16 Talent Management Tips from the Pros

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Industry Buzz

16 Talent Management Tips from the Pros

How would you like to improve talent management and the HR function in your organization? Are you wondering what tactics you need to start - and in some cases, stop - doing?

With these questions in mind, we asked 16 top HR pros to share their tips and strategies on how to boost talent management practices in your organization.

These tips and strategies are all taken from articles these pros have published in the past year. Take a look.

#1: Know that terminations can be a good thing - Heather Bussing

Know that terminations can be a good thing  Heather Bussing

In this article, Heather shares why terminations aren't such a bad thing. She offers some great perspective on the subject, and my favorite is this:

Heather Bussing

The Company is the one in charge, and the one with the power to make changes. Too often, the problems arise because managers let things slide until they become a crisis. Holding people accountable is hard work and sometimes uncomfortable. But it is way easier to do from the start, by giving clear feedback and letting people know what happens if they can't, or won't, do the work the way it needs to be done.

To read the rest of Heather's advice when it comes to terminations, check out the full article on HRExaminer.

#2: Learn how to give difficult feedback - Jamie Resker

Learn how to give difficult feedback  Jamie Resker

Jamie's advice lines up nicely with what Heather says about managers "letting things slide" until it's too late. Holding people accountable can be stressful if you don't feel like you have the tools to do it properly.

Jamie's advice is to use a framework that makes giving difficult performance feedback a conversation more focused on desired performance:

Jamie Resker

The key reason managers avoid giving feedback is not because they don't understand the problem but rather because they don't know how to craft a message that is "sayable" and "hearable." The Performance Continuum Feedback® Method (PCFM) is a straight forward approach to do just that.

The methodology helps you put the focus on the positive, desired performance rather than highlighting the current negative performance. It's the right approach when talking with an employee the first time about off-target performance. The assumption is that if the individual was aware of the expected performance he/she would work to meet expectations.

For more insight on the methodology Jamie proposes, read the full article on the Employee Performance Solutions blog. You can also read Jamie's insights on communication and feedback here on the TalentSpace blog.

#3: Leading Millennials? Avoid these four words - Julie Winkle Giulioni

Leading Millennials Avoid these four words  Julie Winkle Giulioni

People managing the Millennial generation often seems to be a fate worse than [insert apocalyptic situation of your choosing here]. Julie offers some insight on how to reframe your thinking when it comes to managing and coaching Millennials - simply avoid these four words:

Julie Winkle Giulioni

"You're too young to..." These four small words go far beyond answering a request or redirecting someone's effort. They're killer words. They extinguish motivation, inspiration, excitement, and even connection with the organization.

These four small words close doors and choke off possibilities. They discourage, demoralize, and drive young people away...The ambition and even impatience of young workers can be a vital competitive advantage to organizations who know how to harness it.

And that's the key right there: knowing how to harness the passion, drive and enthusiasm of this generation. Not so different from managing any employee you want to keep engaged, motivated and high performing.

For more food-for-thought insight on managing Millennials, read the complete article on Julie's blog. You can also read Julie's insights on trends and strategies related to learning and development here on the TalentSpace blog.

  #4: If you're a manager, don't lose sight of empathy - Michael Haberman

If youre a manager dont lose sight of empathy  Michael Haberman

In this article Michael points out that empathy is often viewed as an important leadership skill. However, what often happens is that even when the most empathic people are promoted into a leadership position they can lose their ability to empathize with others. Why does this happen:

Michael Haberman

The answer may be that having power, as in being a boss, actually causes a change in the brain reducing the ability to be empathetic. Research conducted by Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada has led him and his colleagues to believe that power fundamentally changes how the brain operates. Their research also found that the more powerless a person is the more empathetic they become. I wonder what this says about human resources positions.

Coaching leaders to be (or remain) empathetic may help them to understand why their employees perform well or not so well. Read Michael's full article on the Omega HR Solutions blog.

