Do You Know Where Your Talent Is Hiding?

As your organization grows, it becomes harder for the executives to keep track of who works there, what exactly do they do, and more importantly, what they do well. In this blog post, OMNI Senior Consultant Roger Dusing, PhD, discusses a talent management process laid out by authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their book, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.” Image courtesy of Shutterstock

As your organization grows, it becomes harder for the executives to keep track of who works there, what exactly do they do, and more importantly, what they do well. In their book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done,” Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan lay out a straightforward process that can have a significant impact on the organization.

The concept is simple: each quarter, the president (or whatever you call her/him) gathers their direct reports, and each report presents a quick synopsis of their direct reports: who are they, what are they working on, what successes have they had, where have they struggled, and maybe most importantly, what is their logical next stop in the organization. Each executive can also bring up any rising stars in their organization who might not have reached the level of a direct report but shows significant potential. As each executive reports, someone keeps notes.

Next, each executive gathers their direct reports, and repeats the process one level down. This step-down process can be repeated as many times as necessary, depending on the size of the organization.

This process should help make all senior leaders aware of the organizational talent that is one step below them. This can help with succession planning, as well as providing the ability to select project leaders for special projects. Having this level of insight will help significantly to build cross-functional teams and assist the executives in case of a need to reorganize.

Not surprisingly though, there are some real challenges. The biggest one is getting all executives to be prepared, and to be honest. Some may be hesitant to tout their best employees, for fear that they will be reassigned to another part of the organization. Some may be hesitant to illustrate that they are doing an insufficient job of developing their staff. Others may just not want to be bothered – which is an indicator of their value to the organization all by itself.

To be most effective, this process should be facilitated by someone not on the team. This could be an outside consultant or the senior HR official. The facilitator needs objectivity to ensure that all members are reporting consistently, and that the data is collected and shared consistently. Ideally, this person should also be able to have a frank, honest, and private discussion with the president about their direct reports and to assist the president with their developmental needs. This is a very confidential conversation that should not be shared with others not in the room.

Some organizations may formalize these conversations with the use of the 9-box tool. This tool asks managers to rate their employees on both performance and potential (each on a 3-point scale), which ultimately allows the organization to categorize everyone into one of 9 boxes. While the 9-box is conceptually very simple, it is critical that each “rater” uses a consistent and very disciplined rating process so that ratings can be compared across the organization. Again, an external consultant might be needed to ensure the process is well organized and managed.

Using a disciplined, repetitive, and consistent process of open and honest conversations about performance and potential and be a very powerful activity.  It may take a few repetitions to get good at it, but once this process is integrated into the organizational culture, you can expect to see improved personal and organizational performance as talent is identified, tracked, developed, and utilized for its best and highest purpose for the organization.

Roger Dusing, PhD, is a Senior Consultant and the Higher Education Practice Leader at OMNI. He previously served as Chief Human Resource Officer at Park University for eleven years. With over 40 years of HR experience, including 30 years in C-suite level roles, he looks forward to reflecting his passion for higher education in his work to bring affordable, high-quality HR services to small- to medium-sized colleges and universities. 

Roger holds a PhD in Business Management, with a concentration in Human Resources from Northcentral University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University. He also authored the book “I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable About the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.”