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Building Talent is a Leader’s Responsibility

The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School publishes straightforward and practical research articles across a broad spectrum of management topics.  In their latest, entitled Talent Builders: Lead the Way in Developing Your People, the three authors describe why ‘developing talent is a long-term investment that must be executed by line leaders in an organization.’

Corporations often talk about developing leadership, create programs to support this objective, and try all sorts of machinations to find the right brew.  I felt the UNC article would give us all a head start on what is really and truly required.

The authors state that: “Even if a company’s practices are robust and up to date, talent management will fail without serious commitment and execution from line leaders.  We have found that there are eleven critical actions that all talent builders must take to ensure the development of their people.  Most of these actions are not dependent upon anyone but the leader him or herself.”  Leaders get paid to develop more leaders.

Here is a summary of their findings:

Win Today and in the Future — don’t just consider the talent needs of the current environment; think to the future in all your HR, development and hiring policies and practices.  Ask the big question:  “Am I recruiting and developing against tomorrow’s standards?”

Drive and Expect World-Class Performance at All Levels — just like a manufacturing process, you must seek constant improvement and be a top performer.  As a leader your goal is to not be satisfied with status quo performance; rather, you must accept nothing less than a person’s best performance, which also means exhibiting that yourself.

Become Students of How to Build Better Leaders, Faster — leaders who build talent are always learning themselves, either from their own behaviors or that of others.  Learning for them is an active process and a life-long practice.  Based on what they learn, they’ll change their behaviors and let others know.

Ensure that Talent Is on the Agenda — leadership and identifying leaders is always on their agendas, and they expect talent management to be vigilantly managed by their subordinates, to the point of it being part of an individual’s personal objectives.  They ask tough questions like ‘are you producing leaders better than yourselves?’

Continually Assess and Develop Their Team to Ensure World-Class Talent  — by constantly keeping track of the highest performers, they know the ‘personal inventory’ that can ascend in the organization and they know where to direct the financial rewards.  “Talent builders can articulate the strengths and development needs of their direct reports in an insightful and multi-layered manner in clear language, reflecting a deep knowledge of the individual.”

Continually Recruit and Export Internal Talent  — top talent managers not only recruit the best talent, they ensure they get the experiences to advance their careers (and test them) and receive mentoring of the highest caliber.

Continually Recruit External Talent — “Talent builders meet with external recruiters to better understand what the ‘gold standard’ is for talent in their space and to ensure that their ‘calibration of talent’ is world class. They continually recruit external talent even when they have no current openings and identify source of talent from sources outside their industry who bring a ‘different and fresh perspective into their mix of talent.’

Accelerate the Development of Talent  — these leaders reach down into the organization to locate talent that can be accelerated and who might otherwise move to other companies.  Their assessments lead to a portfolio of knowledge about the human resources on which the company depends today and into the future.

Create a Global Mindset in Their Organization — “They require development plans for everyone in their organization but pay special attention to those of leaders from different country cultures.  Being open with everyone about the rewards for talent embeds leadership identification practices into the organization on a worldwide basis.”

Stay connected with “Regrettable Losses” — losing great talent is unavoidable.  These leaders, however, ‘find a way to stay connected to those people.  They reach out at least a couple times a year to high potentials who have left the organization to see how they are doing, inquire if they want to come back, and have them identify other great talent who may want to join the organization.’

Require Their Directs to Do the Same — whatever the leader does, his or her direct reports are expected to do the same.  To fully manage talent takes an organization, not just a single person.

Managers espouse the saying that people are the company’s most valuable assets.  If so, then they need to make up for  a large deficit, as people are normally seen as replaceable commodities.  The authors note that “Any leader who wants to grow a business globally must apply these approaches or have little hope of truly building an effective talent pipeline.  Becoming a talent builder takes energy and time but the payoff for yourself and the organization is well worth the investment.”  It also means placing constant attention on leadership development, the right control processes, and reminders about why people are so important, which shouldn’t be difficult at all.