#5: Beware the fallacy of engagement scores - Perry Timms

Beware the fallacy of engagement scores  Perry Timms

In this post Perry discusses Motown as an example of a hyper successful organization and yet the employees there were rarely, if ever, engaged with the organization. His message:

Perry Timms

You - as a workforce participant - can and SHOULD be engaged in what you do. What you love. What you were born to do. Many organisations are kidding themselves that it is they who you love... So don't insult me Employer PLC by being pleased with a 2% uplift. Just let me be brilliant - all the time, individually and collectively, so I can feel joy about the difference I make.

Not only does Perry provide a great recap of Motown's success, his point about employee engagement not necessarily having a direct impact on the success of an organization is a compelling one. Read more at Adjusted Development.

#6: Your HR talent correlates directly to the caliber and quality of talent in general - Jennifer McClure

Your HR talent correlates directly to the caliber and quality of talent in general  Jennifer McClure

In this post Jennifer lists what she sees as the most in-demand skills and competencies for the future of HR. She states that if HR isn't seen as being strategic enough it's because leaders of organizations haven't changed their expectations or hiring requirements for the function that "touches every aspect of an organization's unique competitive advantage - its people":

Jennifer McClure

To get the most out of the HR function, the mandate of every business leader should be to view the department not just as an administrative or "people" function, but as a business function critical to execution of the strategic plan of the company - and to staff this critical business function with the best and brightest talent available to ensure the organization's success.

Why? Because the caliber and quality of the talent in the Human Resources/Talent Acquisition functions has a direct effect on the caliber and quality of talent that an organization is able to attract, recruit and retain.

Jennifer's point makes a lot of sense to me. You want to attract high quality talent to your organization? Then your HR team needs to be the best at what they do. Read the full article at Unbridled Talent to check out Jennifer's complete list of the most in-demand HR skills and competencies and why they matter.

#7: Recruiting is all about performance and accountability - Tim Sackett

Recruiting is all about performance and accountability  Tim Sackett

In this post, Tim shares why recruiters have the best HR job out there, and uses this sports analogy to make his case: "If you can play, you can play." Or as Tim says it: "If you can recruit, you can recruit."

Tim Sackett

Recruiting at its core is a perfect storm of showing us how accountability and performance in our profession works. You have an opening - and either you find the person you need (success), or you don't find the person (failure). It's the only position within the HR industry that is that clear cut.

When it comes to recruiting, it's a level playing field. Read more on the Tim Sackett Project blog. You can also catch Tim writing about talent acquisition here on the TalentSpace blog.

#8: Never make 'reducing turnover' a goal - Lance Haun

Never make reducing turnover a goal  Lance Haun

You may need to get control of turnover in your organization but Lance explains that reducing turnover is "a stupid measuring stick" because it does nothing to deal with the root cause of said turnover:

Lance Haun

Reducing turnover may be an okay outcome but it is never a goal. And even if it is an outcome, it is a lousy, broad measuring stick. 2% turnover sounds great until you realize that your organization is bleeding only high performers and high potentials... If someone in your organization is complaining about high turnover and reducing it isn't a goal or outcome, what's the proper response? The proper response is finding out what the real issue actually is.

Lance offers some great insight on how to find that root cause of employee turnover. My favorite is that perhaps, just perhaps, your culture needs to change. Read more on Lance's blog Life Between the Brackets.  

#9: Don't be overwhelmed by all this talk of Big Data - Dr. Laurie Bassi

Dont be overwhelmed by all this talk of Big Data  Dr Laurie Bassi

Seems like Big Data is the topic of 2013. Advice from all directions warning HR to get a handle on it and to grab Big Data by the analytical horns so-to-speak. In this article, Laurie suggests HR slows down and really considers what Big Data means when it comes to people management:

Dr Laurie Bassi

Big Data's most fundamental insight - that data from a wide variety of sources can be combined to yield concrete steps for improving business results - is exactly where HR should be seeking to go as well. And it's not necessary to have millions of data points or GPS trails or real-time transactions to benefit from this insight.

