Practices that inhibit good talent management

June 22, 2016 3coze

I got all excited in my last post about the shady dealings that plague team’s efforts to manage talent effectively; hiding, protecting, hoarding, and stealing good people.  As I was writing, I realized that many of these poor talent practices are supported by organizational cultures and practices that reinforce the wrong behavior.  So today, I’m taking aim at the underlying issues that create and perpetuate talent management treachery.

Unfortunately, many organizational practices make these bad talent management behaviors much more likely.  Here are three of the ones I see all the time. I’d love for you to add to my list.

Creating and fostering competition within the organization

I could start any new facilitation by saying “let me guess, most days it feels more like the competition is on the inside of your organization than the outside, right.” Short-sighted, instant gratification-seeking leaders LOVE to pit one business until against another to see who the mighty are. No wonder the generals are willing to go to great lengths to recruit and keep the best lieutenants! A little friendly rivalry goes a long way, but once the stakes become too high, internal competition destroys value.

Your team needs to be an interdependent system where each person is motivated to contribute to the success of the others, rather than to resist (or even scuttle) it. The objective-setting process is where it all starts. If you get your interdependencies mapped out from the beginning of the year, you’re in a much better position to work as allies. For more on how to do this, check out How to Set Objectives as a Team and then How to Make Midyear Corrections to Objectives.

Allowing leaders to act like they own the people on their team

In our rush to push accountability for human resources out of the HR department and into the role of the line manager, we got a little carried away. We were trying to create a “sense of ownership” over people’s development…but we inadvertently allowed absolute ownership over people.  HR needs to get back in the game as the stewards of talent so great people are view as a shared resource able to be deployed to the roles where the organization needs them most.

That stewardship includes leading talent discussions that come at talent management from two angles. First, every critical role in your organization needs to have at least two potential successors. At the same time, every high potential or key talent person should have at least two roles that you’re grooming them for.  The redundancy of having multiple options (for both critical roles and key talent) gives you some flexibility, which you’ll inevitably need. More importantly, forcing multiple options sends a clear message that no one leader owns their people.

Using managers as individual contributors.

Somewhere in our de-fatting, delayering, BCG-ing mayhem, we’ve ended up with managers who have 110% of their time dedicated to being individual contributors. What I mean is that they have job responsibilities that aren’t envision, plan, guide, coach, review but instead are draft, design, build, etc. The ripple effects of this quest for higher productivity are diverse and profound.  Just one of the many terrible ones is that managers develop subject matter expertise that creates the illusion (and sometimes even the reality) that they are indispensable. That gives our hoarders a good excuse for hanging on to great people.

You need to ween your organization off of using managers as glorified individual contributors.  I might even be provocative and recommend that a person’s first management role should NOT be as a leader of a team they were previously a part of (which makes the shift away from doing toward leading quite difficult). Instead, if the very first management job people had was in a team where they aren’t the subject matter expert, they would quickly settle in to adding management value. As soon as you do that, the person ceases to be associated with one silo and can start to move around the organization.

I’m sure I’ve only just cracked the surface of the many dysfunctions that contribute to the hoarding and stealing of talent that goes on in organizations. I’d love to hear your insights on other practices contributing to the skullduggery.

Further Reading

10 Things You Did Today that Undermined Teamwork

When the Going Gets Tough, Does Your Team Turn to Each Other or On Each Other

Excellent is Character First, Culture Second, Competence Third

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