If your organization is embarking on a talent management initiative of any size or scope with an objective of ensuring a robust pipeline of high potential leaders, one of the most critical questions to ask is: Are we an organization which understands how to, and is good at, providing meaningful feedback?
I have been involved with many organizations over the past 20 years that have committed to developing their talent in alignment with future strategies, and, we have found that those firms which deliberately foster an ongoing culture of development and feedback have a smoother ride through this journey. During the planning phases of these initiatives organizations often get caught up in the criteria, assessment, and structure of the succession planning process and, may not shine a light on the importance of the conversations which need to occur throughout the entire process. As a result, they lessen the impact these conversations have on the success of achieving a strong pipeline of leaders who can achieve current and future strategies.
“a focus on providing meaningful feedback became a priority”
One organization I worked with had forecast 35% of their management would be retiring over the next several years. Their objectives for initiating talent management were to identify internal individuals who had the potential and desire for future opportunities, and gain an understanding of any risks for skill and leadership gaps.
This organization’s design for talent management was planned against these steps: 1) strategic plan in place, 2) individual assessments, 3) conversations with potential employees regarding desire, readiness and development, and 4) development planning, including leadership development. A process was structured to work with managers to educate and assist them throughout. It was during this phase the CEO was approached by several managers voicing their resistance toward the process. What became apparent was that the root of their discomfort was based on their fear of having conversations with employees, and, realizing they had never previously engaged in any practice of feedback around performance, career or development planning. As a result, the original plan for talent management shifted, and a focus on providing meaningful feedback became a priority.
Ideally, this organization would have identified that the ability to provide feedback was a skill gap prior to the planning phase. Then coaching or development could have been implemented for management and employees as part of the process. Meaningful conversations often result in higher retention as employees understand the value they bring to the organization and what development opportunities are available. During these conversations, there are often valuable relationships created between management, team and employees which foster higher levels of conversations and honest feedback, and, joint conversations on development planning.
In my experience with The Refinery, I have found that when talent management is an ongoing integrated strategy where honest, transparent and meaningful feedback and conversations occur, the succession planning process is successfully integrated as part of the business process. When we achieve this level there is the strong probability talent management will shift from being a complex once a year process to a being a norm within the organizational culture ensuring the leadership pipeline is a continuous focus.