In fact, HR Analytics at its core is much more straightforward than much of what's happening in Big Data.  All you really need to get started is to map some reasonably decent data on the "people side" of your business (e.g., from an employee survey, 360 reviews, learning records) to information on key business outcomes (e.g., financial results across locations, turnover, or a variety of other strategic outcome measures that can even be captured through an employee survey).

I like that Laurie encourages HR (and leaders!) to not be overwhelmed by Big Data, but to instead see it as a natural extension of understanding how and why your people work best. Read more at McBassi & Company.

#10: Analyzing 'Big Data'? Know which data matters - Cathy Missildine

Analyzing Big Data Know which data matters  Cathy Missildine

And to really help HR understand what analyzing Big Data means, Cathy offers a list of metrics to consider as a natural starting point:

Cathy Missildine

So, which data matters and which data needs to be analyzed in the Human Capital arena? If I could answer that in a succinct, easy to understand way, I think I could retire to a very lovely beach somewhere. I believe the following questions are good ones to start off with when trying to figure out which data matters in regards to our people:

  1. What is important to the company and where is the company trying to go?
  2. What issues and problems are facing the company in trying to achieve #1?
  3. What do our customers say we do well and what needs improvement?
  4. What human capital behaviors drive business results?
  5. What human capital competencies drive business results?
  6. What is our company's competitive advantage and is it sustainable?
  7. Why do our customers keep buying from our company?
  8. What knowledge, skills and experiences do our top performers possess?
  9. Do we have bench strength in key positions?
  10. Do we have capacity for higher productivity or are we maxed out?
  11. Are our processes without waste and duplication?
  12. Do we have the right people doing the right jobs?

Looking at this list of questions, how your organization interprets the value of Big Data comes down to understanding what data is most useful and relevant. As Cathy challenges, what data actually matters to your organization?

Read more at Profitability Through Human Capital. You can also catch Cathy writing about HR analytics here on the TalentSpace blog.

#11: Understand what employee engagement really means - Sharlyn Lauby

Understand what employee engagement really means  Sharlyn Lauby

Employee engagement is a term that gets bandied about quite a bit. Do we even really know what it means? How can we define it in a way that is meaningful? As Sharlyn states:

Sharlyn Lauby

Sometimes I wonder if the reason companies are having so much difficulty with employee engagement is because they are operating with a vague definition. They know it's important but can't get their arms around it. The first step to solving any challenge is being able to define it.

In her article, Sharlyn dives deeper into how to define employee engagement and shares a concise definition (and cool video) provided by BlessingWhite. Definitely worth your consideration.

#12: Avoid these employee engagement heartbreakers - David Zinger

Avoid these employee engagement heartbreakers  David Zinger

Defining employee engagement in a way that is meaningful also requires a clear understanding of what gets in the way of truly making it work in your organization. Take a look at these 13 employee engagement heartbreakers that David calls out:

David Zinger
  1. Employees who experience work as sheer drudgery.
  2. Employees who are totally drained at the end of the day and have nothing left for their family.
  3. Parents who complain day after day about their work in front of their children and believe they are victims.
  4. That any employee, in any organization, would feel invisible and go unrecognized.
  5. The amount of productivity and performance that drains out of organizations because of disengagement.
  6. That we probably spend more money on employee engagement surveys than actually improving employee engagement.
  7. That employees and organizations believe that for honesty to occur surveys must be anonymous.
  8. That anyone would see disengagement as a punishable offence rather than a trigger for a conversation.
  9. Organizations who "get" employees to engage rather than let employees engage and believe that there are "rules" to follow.
  10. When engagement is seen merely as sucking out more discretionary effort from overtaxed employees.
  11. CEO's who fail to see they are employees and refer to employees as them or human capital.
  12. A mad dash to quarterly results at the expense of employees or organizational sustainability.
  13. The worry that employee engagement will die as a management fad rather than to truly improve how we work, manage and lead.

As David says, employee engagement works when it works for the benefit of all and does not cause heartburn or heartache. Read David's complete article to learn more. You can also learn more about David's insight on employee engagement by reading his contributions to the TalentSpace blog.

