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The Heart of Talent Management: Skills and SuccessFactors

I’m a huge fan of developing the discipline of Talent Management. I’m not talking about a squishy, feel-good, platitude that never develops into real action. I’m describing a careful and disciplined approach to strategically managing the talent needs of an organization. Given my interest in the topic, it’s natural that I’m excited to be helping a life sciences client launch a Succession Planning and Career Development project using SuccessFactors. Succession Planning and Career Development are two key pieces of the Talent Management puzzle. In a nutshell, Succession Planning looks at the organization and its talent depth from the top down.

Career Development looks at employees and their potential career paths from the bottom up. Imagine that within a 3,000 person organization we have a very high performing sales manager, Lisa. The impact of losing Lisa, and others like her, to our competition would be substantial. To actively manage Lisa’s career, we seek to provide a healthy career path for her. So, we engage in Career Development activities to find new and exciting roles for Lisa. But this creates a bit of a problem: we can’t afford to promote Lisa without replacing her with someone who is capable of filling her position.

Since we’re serious about growing our own talent, we prefer to promote from within, where possible, and that brings us to Succession Planning. Using Succession Planning, we learn who in the organization is the most qualified for Lisa’s sales manager role. This search leads us to Mark, a rising star sales rep. With Lisa’s successor clearly in mind, we can now promote Lisa to the next step in her career. In most organizations, it’s impossible to know everyone. So to effectively carry out succession planning and ultimately career development, organizations must have the system capabilities to search across all areas of the company to find the person that best fits a given role. The analysis should not be subjective in nature, but instead based on quantitative measurements of the employee’s abilities.

The only way to make all of this possible is to effectively define and employ the old-fashioned notion of skills. What skills do we need and/or desire? What skills are required for us to compete in the market? At a lower level, what skills are needed to successfully perform each job? And, of great importance, what skills do our employees have? Going back to our example, if we know the skills required by Lisa’s current position, and we’ve been diligent about assessing the skills of our employees, we can now make intelligent decisions about who is ready for the next challenge. Not only can we compare their current skills to the skills required at the next level, but we can take into account many other talent-related factors. We can evaluate their readiness for promotion.

We can evaluate past performance appraisals. We can consider their personal goals and priorities. As we consider all of these factors, we are identifying career paths within the organization that are uniquely tailored to the individual. If we find that Mark lacks a few key skills to be fully equipped for Lisa’s role, we can leverage our learning management system (LMS) to help supplement his skills. After these courses are completed, Mark’s skills profile will update, and he will be more aligned to the requirements of his new role. While Talent Management has the potential to be vague and poorly defined, we have the ability to keep it objective and action oriented. A sharp focus on skills helps to effectively steer career development and succession planning decisions. The two questions that ultimately need to be continuously asked and answered are: What skills do we need and what skills do we have?  The delta will set the path.

Tags: Organizational Health