By Nancy Q. Smith
We are designing a talent management system. Our first priority is to…
How would you complete that statement? The most typical answer is:
“Design quality components of a talent management system and identify a technology provider.”
What we don’t often hear is this:
“Decide what business goals we’re going to support and ensure the talent management system we design results in the achievement of those goals and equips us for near- and longer-term needs.”
The second answer does not negate the importance of strong components of talent management, but it does align efforts in a holistic and results-based manner. In this article, you will find the answers to four questions:
What is a strategic, role-based talent management system?
Talent management can be approached tactically or strategically. The ultimate goal is to create a high-performing organization for today and tomorrow. A tactical approach to talent management focuses on the processes, systems, and components, while a strategic approach to talent management begins with desired business results. The whole must be more and produce more than the sum of the parts. Here is how the two approaches differ:
A Role-Based TM System
A Traditional TM System
Why is it essential to focus on pivotal roles and competence?
In a strategic, role-based talent management system, the focus is on business goals that are most essential to achieve. That tells you what accomplishments or outputs must be produced to be successful. An accomplishment is a deliverable or output of value that, when produced, contributes to the achievement of business results.
A results-focused strategic talent management system is role centric. The term role refers to people who produce a common set of accomplishments. Individuals in the same role may not share a common job, but they do wear a common “hat.” Examples of roles are: first-line supervisor, sales representative, account manager, customer service representative, and maintenance technician.
Every organization has some roles with outputs that are more important to the strategic direction. Pivotal roles typically represent no more than 20 percent of all roles. In “A Players or A Positions?: The Strategic Logic of Workforce Management” by Mark Huselid, Richard Beatty, and Brian Becker in the December 2005 Harvard Business Review, the authors presented a highly effective yet rare approach to talent management: prioritizing positions and setting up those positions for success.
Which roles are pivotal depends on the organization’s strategy and goals. For example, to increase revenue and grow market share, a high-tech company must introduce new products and increase sales. Key roles for delivering those results are product development engineer and account manager. Project managers are also a pivotal role because projects must be completed on time and within budget. So the successful completion of projects on time and within budget would be defined as a major accomplishment.
In a role-based talent management system, the focus is on producing competence. Performance may be enabled by competencies (knowledge, skills, attributes), which are indicators of potential, but the desired outcome of performance is competence—the translation of potential into results. For example, a brand manager may require the competency of business acumen, but a brand strategy that differentiates the product is the desired result that demonstrates competence. Can you imagine a brand manager with the right competencies who isn’t competent? Of course, you can.
In addition, competencies typically are drawn from existing competency lists and represent the collective wisdom of stakeholders to forecast characteristics required for the future. An accomplishment-based approach is concerned with the outputs of value required for success for today and tomorrow.
How do we set up those in pivotal roles for success?
We design those roles by harnessing best practices from exemplary performers. In any job or role, a subset of people—typically 5 percent—outproduces the rest. The difference between what stars produce and what typical performers produce is vast. The McKinsey War for Talent study showed “A” players grew revenue by 52 percent; “B” players grew revenue by 4 percent; and “C” players shrunk revenue by 15 percent. In higher complexity work, the difference between star and average performers is greatest.
Most organizations do not recognize the magnitude of difference between star and typical performers and do not see that their high-yield practices can be replicated and the work environment designed to support higher performance for everyone.
Through targeted interviews, observations, and process and document reviews, we can learn stars’ accomplishments and the behaviors or tasks that produce them, as well as their success measures. Stars often rely on leading indicators aligned to producing business results rather than activity measures. Further, these measures are rarely ones the organization tracks.
By mining practices of exemplars, we learn mental models or ways of thinking and critical accomplishments and the steps to take to produce them. We also discover decision criteria, triggers, and the resources and tools they have created to help them achieve. These elements enable us to design the talent management system and the work environment to support success.
Does role-based talent management really work?
The figure in the downloadable PDF below defines success for role-based talent management. The horizontal axis represents outputs produced by an individual, role, or team. Success is obtaining more outputs per unit of input. We have seen consistent improvement in this measure across multiple clients in various industries for scores of roles.
At the role level, in one large software company, a key differentiator in large, complex sales was the quality, alignment, and timeliness of proofs of concept (PoCs) produced by the technical member of the sales team. By using this approach, the client was able to coach people in these technical sales roles to:
In a leading high-technology company, this approach meets employees’ and management’s needs. They select effectively because the foundation for interviewing is the accomplishment-based role profile. Ramp-up time has been reduced from nine months to 90 days because the focus is on how to produce valued results in context. Assessment and development are linked to what is required to produce results in this role currently and with the organization’s future strategic direction. Performance management is transparent as the accomplishments are well understood and supported, and the work environment is designed to support optimal results. Employee satisfaction and engagement also have improved in a statistically significant way.
In the end, whether you are just beginning to design your talent management system or want to revise an existing one, a role-based approach is a practical way to provide lasting value.
Nancy Q. Smith is the director of Strategic Partnering at Exemplary Performance. For more information, visit http://www.exemplaryperformance.com
|soapboxFigure 1 Role Based Talent Management Graphic.pdf||67.44 KB|
|soapboxFigure 2 Shifting the curve graphic.pdf||53.27 KB|