#13: Create a "safe to say" work environment - Susan Mazza

Create a safe to say work environment  Susan Mazza

In this article Susan recounts working with a client who implemented a "safe to say" work environment but quickly realized it wasn't working the way it was meant to. As Mazza writes, most employees found that speaking up when they had something that wasn't positive to say was widely considered a career limiting move:

Susan Mazza

By "Safe to say" they meant people felt comfortable sharing bad news and could openly talk about what was not working and what they did not like without fear of repercussions formally or informally. Yet when something needed to be said that threatened the status quo, it was like there was a big sign in the room that said "Danger Ahead".

If you are a leader and believe you are not getting the straight, honest feedback you want and need, here are five things to consider:

  1. Fear of speaking up is the rule not the exception
  2. Positive and straight communication are not the same thing
  3. Reactions to your reaction will be amplified
  4. "Don't come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution" is misunderstood
  5. The thing you have the hardest time hearing is often the thing you most need to hear

For more details on these five tips read Susan's full article on her Random Acts of Leadership blog. Susan is also a regular contributor to the TalentSpace blog on leadership best practices.

#14: Deal with ineffective innovation - Jon Ingham

Deal with ineffective innovation  Jon Ingham

Innovation is a top priority of CEOs and so it's not a far stretch to say it should be a top priority for HR, too. Here's what Jon has to say about getting smart when it comes to innovation:

Jon Ingham

We need to get serious about innovation - no company is smart enough alone to navigate this new world. So we need to be open to outside influences, ideas, people and agencies. Firms need to be really clear about what they think is their core business and hence which ecosystem they need to join. Then open up - co-invent, co-create and co-produce, eg P&G and Unilever with their 'open innovation' orchestrators. Develop absorptive capacity. Organise open innovation calls, exploratory 'dates' and open contracts. Change behaviours (and change rewards) - especially of top executives.

When it comes to ensuring organizations innovate effectively, HR has the unique opportunity to be that change agent. This department knows (or should know) the pulse of the organization and where opportunities to develop people and strategies will ensure future success. For this reason, innovation shouldn't just be the priority for CEOs; it needs to be HR's priority too.

Read Jon's full article on his Strategic HCM blog.

#15: Consider incorporating SMS into your communication strategy - Steve Boese

Consider incorporating SMS into your communication strategy  Steve Boese

Here's another great article on innovation - but as it pertains to your organization's communication strategy. Steve's argument is valid: people check their texts ALL. The. Time. Email? Not as much. However, as Steve says, this kind of innovation takes some thinking:

Steve Boese

I'm not saying it's easy - but if you can figure out a way to get permission (bought or earned) to the SMS Inbox, the one really important Inbox people monitor - then you are playing a different game than your competition.

Read more about Steve's viewpoint on his HR Technology blog.

#16: Understand the purpose of talent management - Dominique Jones

Understand the purpose of talent management  Dominique Jones

This is one of my favorite posts from 2013 by Dominique, Halogen's VP of HR. In creating the Talent Management Manifesto, Dominique and the Halogen HR team asked themselves:

Dominique Jones

What would an HR or talent management manifesto look like? What are the motives or views HR pros would want to publicly declare? What new ideas or perspective do we feel the need to champion with respect to the roles we play in our organizations?

The bottom line is that talent management is about driving, delivering, incenting, improving, and achieving better business results for the organization. I think as a manifesto for talent management and for HR to follow, this one is spot on. Check out the infographic we created for this manifesto and let us know if you agree.

What's your talent management tip for HR?

I hope you enjoyed reading these insights from the HR pros who contributed to this article. I'd love your feedback on the advice shared - and I'd love to hear what best practices you're following or plan to follow in the year ahead. Please share your comments below.

Thank you to all the HR bloggers who contributed content for this article!

This article is the last one we are publishing in 2013. We'll be back on our regular publishing schedule in early January. Wishing our readers and contributors all the best in 2014!

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