What are you doing to develop talent in your organization? Studies indicate that fewer than half of American businesses have formal programs to identify and develop needed future talent.
Reviewing how your human capital is appreciating it as important as or more important than reviewing your quarterly financial reports. Are you giving this key resource the attention it deserves? If you are serving on a board of directors or elected body, are you asking for this kind of information to judge the health of your organization?
In coaching both corporate executives and government managers, I recommend the following best practices.
- Make it fun!
The truth of the matter is that some people don’t stretch and grow because taking on more responsibility seems like more headaches rather than more fun. Many executives live workaholic lives that only the addicted would relish.
I have seen extraordinarily talented people exit organizations or retire early because they didn’t feel that they could do the job and live a balanced life. What are you doing to show people that they can advance and have a life too? Unless you can make advancing more attractive, you’ll be pushing uphill to build your leadership ranks.
- Do periodic talent reviews.
Detail the important positions in your organization for today, next quarter, and one to three years ahead. How strong is your talent in those roles? To whom would you turn to fill retirements, unexpected illnesses, or departures? What skill levels do they have? What efforts are underway to prepare them?
- Encourage talent action plans.
Be clear about where and how people can advance and the skills they need to develop. Focus on their natural strengths and ways to build upon them. Have each employee take ownership for his or her development plan. Include specific resources or support to help them satisfy the business’ needs and their aspirations. Help employees find opportunities to apply new skills.
Be sure to follow up on progress and celebrate results.
- Tap a variety of resources.
Think strategically about which skills are distinctive to your business and which are shared across a number of organizations. For the shared skills, look for ways to help your people acquire them. What training programs or opportunities are available in your industry?
For distinctive skills, find people in your organization to share them with up and comers. Figure out how you can give people written information, verbal guidance, and hands-on examples to reinforce learning and successful application. Ask those who have just learned something to teach others. It helps them focus and demonstrate their success.
- Provide effective coaching.
While typical training programs provide “just-in-case” knowledge, coaching focuses on “just-in-time” support. More and more organizations are using outside professional coaches to help them establish programs with volunteer internal coaches. They have their best performers help their best prospects succeed.
Effective coaching requires the person receiving the coaching to accept responsibility for the choices that he or she makes. The coach is sharing insights and expertise, not telling the person what to do.
- Exchange talent.
Find opportunities for rising stars to work with people from other departments. Help them broaden their understanding of the business. Also, consider a formal talent exchange with another organization. It’s like a career sabbatical. And, we know from creativity studies that people who come from different perspectives or settings often bring fresh insights to solve important issues.
You don’t have to “blow up the boxes” in your organization to stimulate new thinking. You simply need to let people out of their boxes.