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Mind the Gap

November 23rd, 2015 by Sean Olson in Talent Development, Talent Management

12329159165_a12a8df2ca_qI originally heard the expression “mind the gap” from a British business mentor. He shared that in the United Kingdom there are signs placed throughout the subway stations cautioning riders to “mind the gap”—that is, the space between the platform and the train door. “Mind the gap” so as not to fall through or get stuck.

My mentor went on to share how the idea of “mind the gap” applies to managing talent. Many companies find that there is often a chasm between the capabilities they need and what employees actually offer. Their teams don’t have the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the challenging business environment. In the war for talent, many organizations are misstepping and taking nosedives.

As you manage your talent, it’s important that you avoid this—that you’re aware of where your own talent gap lies and that you take steps to bridge it.

How do you do this?

First, you have to define your organizational strategy and determine the competencies that your employees must demonstrate to achieve it. In other words, you need to identify the combination of skills and knowledge your employees need in order to be successful.

As you establish your competencies, make sure they link to your vision, mission, and core values. They should establish priorities for management and staff around the behavioral standards for your success and therefore should be unique to you. They’re the differentiator for your company and will set you apart from the competition.

Once you’ve identified where you need to be in terms of competencies, next assess how your employees measure up—where they don’t match is where you have your gap. Your job, of course, is to figure out how to get across it.

One way you can do this is through your talent acquisition efforts. The competencies you identify will help you determine the skills and knowledge you need to bring onboard. Another way to mind the gap is to develop your current employees so they gain the competencies you’ve identified. On-the-job training will help, but increasingly this development will come through hands-on, interactive approaches such as coaching, mentoring, action learning, job rotations, and similar tools.

As you mind the gap, you’ll find that you benefit in multiple ways. First, you’ll positon the organization to achieve its strategic outcomes. In addition, you’ll also create a better work environment where employees have opportunities to grow, understand how they contribute to the organization’s success, feel engaged, and want to stay and contribute.

The talent gap you face in your organization poses a threat. But with care you can navigate it, and when you do—like the rider on the London subway—you’ll be on your way to reaching your destination.

Sean Olson is a business development consultant at FlashPoint. In his role he works to understand client needs and help them find the answers that move their organizations forward.

Image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

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The Power of Recognition (and Simple Steps You Can Take to Harness It)

November 12th, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Development, Talent Management

ID-100346640Praise is powerful.  According to philosopher and psychologist William James, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” In fact, giving praise and recognition is the single most powerful activity a manager can do. It’s the key to successful employee development and growth.  Recognition reinforces behaviors that help move people closer to achieving their goals, both personally and professionally, and it encourages them to keep moving forward.

Recognition is not a complex process, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple things. As a reminder, here are key things to keep in mind:

  1. Be immediate. Feedback and positive reinforcement are most successful when given in the moment. Waiting to provide feedback can hinder action, as many employees need affirmation that they’re contributing to their organization’s success.
  2. Be specific. Explain what you appreciate and why. Doing so shows a greater and more genuine interest in your employees’ It helps them know what exactly they’re doing well and shows that you do take notice of their work.
  3. State your feelings. Express a deeper level of appreciation.  Opening up and expressing emotion helps to create trust. When trusts exists between an employee and his/her manager, employees will feel more comfortable discussing issues with their manager as they arise (versus hiding them).
  4. Reaffirm your support. Let employees know that they have your full support and show confidence in their abilities.  It can go a long way in helping them feel as though they’re providing meaningful contributions.

From a managerial perspective, what can you do to further create a culture of recognition to drive results?

  1. Establish clear standards. Creating clear expectations for goals and providing direct feedback keeps people engaged and focused. Feedback is a type of encouragement and is fundamental to helping employees achieve goals.
  2. Believe the best about people. Having positive expectations of others will create positive possibilities. People act according to expectations, so through words, body language, and tone make it clear that you expect the best from those around you, and chances are they’ll produce the results.
  3. Be attentive to what your people are doing. Take the time to get out and observe those around you and take notice when people win. Listening to others with your eyes and your heart helps to build relationships and foster an environment of trust.
  4. Personalize recognition. Recognition isn’t nearly as impactful if it’s not personalized. It must feel sincere. Further, understand when and how individual employees respond best to recognition and provide it in the way that’s most meaningful to them.
  5. Celebrate team accomplishments as well as individual accomplishments. Recognize teams and celebrate together. This helps to create bonds, build a culture of recognition, and to drive the achievement of common goals.

