Are You Stuck in a Talent Management Fog?
By Diane M. Gibson

Originally posted on LinkedIn in January 2016. I have revised some content for this blog post.
© DMG Consultancy, Ltd. 2020


Anyone who has driven in deep, dense fog understands the sensation of drastically reduced visibility.

Combined with ice and snow it’s a perfect formula for a slow, white-knuckle, potentially hazardous drive.

Talent management can sometimes feel like heavy fog. Without a well-thought-out strategy, one that encompasses talent acquisition, development, retention, and succession planning, the road ahead will be difficult. Moving forward in uncertain conditions can be risky. Pressure can trigger a “this candidate will do” reaction, a universally unwise and hazardous talent acquisition approach.

To avoid this impulse, process discipline is crucial to keep you on course – and management, HR, and executive support of the process is essential.

Creating a talent management strategy and supporting process will require an investment of time, attention and planning. There are software systems that streamline the process; many require a financial investment. Human capital management (HCM), human resource management systems (HRMS), and talent management systems offer similar platforms, services or processes.

Slow down, start simple, and use your headlights. Don’t aim for perfection – point your efforts in the direction of establishing a talent management strategy. Equip your organization to identify, acquire, recruit, develop, manage, motivate, measure, retain employees and commit to creating a new talent management and succession strategy this year.

Avoid these obstacles as you create or evaluate your talent management strategy. The fog will burn off.


Vulnerable Thinking
Unanticipated leadership losses in small companies are like glaring headlights from oncoming cars. You round the curve and suddenly you are distracted and blinded. You may be tempted to swerve or stop and settle for an “ok” candidate. DON’T.

Resist the tendency to move into a small company mentality. At this juncture, it is critical to review your talent management process and strategy. Don’t have them? Reduce the glare immediately.

Get clear on the critical competencies you need today and for the next twelve to eighteen months.

Industry change is inevitable and organizations large and small must learn to be swift and responsive. Assess goals, priorities, and challenges. Identify gaps and define talent acquisition initiatives that align with your organization strategy.

A talent management strategy plays a crucial role in building a high-performance organization.

Reduced Visibility
You have invested time, resources and dollars to grow and distinguish your company. Solid foundational business and marketing disciplines are in place and customers recognize your company brand. Is your employer brand visible?

Are you positioned as an employer of choice? Are you the place to work? Companies with strong employer brands (think, Nike, Google, Netflix) also have distinctive customer brands. You don’t
have to be a Fortune 500 company to stand out, but your employer brand should. A strong employer brand gives your recruiting efforts a solid chance of attracting the caliber of talent you
want. Employees and candidates, current and former are sharing positive reviews. The company is well known for contributing to community events and the community reciprocates. Toot your
horn so employees, customers, community and industry hear noteworthy news. Know when to use fog lights to illuminate your employer brand; you want top talent to see you – especially in uncertain times.

If you want to attract top talent, employer brand value must be made crystal clear.


Ignoring Conditions
Identifying top talent is a subjective process and methodologies vary greatly. If your talent review team is in a trance, your evaluation process could be the source.

Evaluating talent takes time, discipline and data. It requires due diligence and clear-headed decision making. When you can’t see the horizon, use the white line of your process as your guide to ensure your talent evaluation remains on the right side of the road. Gather accurate data, analyze skills, assess knowledge, motivations and interests. Consider what differentiates top
performers, understand the individual and their strengths. Link talent management to business strategy and apply sustainable methods that support regular employee development. Gage business needs to yield the best result and reduce risk.

Regular review of talent can identify the right talent, for the right place, at the right time.

Flex, Listen and Adapt
Look at the broad range of generations, opinions, and expertise that make up today’s lively and multi-talented workforce. How are you expanding the capabilities of your most valuable asset, your employees? A carefully mapped out employee development strategy can turn good employees into great managers and leaders.

In these times, companies must flex and adapt if they are to remain competitive. That means teams must do the same. Investing in employee development (improve, develop, enhance existing
skills or learn new skills) is one way to help teams adapt and flex. To surpass the competition, empower employees, promote good decision making and engage in problem solving conversations. Ask employees what they need to reach their full potential. Ask about their goals,
motivations, and aspirations. Then listen. You will hear a lot. Like, appreciation for being coached vs. managed, clear communication, trust, maximizing people performance, recognition of employee accomplishments, and regular check-ins.

