's talent management processes lies in evaluating them according to a talent management capability continuum, a graphical progression of talent management capabilities within an organization. The four steps outlined below will help talent managers create a road map to lead an organization toward best talent management processes.

1. Evaluate the status of your talent management strategy.Begin by assessing the state of the organization's talent management processes. Talk with each process owner to ascertain how each process is designed to be executed, as well as how it is actually executed. A process defines how things are supposed to be done. The practice is how they are actually carried out.The process designed by HR, training or organizational development may be different across functions. Seek information from organization's division heads, as they know their talent management processes best, and they also should have a sense of how those processes are put into practice.

For example, to determine the state of an organization's succession planning process, first talk with HR, training or organizational development staff to determine how that process is designed. Then talk with each division head to learn how he or she actually engages in succession planning. This will provide critical information about current successes, disconnects or company-specific succession planning challenges: What processes are at work in the organization? How is each talent management process carried out (or not) by each business function? What process disconnects and differences exists across your organization? Once you have the answer to these primary questions, you are ready to move on to step two.

2. Find out where the organization lines up on the talent management capability continuum.The talent management capability continuum should provide talent managers with the big picture. It can show where an organization ranks on a scale of worst-to-best talent management practices. While evaluating the talent management processes' different capabilities, methodologies and systems will emerge. Some potentially beneficial processes may have been overlooked, some may need improvement, and others may qualify as best practices.

Organizations that fall to the far left of the continuum have not started to develop their talent management capabilities. They have not formalized practices or centralized processes, do not track most talent-related metrics, nor have they created a culture that supports talent management.

As organizations improve their capabilities, they likely will formalize practices in certain areas of the business. These organizations fall in the middle of the continuum. They track key talent-related metrics and have foster a culture that accepts those talent processes, but may lack consistency.

At the far right of the continuum are those organizations that consistently follow best practices in their talent management methodologies - at every level of the organization - using the most up-to- date technology systems as support. They track metrics that are tied to talent management process effectiveness frequently. And these organizations have created a culture that supports talent management processes and requires leaders to regularly engage in their design.

Note, while the term "best practice" is used to denote a practice generally accepted as highly effective, the level of effectiveness depends on many factors. What works in one organization may not yield positive results in another.

3. Prioritize talent management processes.The next step is to rank each process according to importance and the expected impact of improvement. Talent managers can judge importance by how critical the process is to the execution of organizational strategy. Then evaluate the expected impact of improvement by measuring the difference between the current process state versus the preferred future state, and determine the value of closing that gap.Senior leaders can be helpful during this step, and their participation will generate buy-in and reinforce that talent managers are working cooperatively toward the organization's desired outcomes.

4. Create a talent management road map.Once the talent manager determines where the organization falls on the continuum and has established priority for each talent process, he or she must develop a strategic talent management road map. This road map may span years because improvements to talent management processes can not happen in one month, one quarter or even one year.

Consider using a three-pronged approach to create the road map: Develop a framework of important criteria, establish a timeline, and communicate the road map to senior leadership.

Understand the importance of each process, the budget available for strategic talent imperatives and the organization's business environment. Then prioritize data for each process and order them according to company-specific criteria.

For example, for the first six months, there may not be enough money to invest in a complete talent management process overhaul. So focus on small improvements to one of the organization's current processes that will produce even a modest financial impact. Later, when there is more funding, budget more resources for large-scale process improvements that have greater strategic importance.

Determine how long each process will take to refine the organization's critical business needs. Then map out improvement plans across a specific timeline. Keep in mind talent managers may be able to work on more than one process during a given period. And some processes are linked to or are dependent on others.

Finally, communicate the talent management road map to the leaders who helped during the prioritization stage: step three. Provide them a copy of the road map along with the data used to create it, and celebrate the work they did to help produce it. Be prepared to answer specific questions. Even though these leaders should have contributed the data on which the road map is based, there could still be some push back. Focus on the business imperatives and help them understand how the road map will impact execution of company strategy.

Many organizations would benefit from a planned and strategic approach to improving talent management capabilities. A recent survey showed 248 leaders in the field of HR, training and organizational development rated their organizations' overall talent management practices an average of 1.9 on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 representing best practices. This level demonstrates their practices are only somewhat effective and yield results that often - but not always - meet objectives.

In order to be competitive in the changing business landscape and achieve measurable and meaningful results, organizations must constantly move toward the right of the continuum through carefully planned and strategically designed improvement of their talent management capabilities. Somewhat effective talent management practices are nowhere near good enough.

Ref: Michael Sabbag

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