Regularly  praising and recognizing can do a lot for engaging employees and encouraging them to keep moving forward toward their goals. It’s a relatively easy state to achieve, and the small investment you make is multiplied exponentially in terms of outcomes and rewards.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/

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The Impact of Emotion on Decision Making

November 9th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Talent Development

ID-100342222Emotional and social skills are turning out to be core competencies for all leaders. Research over the last 15 years has shown it is our ability to recognize and manage our emotions, as well skillfully respond to the emotions of those around us, that differentiates us as highly respected, successful leaders.

FlashPoint regularly facilitates a workshop on emotional intelligence built around the Emotional Intelligence Skills Assessment, published by Pfeiffer. The workshop explores how our emotions impact the way we function in five essential areas: perceiving, managing, decision making, achieving, and influencing. The assessment measures the participant’s level of emotional and social functioning in each of these “five factors of emotional intelligence” and provides feedback on how he or she can improve.

If you’re a leader, this is important to know. Your emotional and social functioning has great sway in the organization and plays a significant part in achieving results. You need to be aware and able to adjust and adapt your emotions to the situation at hand.

As an example, consider the decision-making factor. Decision making is of critical importance for leaders at all levels, of course, and it clearly affects outcomes. Just think of what a series of bad decisions can do for a business.

As rational as we think we may be, our emotions play a key role in how we make decisions. Our emotions are primarily driven and influenced by a part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system quickly reacts to external stimuli, provoking either a “moving toward” or “moving away from” response. Then both “nature” (biology) and “nurture” (our life experience) kick in, helping shape how we ultimately respond to the primal “fight or flee” phenomenon.

It’s important for us as leaders to understand how this process works and then learn skills to control it—both within ourselves and with others. When we successfully manage emotions and decision making, we’re able to:

  • Process all relevant environmental, interpersonal, and intrapersonal cues.
  • Generate appropriate emotion within ourselves and in others given the situation at hand.
  • Modify both positive emotions and negative emotions as the situation warrants.

To illustrate the importance of managing emotions and decision making, consider a leader who’s very excited by an opportunity to enter into a new business partnership. An emotionally intelligent leader is able to recognize the impact of her initial emotions, control them, and minimize their influence on her thought processes. A leader who’s less in touch with his emotions may very well become overly enthused, let the positive emotions overtake him, fail to examine the risks involved, and make the decision to enter into a bad arrangement. Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how emotional intelligence can have a tremendous impact on outcomes.

Every day, leaders make dozens of decisions, both large and small. Some decisions are driven by moving away from an undesirable or uncomfortable situation—perhaps avoiding an interpersonal conflict that has gotten out of control. Other decisions lead us to take action in the direction of our goals—a “toward” response in the case of committing to work through a conflict for the good of the team. In either case, the stronger our skills are in attending to emotions, generating appropriate emotions, and attenuating both positive and negative emotions, the better equipped we are to make high-quality and timely decisions in the pursuit of our individual and collective goals.

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/

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How Top Companies Develop Their Leaders

October 30th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

ID-10095534In a marketplace with rapidly changing business requirements, where quality, service and innovation have become mere “tickets to play,” and disruptive technology, global competitors, and the rate of change itself create powerful and conflicting pressures for business leaders, how are organizations addressing leadership development needs? How are those companies deemed the “Best Companies for Leaders” generating 200 percent growth over ten years?

First, they’re taking a serious look at the competencies their leaders need to demonstrate. These include:

  • “Adaptability to change.” This the most important quality for a leader according to a global survey of 300 CEOs and senior HR leaders conducted by the Chally Group Worldwide.
  • Communication, vision, and strategic thinking (also highly rated skills in the Chally survey).
  • The ability to balance short-term needs (e.g., communicating among customers, senior leaders, and employees) with long-term goals (e.g., optimizing employee engagement, shareholder returns, and long-term competitive sustainability). This has become a differentiating competency for top-tier companies.

