Their faces turned a little green when they realized I was in earshot. “I'll talk up your candidate if you talk up mine,” and “Let's be sure to downplay their developmental opportunities so they end up in the right box (referring to the performance potential grid),” AND worst of all, “He's not perfect, but who is, and we've been friends a long time, and he's paid his dues,” is not what the HR Director (the role I was playing at the time) wants to hear before a talent review.
“Guys… (and yup, they were all guys)… You get why this is completely counter-productive right?”
We fixed that scene.
But the truth is, we all know these kinds of conversations are happening right outside the door of many talent review sessions, just beyond HR's earshot.
That's why when a client asks me to help with their talent review process, we always agree to these rules up front. Otherwise, it's just a pretty grid that many hope will be ignored. That doesn't advance the talent strategy of the organization and just leads to frustration.
Seven Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review
- Think forward. What skills does our future require?
This is particularly tricky for leaders doing a talent review for the first time. Human nature says “Pick me (or someone who looks and thinks like me).” But if you're really focused on a future succession plan, a long step back to consider the skills needed for the future is vital. Take a few minutes (having an objective third party can help) to really define the KSAs needed for your most strategic positions (and BTW, some of your most strategic positions may be highly skilled folks at the front line.)
- We speak the truth.
Yes, talent reviews are important for identifying successors, but the EVEN MORE important part is finding the gaps and working on ways to grow the team to address them. If “John” is AWESOME, but still needs work in critical thinking, for &%@#$(@3% sake tell us that, so we can help John and get him the training and experience he needs for success.
- We care about the business, and the human beings we are talking about.
We're not trying to derail careers, we are looking to be helpful. Take a deep look at what the business and the people within it need. Let's build a plan to leverage strengths and support development. Ask: EXACTLY how will we help people grow people into these roles?
- Every resource is a corporate resource.
When we identify someone as high-performance/high potential, we're all committed to developing them and looking out for the best opportunities for them and for the business. We're committed to letting go of “mine” and “yours” and working together to seek out lateral assignments (that may feel like cutting off our right arm) and promotions.
- The list we create will guide our staffing decisions.
This is perhaps the most vital. Building a map that no one has any intention of following is a big waste of times. If your team is not aligned on the decisions made in the session, take a pause and revisit the outcomes.
- How do we support and grow the hi-po individual contributors?
They're at the front-line, you need them, they may even be leading a small team, but they're not your next CTO. How do you re-recruit these A-players and help them build a successful career, here?
- BONUS: Take some time and talk about the other big rules you care about and want to agree to.
Linger here as needed. Go to go fast, to have a successful talent review.