Lead, don’t manage talent
Talent Management is a topic that has been much discussed over the past 30 years. While I am not an HR professional (or perhaps because I am not), I have always looked at talent management as an integral part of my job as a manager.
Despite the volumes of books that have been written on this topic (Noel Tichy is my favorite academic and practitioner), and despite the numerous case studies that have explicitly linked effective talent management practices to companies’ financial performance (see one from the McKinsey Quarterly), it’s still baffling to me how many managers look at talent management as a process they have to perform annually (or semi-annually, or quarterly) to satisfy their HR checklist.
Talent management is not an ‘on-top’ process you have to perform whenever you get the dreaded reminder email from your HR department, but rather the key role of effective leaders. This is especially true in service-based industries like legal professional services, and software where people are the key assets.
So what are my best practices?
Hold yourselves and your teams accountable to identify, develop and retain top talent– very few companies do this explicitly
Give your people assignments you know they are not ready for: encourage risk-taking and coach them to succeed
Provide timely, honest and constructive feedback, i.e., provide feedback when you see an action and do so in a way that will help the person grow
Reward your top performers – while you may not have sufficient monetary flexibility (depending on your HR processes), you will be surprised how non-monetary rewards motivate people: when was the last time you publicly recognized an achievement of one of your top team members?
And my favorite…
Let talent go – if you see an opportunity that will benefit the person and your company, don’t be afraid to encourage them to rotate, even if the person is indispensable.
So, would you encourage your best employee to move to another team within your company if this was in the best interest of the individual and the company? Think hard before answering…