As they define the leadership competencies they need both today and down the road, these high-performing organizations are also considering the most effective ways to develop the competencies. Here are some of the tools they’re using.

  • According to the Chally survey, the most widespread leadership development practices are “high-touch, hands-on coaching and mentoring” (including the use of professional coaches, peer-to-peer coaching programs, and informal as well as formal mentoring programs). Fifty-six percent of companies surveyed had the same response four years in a row as part of this ongoing survey.
  • The survey also indicated that 49 percent of respondents favor action learning and developmental assignments, while 45 percent use assessments and feedback. Larger organizations tend to more frequently use exposure to senior executives and high-potential development programs. Smaller firms report using cross-functional team projects, external learning opportunities, and tuition reimbursement as development tools.
  • One of the keys to successful leadership development is CEO involvement. CEOs can take part in a number of ways: by sharing insights at training events, serving as a sponsor for action learning teams, communicating to employees about the value of leadership, and more. The Chally survey reveals that large-company CEOs spend an average of 29 percent of their time on employee development and 18 percent of their time on their own development. Altogether, CEOs spend approximately half of their time on development activities—and those from higher ranked companies spend even more of their time.

Does such a significant investment in defining and developing leadership competencies pay off for the company? Yes! In a study of shareholder value created by the companies in the Chally survey, data showed the Best Companies for Leaders generated greater market value between 2003 and 2013 than their peers, growing by 200 percent. They also did a better job of retaining talent; the average tenure of CEOs in the highest-performing companies was 4.1 years versus 3.5 years.

The best of the best companies do not depend on old rules for success or silver bullets to grow their bottom lines in unpredictable times. Instead, they look ahead and prepare their leaders and successors with the competencies, experiences, and resources they’ll need in order to succeed at whatever the future holds.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

Image courtesy of chanpipat/

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Gen Z: Not Just Mini-Millennials!

October 22nd, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management

Everyone Is AccountableSomeone once said to me, “Gen Zers are just Millennials on steroids. They’re just mini-Millennials.” Au contraire!  Just when we thought we were beginning to understand Millennials, we need to learn about a new generation entering the workforce. Generation Z (as it’s called for now) consists of recent college grads and high school teens—and it’s the hot new research topic for marketers and business publications.

While Millennials are very diverse (43 percent are bilingual with a substantial number who identify as “two or more races”), Gen Z is even more so. Gen Zers identify as “multiracial,” “human,” and “other” and frequently will not classify themselves racially or ethnically. Many are immigrants or the children of immigrants. They are multilingual, and many learned English not as a second language but as a “new language” in addition to their other languages.

The great thing about both of Millennials and Gen Zers is that they want to serve on diverse teams with others who are different from themselves. We just happen to have diverse teams today!

Born from 1990 to 1999 (according to research that is still evolving), Gen Zers stand apart from Millennials and Gen Xers in many ways. One of their most welcome characteristics is their desire for face-to-face communication.  Sure they will text and tweet, and they like social media, but they want the connection of in-person conversation. They want to be onsite to do work—because they will be more connected and can learn more. In contrast, Millennials think of work as a “thing you do—from anywhere, at any time.” Both will get the work done, just differently.

In the workplace, Millennials want to be part of a team, and they want a mentor. There is much to learn, and they prefer not to have to ask their managers. Gen Zers want a teaching style of leadership from their managers. Unlike previous generations, they prefer to have expectations and even the details of a project outlined, instead of simply being told the goal and deciding for themselves how to approach the problem to be solved.

Another Gen Z–Millennial difference is how they approach social media. We have read for years that Millennials’ high trust in complete openness online is a generational distinction. Their photos and comments document their every move and meal, every tattoo and thought, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In contrast, Gen Z is more cautious and prefers Snapchat and Vine. Snapchat has 200 million users, 71 percent of them under 25 years old; posted content disappears within seconds.  Gen Zers like that.  Vine has 40 million users and is most popular among 18-to-20-year-olds. Vine lets users create six-second videos; Gen Zers like to share these on Twitter.

