by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
WHEN I WAS WORKING at my first ‘real’ job my manager talked a lot about talent acquisition. I had very little insight into what that meant back then, but often wondered why there was such a sense of competition among managers when there were vacancies to fill in the organization. Thirty-plus years later I no longer wonder, because I know that the hiring and firing process can be a precarious walk across a tightrope, not a synchronized ballet. I think this is what attracted me to this book, Talent Mindset: The Business Owner’s Guide to Building Bench Strength by Stacy Feiner. If you’re a business owner, or if you are a leader with the responsibility for hiring talented individuals to work for you, this book is for you. Stacy’s book is about what it means to get into the talent mindset and really own it; she calls it Strategic Talent Management and refers to Bench Strength. .
Strategic Talent Management [STM] gives you agility to recruit, train, and develop top talent. When you make Strategic Talent Management a priority and build Bench Strength you will also be developing a high-performing team. STM is a system, but doesn’t require a specific sequence. There are nuggets of wisdom and practical application in every chapter so as you read, you can jump around focusing on the sections that speaks to the situation you want to tackle at that time. Think of this book as a field guide to overcoming barriers where you are right now, be it Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, or Talent Deployment. Which of those scenarios are your ‘pain points’? Start there.
Strategic Talent Management is your process – you own it. Once you implement STM, you will be hiring people who contribute their talents to your organization and as they develop and improve in competencies, they become your competitive edge.
Strategic Talent Management is as customized as your corporate vision. You and anyone involved in the process need to agree on it, commit to it, and invest in it – just as solidly as your corporate vision. Start with a reality check, an assessment of where you are in terms of challenges you’re facing. As Feiner points out, talent management starts with you, the leader. This book is especially representative of the business owner or hiring manager who shoulders most of the burden of hiring, training, and deploying employees.
Before trying to roll out Strategic Talent Management on a broad scale, first gain self-awareness because this is where you gauge your capacity to impact and influence others. Self-awareness works to your advantage because it tests your ability to steer the organization through transitions as you adopt new ways of recruiting, developing and deploying top talent. Self-awareness also helps build a leadership mindset which is imperative to launching the Strategic Talent Management program. This will be deployed as a cooperative effort and can only be sustained as a cooperative effort.
Strategic Talent Management has an identifiable structure. Although you can start at any point of the process, the structure is like having a blueprint to refer back to. Stacy acknowledges that there may be parts of the structure already in place at your organization, so as I describe what she produced in the book you can peer into each of the segments of the structure to see where you might benefit from using this book as your field guide to new hiring processes and retainment appeal.
“Strategic Talent Management provides the infrastructure that brides your strategy to our culture. The system builds bench strength, giving your business the agility to face transitions and achieve goals.” This is how the framework is organized. Strategy and Culture, Corridors, and Centers of Excellence. This book review can’t cover nearly enough of the book to bring you to full understanding of the process, its outcomes, and the values your organization will realize from implementing STM.
Strategy and culture are the bookends of STM, intrinsically connecting your people to drivers for success. Corridors are Acquisition, Development, Deployment – each having specific Centers of Excellence which are activities embedded within each Corridor. Where will your organization find the most profound benefit of adopting Strategic Talent Management? Which of these corridors represent things you are already doing right? Where are the deficiencies now that are impeding your ability to hire top talent?
Recruiting: You need a hiring committee, coming to consensus on hiring criteria, screening applicants, and filling the company pipeline with qualified candidates. Think about it. Recruiting is the foundation of all that follows. Poor recruiting can never result in quality onboarding or anything that comes after. When you recruit – scout for top players. Make sure everyone agrees on that.
Selecting Talent: Use the selection process to vet your candidates. Evaluate function, attitude, potential, values, and ‘fit’ at this stage. Top candidates have an opportunity to decide on your company just as you are deciding on them. Think of this as due diligence for talent seeking. Keep the hiring committee engaged and follow the process. Remember the idea is to change your hiring process to get results superior to those of the past.
Onboarding – day one energy: The first few days of an employee’s life are like the bright, shiny objects of something fresh and new. Adopting Strategic Talent Management means your onboarding process won’t be watered down to the bare essentials of what your valued new employee needs to know to be productive from day one. Stacy Feiner’s book is an onboarding mecca for how to assure new employees are prepared to work effectively from the initial interview – the groundwork for success is laid even before they say yes to your offer of employment.
Training: Training is far more than learning the ropes. Training is a powerful connector that involves interactive, progressive learning. While training still requires that important information be delivered, today it goes well beyond the pre-fabricated, off the shelf modules of the past.
Performance Management: Do not overlook this chapter as it is filled with so much key information for performance evaluations, regardless of your current method. The people who work for you ultimately drive your organization’s growth and profitability. Most managers are not comfortable talking about performance, but each manager owns part of the process as an evaluator. Feiner offers mission critical advice and guidance to show managers how to have quality conversations and provide the feedback that’s imperative if your organization is going to increase Bench Strength evidenced in high-performance.
Leadership Development: Stacy Feiner calls this “Building Layers of Talent” and she asks right up front “Who is in the talent pipeline at your company?” One major reason to get your performance management practices right is because it dovetails with having individuals in your pipeline being brought through the experiences to fill leadership roles as soon as they become available. Leadership development should provide dynamic opportunities for leaders to test and challenge themselves. Top performers should be growing with your business. Three attributes to look for in people are maturity, ambition, and curiosity.
Talent Inventory: Organizations need to have a deep bench of talented people lined up to fulfill key positions. From the first step, the recruiting process, your goal needs to be aligning individuals with jobs they were made to do, positioned in the right places, and as a result are enthusiastic, productive and generating revenue. That is your winning formula. Stacy doesn’t just suggest that this become reality, she walks you through how to take inventory, why it’s valuable, and provides a tool for calibrating talent – which is done as a team. Talent inventories introduce dialog about people that are fundamental to building Bench Strength.
Succession: What is the succession plan? Are you doing it at all? As Feiner puts it, succession is not about planning the end, which is so obviously an uncomfortable topic. Replace that idea with succession being the beginning of the beginning. Succession isn’t a replacement plan. Succession is really a development plan that assures individuals are given opportunities to work toward higher level positions in the company and that they are not impeded because they are valuable in their current roles. Succession planning is strategic planning.
Employee Engagement: Stacy says “Employee Engagement is the secret sauce of a company’s culture. It defines a business; it reels in talent and feeds Strategic Talent Management in a sense that recognizes Employee Engagement is a critical building block that starts way back at the very beginning, with recruitment.” This element within any organization is a complex system involving the individual, stakeholders and the community.
Launching Strategic Talent Management
Strategic Talent Management is a lifecycle, and leaders control the momentum. Start right where you are, at what Stacy calls your pain point, whether it be recruiting, training, development or succession. Some part of your organization will reap the benefits of just getting started. People are the company. There is something in this for them and there is something in it for the company. Implement Strategic Talent Management; it’s like pressing the reset button so your organization can thrive in the future.