Nearly two-thirds of business owners do not have a succession plan, according to an article by CNBC. There could be lots of reasons for this, but the big one that comes to mind is the laborious process of succession planning. This isn't to say that succession planning isn't important; it's just time-consuming.
The good news is identifying and developing future talent doesn't have to be a painstaking process. Organizations can get the same benefits by developing talent pools.
The advantages of talent pools
Talent pools are groups of employees who are being trained and developed to assume greater responsibilities within the organization. Often, but not always, they are the individuals who have been identified as high-performing and high-potential.
Talent pools allow organizations to develop employees in areas that align with company competencies and values instead of specific position skills. This addresses one of the biggest concerns with formal succession planning - telling an individual they're part of the plan. Organizations can communicate to a group that they're part of the future of the company instead of telling an individual they're the next chief marketing officer.
Organizations can also use talent pools with other performance management tools, like the 9-box grid, to create more expansive talent development strategies. Because it focuses on the individual, succession planning can be considered limited. Talent pools include a larger group of employees; therefore, the talent development conversation has a larger scope.
Talent pools provide the much-needed flexibility in emerging or developing industries. Some industries are moving so quickly they don't know what next year looks like, much less what their 5-year staffing strategy should include. That makes traditional succession planning efforts difficult, but talent pools are an ideal tool.
5 steps for developing a talent pool
Creating a talent pool takes some planning. Here are five steps to developing an organizational talent pool:
Review your organizational strategies. The goal here is to identify the competencies needed to make those strategies happen. In the future, strategies will change, but it's possible competencies will remain the same. One example is critical thinking skills; regardless of the strategy, critical thinking is necessary.
Assess the company's current talent to identify any skills gaps. This can be accomplished using a variety of techniques including performance reviews, assessments, multi-rater feedback and interviews. A combination of techniques could prove to be exceptionally valuable. The key consideration is consistency.
Develop a buy, build and borrow strategy for bridging the gap. Organizations do not have to create a talent pool for everything. They can "buy" or hire talent from the outside where skills are limited. If the organization has the resources, they can "build" talent from within through skills development. For niche skills, the company can "borrow" talent using contingent workers when necessary. It's about knowing where to focus resources.
Create modules or groups of activities that will help employees get the skills they need. Once the organization knows the skills they'll be helping employees develop, it's time to figure out how to make it happen. It could be through a combination of internal/external training as well as project-based learning. Three activities that have proven to be very effective include:
Management coaching - Good managers have valued relationships with their employees. They are positioned to deliver open, honest feedback that can help employees change behaviors and improve performance.
Peer-to-peer feedback- Organizations spend an incredible amount of time collaborating. Peer-to-peer interaction is how most employees spend their time. Training employees to deliver timely, specific feedback can make an impact.
Mentoring- Organizations can encourage mentoring relationships to cover topics that don't necessarily warrant a training program - like office politics and negotiation skills. Employees can benefit from the wisdom of experience.
5. Monitor progress and make regular adjustments. Like succession planning, talent pools need to be monitored. The organization should conduct regular talent assessments as well as monitor market conditions. Both internal and external factors can prompt a change in talent development strategy.
Talent pools offer flexibility to achieve talent goals
Organizations must think about the future. The talent wars aren't going away anytime soon. In some cases, hiring talent from the outside makes good business sense. But organizations aren't going to be able to find all the talent they need via external recruiting.
Talent pools allow companies to develop future talent from within. They also give businesses the flexibility to meet operational needs. There's still work involved but with a little planning, talent pools can help organizations meet their future talent needs.