Older Millennials were very optimistic and particular with their job searches after graduation. Many had record-high education debt. Unfortunately, the recession hit them hard; 40 percent of Millennials were unemployed and living in their parents’ homes. Even today, one-third of them are still living at home. After watching what happened to Millennials, Gen Zers are determined to handle their careers and living arrangements differently. Many changed majors to increase the odds of being employed after graduation; others changed schools to keep education costs low. And they want to be out of their parents’ houses as soon as possible.

Successful organizations will hire the best of each generation, train them, and offer career growth. These two generations make up 35 percent of employees today—and will soon dominate the workforce. We would be wise to get to know them and to capitalize on their merits.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an author, columnist and national speaker. She is a Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

Image courtesy of hin255/


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Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

October 16th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Talent Management

ID-100290105Technology has transformed today’s workplace: computers, robotics, and other advances are making many roles obsolete and displacing even skilled workers. We’re entering a new era where it is not “what you know” but rather “how you are” as a human that will prove to be the defining career skill set. Those qualities that make us uniquely human—our emotional intelligence, or how we relate to and collaborate with others—makes a difference.

Of course this change can create stress. In his newly published book Humans are Underrated, Geoff Colvin of Fortune magazine elaborates: “Now, as technology gallops ahead with longer strides every year, the transition to the newly valuable skills of empathizing, collaborating, creating, leading, and building relationships is happening faster than corporations, governments, education systems, or most human psyches can keep up with.” Faced with the need to develop emotional intelligence, many people become overwhelmed, claim it’s impossible, and find themselves unable or unwilling to adapt. But it doesn’t have to be so. The skills of emotional intelligence—the ability to read people, build trust, collaborate, seek genuine understanding, and problem solve through sharing of experience and story—are learnable.

If you’re a supervisor, manager, director, or executive, this is an area you especially need to focus on. You must develop and integrate emotional intelligence to your advantage. You’ll find that through training and coaching you can develop a much higher capacity for working with others.

As you consider opportunities to grow your emotional intelligence, here are some key questions you can ask yourself in order to assess your current skills and explore ways in which you need to grow:

  1. How by your actions are you building trust with others?
  2. What are your emotional triggers and how do you know when your buttons are pushed at work?
  3. What are the concerns of the individuals on your team? Do they know that you’re aware of these concerns?
  4. How do you typically handle conflict? Do you lean into it? Disengage? Avoid it outright? Come out fighting at slight provocation?
  5. How can you become more emotionally intelligent so you improve the trust and deep collaboration in your relationships?

The last question is important. Once you get a feel for your development needs, be sure to identify ways you can grow your emotional intelligence. This could include reading books on emotional intelligence and incorporating some of the ideas into your workplace. Perhaps you could go to training. It might involve working with an individual coach, a mentor, or other leaders in a group-coaching setting. Regardless of the approach you take, be sure to create an action plan with goals and hold yourself accountable.

Remember that even if you’ve underutilized your emotional intelligence in the past, you can still harness its power. Relating well with others, building trust, collaborating, and addressing conflict when it inevitably arises are all skills that you can develop and refine. By asking yourself the questions above, and by proactively seeking opportunities to improve your emotional intelligence, you’ll become a better leader, build stronger teams, and better position your organization to succeed. You’ll likely find that you grow personally as well—by enhancing your relationships outside of work and making yourself more marketable in a world that’s constantly evolving.

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels. 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

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Today’s Toughest Challenge: Selecting Leaders to Lead into the Unknown

October 8th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development

NoID-10061491 organization wants to accidentally select as CEO the business equivalent of George Donner, who in 1847 led a group of settlers on a journey to California, only to have them become snowbound, starve, and turn to cannibalism. Yet selecting a new leader is one of the toughest challenges facing organizations today. Companies searching for new leaders often encounter a lack of promotion-ready internal candidates, so they look elsewhere, pinning their hopes on an outsider to lead through unchartered territory. Even in organizations with an heir-apparent, business realities may suddenly dictate new skills and competencies in order to address challenges presented by advanced technologies, global competition, new channels for selling, diverse employees, and more.