When vision is obscured by the fog, sometimes you have to roll down the window to hear what’s going on outside. Conversations with all talent must be a high priority among leadership.

Leaders are responsible for developing talent in their organizations.


Distorted Vision
“Why should we develop and invest in top talent? They will leave for greener pastures and there goes our investment of time and money.” The fog is thick. If this barrier is present in your organization, stop. It has distorted your vision.

It’s true. High performers are more susceptible to change, especially if that change affects their job satisfaction. If you want to attract and retain top performers, start at the beginning of the recruitment cycle; begin with understanding the individual and their personality.

Employers are using more creative approaches to gain a competitive edge in the war for talent.

Employee turnover is expensive – about 20% of an employee’s salary. The ROI of designing personalized employee development programs that support and motivate show up in company
performance, customer satisfaction and employee retention numbers. From canines in the office, to well-stocked kitchens, and play areas, it’s clear that a healthy work environment and work/life balance matters. Treating people like trusted partners, open and honest communication, a culture of ownership and recognition and reward for good work all register as important. So, does having fun. In fact, cultivating a company culture that will attract top talent is a best practice utilized by the top 10% of U.S. companies.

Talent management is more than recruiting top talent; you better have a creative retention plan too.

An organization’s commitment to developing managers is equally important as developing employees. As Roger Herman, the Father of Employee Retention is quoted “People don’t quit their
jobs, they quit their managers.” According to Mr. Herman, 75% of people who willingly quit their jobs don’t quit their positions, but their bosses. There is no denying the research. Developing people is a good start, but there is more.

Warren Buffett – whom we all know as the most successful investor in the world – has a simple, straightforward, and successful approach to retaining talent.

I am paraphrasing, (1) Communicate pride and confidence in your people; show people you value them, and do so in meaningful ways, (2) Model civility and respect for others; always give credit where credit is due and (3) Be approachable and open; listen, be absolutely honest, and promote
open communication.

To be a leader people want to work with – trust, recognition, honest communication are essentials.


Disregard for Planning and Preparation
The weather forecast is like a succession plan; there are no guarantees and you can count on continual change. Sensible and well-thought-out plans can contribute to a safer journey.

Planning, preparation, and communication are essential for a generational change or transfer of leadership. To ensure organizational continuity, begin succession conversations early to allow successors plenty of time to consider, plan and prepare for a new role. For those identified as high
potentials, a succession plan progress review marks an opportunity to examine their development and readiness. Strategic succession planning is a long-term approach, not a one-time event. It’s bout two-way conversations, developing leaders and preparing the organization for the inevitable changes to come.

Make succession planning and development a regular thought – not an afterthought.

No Emergency Back-Up
Hazardous driving conditions can cause delays, detours and demand adjustment. Having an alternative route or back-up plan is a very good idea. More than 90% of adult Americans have a readily available back-up in case of an emergency – their cell phone.

Do you have a business back-up in the form of a business and talent succession plan? Most recent surveys estimate that family businesses comprise 80 – 90% of all business enterprises in the U.S. They contribute more than 60% of the nation’s GDP and nearly 78% of all jobs.
Nevertheless, family business failures can be traced to one factor: lack of business succession planning.

A PWC 2019 US Family Business Survey revealed 58% of companies have succession plans, however most are informal. Business interruptions can be swift and devastating as we are seeing with Covid-19 (coronavirus). Moving forward in uncertain business and economic conditions can be risky. To ensure leadership continuity, your succession strategy is critical. A business back-up plan is essential. Ensure it is well-documented and familiar to those that need to know, well- understood by those that need to step in and lead, and well-communicated to everyone in your organization. Now is the time to integrate succession planning into strategy meetings and financial reviews.

Succession planning is key in mitigating risk, maintaining business continuity and carrying out the company mission.

The war for talent is fierce. Navigating in uncertain conditions is difficult. Upheaval can be chaotic.

Despite the myriad business interruptions that conspire to keep you from creating a solid talent management and succession strategy – you must.

Your main line of defense against competitors in the war for talent is to acquire, align, develop, motivate and retain every human asset you have.