Talent Management: The People Value Chain

Bob Drovdlic

People are a fundamental resource for any enterprise. Unless top leadership can harness this asset, an organization risks being eclipsed in the so-called war for talent. Executive leadership must be strategic about talent because the most important levers for extending competitive advantage are all related to people.

The concept of the "value chain," introduced by Michael Porter in 1985, can be applied to talent in the form of the following "people value chain": talent attraction, targeted recruiting, high-accuracy hiring, proactive "on-boarding," talent identification, performance enhancement, career acceleration and succession management. Leadership that really "gets it" takes a strategic, long-term, patient and disciplined approach to creating and maximizing the people value chain.

Attracting and Hiring the Right Talent

Finding and identifying the "best-fit people" and placing them in the "best-fit roles" is basic and intuitive, but it is far from simplistic. There are only two tactics that will deliver on that score: one, having a strategically grounded "culture brand" for attracting and recruiting the best fits; and two, being able to carry out high-accuracy hiring.

The foundation of a strategically grounded culture brand requires crystal clarity about the organization’s reason for being (mission), its idealized future state (vision) and its fundamental cultural principles (core values). With those in hand, the enterprise can craft a compelling call to action (a strategy map and blueprint for execution).

High-accuracy hiring involves knowing how to precisely screen in and screen out, knowing which tools to use to maximize the probabilities that you are accurately identifying a best fit as a best fit and knowing how to standardize the selection process and replicate it throughout the organization.

First, analyze your major job categories and identify their crucial competencies. There is a universe of about 40 competencies, various subsets of which can pinpoint the requirements for efficacy in most work roles. Second, build a set of tools that can measure the desired traits and capabilities for a given candidate. These include a competency model, a behaviorally-based interview protocol and guide, a personality test that can measure "softer" indicators and an evaluation matrix that can be used by all members of the hiring team to coordinate and synchronize the assessment process. Third, methodically prepare hiring teams to gauge the answers to three questions about every candidate:

  • Can he/she do this job? (Education, experience and acquired skill sets)
  • Will he/she do this job? (Vocational interests, motivation, work ethic and drive)
  • Will he/she fit here? (Values, sociability, independence, team orientation and leadership/followership styles)

Proactive Onboarding

It is a leap of logic to assume that high-accuracy hiring will protect against misalignment between the new hire and the organization’s culture, its people and all their customs. Failing to consider all the possible hazards that can threaten even the most able new executive’s tenure is a glaring oversight that leads to shortened tenures.

Key objectives of onboarding coaching include aligning the executive with the corporate culture, developing the areas that bear closely on job success, facilitating positive communication and ensuring positive relationships with his or her team and other stakeholders. The onboarding process in a nutshell:

  1. The consultant and new hire evaluate the corporate culture of the organization, interviewing key personnel and examining the strategic documents and various materials that highlight the nature of the organization’s people practices.
  2. The consultant assesses the onboarding candidate. The candidate responds to assessment questionnaires related to emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) abilities and leadership behavior and participates in an in-depth interview.
  3. With these two assessments, cultural and individual, the core of the onboarding process can begin. The candidate goes through an in-depth debriefing with the coach to:
  • Identify blind spots, counterproductive tendencies, key strengths and potential vulnerabilities in certain situations common to the new environment
  • Create a roadmap for the candidate’s success
  • Monitor performance during the first year; look for and address disconnectsAdd new leadership competencies to the candidate’s repertoire

The new hire and coach are partners in developing strategies to integrate the executive into his or her new role, culture and company. Together, they create an early warning system for identifying emerging problems and initiate the steps necessary to take the executive’s skill sets to the next level. The process is not very different from the typical general executive coaching engagement. It simply has a more specific focus.

Identify and Develop Your Existing Talent

Your mission, vision, core values and "strategy execution blueprint" will guide your talent identification and development system. Once you understand how they translate into cultural, leadership and talent management requirements, you can make the case for talent management throughout the organization, align all levels of management with the requirements and hold them accountable for delivering. That delivery depends on the accurate use of a powerful weapon: a leadership competency model that captures the essence of your mission, strategic imperatives and talent requirements. Acting as a gyroscope, it describes and quantifies the management and executive profiles you will need in high-value roles in the future.

Simultaneously, accelerate your high potentials’ development. Cleverly and resourcefully exploit the learning value of stretch assignments, along with other development modalities, such as mentoring, executive coaching and action learning.

Keep Them in the Pipeline

Any talent management approach must synchronize with the organization’s strategy. Reverse-engineer your succession management to the organization’s human resources strategy, which, in turn, is reverse-engineered to the overall business strategy. Then, turn the organizational culture into a meritocracy where managers are held accountable, recognized and promoted for being successful talent scouts and developers. Whether your organization seeks leaders from within or without, it is always necessary to build them. The reason is leaders, for the most part, are not born. They are made.

The Challenge

Successful companies know it’s not necessarily core business processes that give them an edge anymore. Today’s competitive landscape comes down to management and leadership expertise at all points along the people value chain.

First published on Human Resources IQ.