How can organizations get their arms around such an unexpected and amorphous assignment of hiring a new leader? Usually, the hiring guidance exists—it just needs to be assembled. If you’re looking for your next executive leader, here are tools you can look to:

  • The latest strategic plan. With luck, the strategic plan has been updated within the last two years. If not, updating the plan may be the place to start so that there is a target for success. What skills will the new CEO need in order to lead the organization to achieve the new strategic goals?
  • Input from key stakeholders. Current and old customers, prospects, and senior executives can provide a good sense of changing marketplace needs. Be sure to include human resources as a stakeholder. Their knowledge of the changing talent marketplace can be useful.
  • Executive competencies and core competencies. The organization must develop these—or update them if they already exist—to greatly enhance hiring. Core competencies apply to all employees at all levels and serve to differentiate the organization from its competitors. Executive competencies apply to the C-suite and spell out the skills sets and behaviors of the organization’s senior leadership.
  • Behavioral interview questions based on the competencies and target experiences. During the interview process, questions phrased to draw out actual experiences instead of assumptions about future actions will more effectively separate the true potential leaders from the posers.
  • Due diligence when checking references. Asking skills-based questions of references is more likely to provide a truer picture of future behaviors if the candidate is selected. The past truly is the best predictor of the future.

Once the new leader is selected, a careful onboarding process will considerably enhance time to productivity. In addition to learning about products and services, meeting key stakeholders, and spending time meeting all levels of employees in the organization, the new leader may need:

  • Coaching to aid assimilation. Even the most skilled leader can use a sounding board and guide when taking the helm from either a long-term successful leader or a short-term failed leader. The path forward is often unmapped, but as we all know, culture eats strategy for breakfast. The best leader with the best strategy may need assistance with implementation to prevent the culture from being a barrier.
  • A retreat or other leadership development opportunity with his or her new team. Many organizations, in anticipation of the leadership team needing to change direction or otherwise look at the organization with fresh eyes, use a shared leadership development experience—often with an opportunity for the new team to work on a significant business issue—as a bonding and level-setting experience. It also helps to push the organization forward with a quick win. New relationships must form with the new leader and among the existing leaders for the organization to work well together.

With the pending retirements of Baby Boomers, more organizations must prepare for new leadership. Even if considering internal candidates, it is wise to adopt a comprehensive approach so that the best possible candidate may be selected and succeed. If not, don’t be surprised to find you and your colleagues stuck in deep snow and growing very, very hungry.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Supporting Patient Outcomes with Leadership Development

October 2nd, 2015 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Development

Capture1No one questions the challenges the healthcare industry faces. Healthcare providers are going through significant change, and they’re trying to address it while still offering patients a quality experience. This requires them to think strategically, break down silos, and help leaders develop competencies needed to guide the organization through an ever-shifting environment.

Both the May and June issues of TD magazine cover the healthcare industry and how it’s addressing these challenges through talent initiatives. Alan Shoebridge, senior director of marketing operations for Providence Health and Services, writes about the “cohesion, collaboration and communication” required within healthcare organizations. He describes this as a process, one that is successful only if leaders are willing to establish partnerships, build two-way dialogue, establish allies across teams, and act on what they have learned together. Kenneth Cohn, CEO of Healthcare Collaboration, has a similar focus, suggesting methods to better engage physicians in new initiatives and organizational changes. He suggests hospital leaders focus on relationship building, including physicians on leadership teams, establishing a clear plan, allowing time for adaptation, and determining measurement/analysis methods, in order to engage physicians in change initiatives.

FlashPoint recently attended the annual conference of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA), and our conversations with attendees took a similar path. Our discussions centered on finding ways to develop leaders and how important it is to get executives, including physicians, onboard with these efforts. Healthcare’s HR professionals realize the value of investing in leaders and know that engaging both the administrative team and the care providers in this process is critical.

As we spoke with conference attendees, we shared ideas for building successful leadership development initiatives for healthcare organizations, with a focus on involving a broad group of stakeholders. The following are some components/considerations we recommend:

  • Establish a design team. The team is best when it is cross-functional and includes both administrative and direct care staff. This allows for multiple stakeholders to have a say in what the needs are, while creating communication streams and opportunities for buy-in from all parties.
  • Identify needs. Give great thought to how you need to develop your leaders. Consider the leadership competencies you need for the future and identify gaps, keeping in mind the ever-evolving nature of the healthcare industry. You can collect broader input on needs by conducting surveys and focus groups. Both methods ensure a larger pool of employees are engaged in the process.
  • Design a framework/roadmap. The purpose of the framework/roadmap is to help you create a plan for developing the skills your leaders need in order to achieve outcomes. The design team is typically involved in outlining audiences, content, delivery methods, course procession/timelines, and more.
  • Build the content. Include pre-training activities to prepare the participants and their managers, and incorporate post-training activities to drive positive behavior change. The follow-up activities are critical to success as they allow participants to reflect on what they’ve learned, practice applying concepts to their work environment, share their experiences with others, and create action plans.
  • Evaluate and review: Spend time thinking about how you’re going to measure success and then evaluate the program according to those metrics. Get feedback from participants, their managers, senior leaders, and others involved. It’s critical that the design team use this evaluation and feedback to consider improvements and make adjustments to better support patient outcomes.
  • Integrate. A final step in creating a successful leadership development program is to integrate it with your other talent management processes. As you build your leaders’ competencies, how does it affect your recruiting efforts? How do you include these new skills in the performance review process? Can you incorporate mentoring to further develop high potentials? It’s important to consider these and similar questions.

While the healthcare industry faces considerable change, this offers excellent opportunity to grow leaders’ skills and create high-performing teams. Establishing a well-planned strategy to develop leaders—one that includes multiple voices in the design, delivery, and evaluation—can ultimately create a strong organization that is able to provide excellent patient care within a quality work environment.

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountabilit

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Talent Management Professionals and the Battle to Survive (and Thrive)

September 24th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Talent Management

Action TeamOrganizations today face significant challenge: How do they navigate the waters of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (that is, survive) while meeting the needs of people, creating strong economic return, and promoting growth (in other words, thrive)?

While figuring out the answer to this challenge falls on many people within the organization, those of us in talent management play an essential role. Because much of our organization’s success depends on our people, we talent management professionals must be ready to assist with addressing complex change, setting strategy, and aligning talent in order to achieve objectives.

To aid in developing our people and creating a sustainable organizational culture, those of us in the talent management field must offer the following:

  • Integral perspective and approach. As talent management professionals, we must think and work integrally, understanding and influencing the organization by offering broad insight. Rather than focusing on just individuals or just culture or just systems, we must bring it all together, offering a deep, wide, and inclusive understanding our organization and its many components. People and companies are complex. We must have equal complexity of mind.
  • Deep and wide knowledge and skill in developing leadership at all levels. Strong organizational leadership is vital, and we talent management professionals have to make developing leaders a priority. This means managing the design, implementation, and measurement of front-edge, contemporary leader development initiatives from the front line to the C-suite. While we don’t have to do it all ourselves, we must be capable of building and managing an effective leadership development program that includes needs assessment, customized program design, facilitation, focused individualized coaching, team process consulting, and program measurement and evaluation.
  • Deep understanding of how to assist team members in developing greater mental complexity. Going far beyond basic skills training and horizontal development (i.e., “do better with more of the same”), a 21st-century talent management professional should also be focused on growing and developing individuals in their internal mental complexity, their ability to embrace multiple perspectives, and their capacity to understand and navigate in an uncertain business environment (vertical development). Anything less is rearranging the deck chairs.
  • Experience and capability in facilitating collaborative design of solutions. As we work with organizational leaders to address challenges and implement strategy, we must be sure to utilize cross-functional design teams to identify problems and create customized solutions our people will own. Design facilitation is a unique skill set that is not taught widely, and it can make all the difference in whether our change efforts pay off in the long run. It’s an area in which we as talent management professional must build competency.

The pressure on organizations today is immense, and talent management professionals play a great role in addressing and alleviating it. Just as our companies have to evolve and adapt, so do we. Those of us in the talent management field must stay on top of business trends, changes in our industry, and larger societal issues that affect how we work. We have to think critically and strategically, always looking ahead and predicting what our organizations must do to keep ahead of the competition. We must develop our people so they have the skills to do the same. This work is significant, and how well we perform has a huge impact on whether our organizations survive and thrive in the future.

Tracy Puett is consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

Image courtesy of chanpipat/

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Developing Your Talent Management Strategy Is Just Good Business

September 17th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management

Your busiID-100211204ness has a business strategy, a marketing strategy, and a financial strategy. You have goals and metrics around everything—everything, that is but talent. In fact, you haven’t considered a talent management strategy at all.

If this describes your organization, you’ve put yourself at a disadvantage. Talent is the engine for achieving growth and profitability goals. Talent management is all about maximizing employee value. You are losing money and losing out to the competition by not having a talent management strategy.

According to research by the Hackett Group, companies can see a 15 percent increase in earnings when they improve their talent management approach. And a Harvard Business School study says that over eleven years, organizations with a “performance management culture” increased their net income by 765 percent while those with performance management as a standalone process, not connected to training and development or the culture, increased their net income by only 1 percent over the same time period.

How could this happen? The first issue is that high performers—typically 5 percent of the workforce—provide 26 percent of your company’s output, and they also provide higher-quality job candidate referrals (birds of a feather . . . ).  If your company is not identifying top performers and developing them, you’re probably losing them at an unacceptable rate—leaving you the mediocre and poor performers.

These poor performers are a drain on your business. Each of your managers spends 13 percent of his or her time managing the poor performers and 14 percent of his or her time correcting errors caused by them. That is 27 percent of each manager’s business life or up to 34 days each year! The performance of employees affects the performance of managers—and vice versa. Managers drowning in rework do not have time to coach and develop their talented staff, much less produce quality work themselves.

How can you turn around this downward spiral? Start with your business strategy to develop your talent management strategy:

  1. Align division and department goals to support the business strategy, then align individual goals to support the division and department’s goals. Eliminate as much activity as possible that is not relevant to the business strategy. Stop gathering information, producing reports, and having meetings about things from the past that no longer positively impact the bottom line. With new strategies for new sales channels, new markets, and new products, there will be new information to gather, new reports to produce, and so on.
  2. Develop core competencies (skills and behaviors) that everyone in the organization must develop and implement in order to achieve the new strategic goals. Be very clear that the new direction requires new skills and behaviors. For example, competencies for every employee might include resilience in the face of change, integrity/accountability, inclusive behaviors, internal and external customer service, strategic thinking, and more.
  3. Develop competencies (skills and behaviors) for every level (executive, management, non-management, and some specialty positions such as call center employees or sales staff) and integrate competencies into all talent management processes. Include competency questions in behavioral interviews so that all new hires already have at least the core competencies and preferably a good foundation in more job-specific competencies. Reinforce core competencies during onboarding. Provide more job-specific training in job-specific competencies. Tie competencies to performance management. Because “how” work is completed can impact the bottom line long-term, many organizations give competencies fifty percent of the final weight of performance management scores.
  4. Increase the frequency of performance reviews and make them more meaningful. We have heard that Gen Xers want fast feedback, Millennials want frequent feedback, and Gen Zs (new graduates) want continual feedback. Regular feedback reinforces great performance and enables employees to make “course corrections” before matters get more serious. Regular weekly meetings are well worth the time—because otherwise managers spend too much time on rework. By the time quarterly (much less midyear and annual) reviews are scheduled, employees should be well down the right track to top performance.
  5. Celebrate and reward top performers. It doesn’t have to be expensive: a sincere “thank you” is what everyone wants most. But something fun is also appreciated. The worst thing that demotivates top performers is that their efforts go unrecognized. If no one is going to notice, why should they take those few extra minutes to review their work before sending it? Why should they take that last phone call that comes in when they already have their coat on? Why should they be willing to train new hires and up-and-comers?

Developing and implementing a talent management strategy is the only way to achieve strategic goals. In an organization with a talent management strategy, every employee and manager understands that the definition of “excellence” centers not just on what you do but how you do it. Excellence becomes an expectation because the strategic goals have been spelled out, the tools to achieve them have been provided, and appreciation will be shown for accomplishment. Expectations have a way of coming true.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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