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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down
Organizations make significant investments in efforts to hire the right candidates – the people who have the right experience and cultural fit. By carefully managing the performance and potential of these people over time, the organization can grow its leadership pipeline, keep a steady inventory of needed skills and competencies and remain nimble in the face of change (which we have plenty of all around us these day) – all of which can have serious impact on the bottom line. However, much of this pie-in-the-sky stuff relies on being able to locate and cultivate high-potential and high-performing talent across the board. Without an integrated succession management solution, recognizing and developing talent can be an ever-elusive process. The questions we are seeing asked today include: does the traditional top-down approach to succession management still make enough of a difference? Does managing succession for a slim strata of senior executives take full advantage of the kinds of talent data we now have at our fingertips? It doesn’t have to be so. Succession management can be an interactive process between senior leadership, managers and employees at all levels of the organization. And, if we trust them, we can actually let employees become active participants in their own career development. (Shudder.) Career Management (Succession Planning Flipped Upside Down) This "bottom-up" approach is gaining momentum because who better to tell us about employee career path preferences than employees themselves. Organizations actually have talent management and other HR systems in place that allow for collecting and analyzing a whole slew of data around: Career history Career preferences Mobility preferences Professional and special skills Education achieved Competency ratings Performance scores Goal achievement Training and certifications Etc. In short, pretty much everything we’d want to know to make well-informed succession planning and talent pooling decisions. For some, the leap is simply putting some power into the employee’s hands. The talent management system of 2011 is capable of displaying a clear internal career path for employees and then, on the basis of all that data bulleted out above, showing a "Readiness Gap" – what do you need to do to make the step to the next level? And if your talent management environment comes armed with a real Learning Management System, you can take it to the next level with a dynamically generated development plan that gets the employee on the right path to actually closing those gaps. Faster development, faster mobility. Organizations that seriously favor internal mobility don’t just make employees stick on pre-defined career paths – they can search for ANY job in the company and check their Readiness levels. I might be in accounting today, but what I really want to do is move to marketing. Giving employees the chance to explore various career avenues within the organization helps assure that "water finds its level" – that is, that the right people with the right skills and the right levels of motivation and engagement find the right job roles internally. Employee participation is key, but make no mistake – managers play an important role in this interactive process. They must be prepared to provide career coaching, identify development opportunities and recommend employees for job openings. The candid discussions require that employees have open access to information so they can best understand the criteria necessary to move to the next level. A Two-Way Street Employee-driven career management is just one tool. The more traditional top-down approach to succession management remains indispensable. But organizations that value talent mobility and the ability to be able to shift and mobilize talent resources quickly will find that attention to career pathing can be vital. For employees, of course, the impacts are immediate and include boosted levels of engagement, higher retention, increased productivity and more.
The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy
Building and maintaining a successful company hinges on having the right people to execute projects and drive results. People, we hear time and again, are your company's most valuable asset. But their success — and HR's ability to recruit, engage and retain them — depends on HR pros who are strategic decision-makers, armed with the proper tools to let them excel at their jobs. Modern HR professionals manage much more than payroll and benefits. But their technology tools, in many cases, haven't evolved past basic productivity software like email or Microsoft Word. HR simply can't be strategic with old-school tools that reduce people to statistics and give little insight into what the numbers mean. Emails and spreadsheets were not designed to deliver meaningful insights into people's performance, suggest when employees should be promoted or highlight skills gaps in a company. For that, HR needs a broader, more strategic set of talent management tools, which lets professionals manage every aspect of the workforce, from training and performance reviews to collaboration and succession planning. Yet, research shows that less than 25% of companies use a unified, holistic approach to their talent management. The Real Costs of "Doing Nothing" As a Talent Management Strategy The critical relationship between business strategy and HR strategy too often gets overlooked by senior leadership. While it may seem like the company is saving money by managing recruiting, training, performance and succession via manual and paper-based processes, in reality it’s costing your business more than you know. For example: Without a talent management strategy, a company with 2,000 employees is losing almost $2 million every year in preventable turnover alone. Businesses that don’t invest in learning suffer from decreased employee performance and engagement to such a degree that they can expect to realize less than half the median revenue per employee. That’s a direct impact on the business. In employee performance management, organizations without a focused strategy waste up to 34 days each year managing underperformers and realize lower net income. To learn more about the business impact of talent management and how to start building out your strategy, check out the eBook Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy is Costing You Money (And How to Fix It) and register for the March 19th webinar, Building the Business Case for Talent Management.
The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance
With the economy now on steadier ground, most organizations have returned to administering a merit budget to the pre-recession levels of 3 to 3.5%. In the years immediately following the economic downturn, many merit budgets were eliminated entirely or were reduced significantly and reserved for a select segment of the employee population. Pay for performance has become a necessity for many organizations that are expected to accomplish more with fewer resources. I often get asked: "How can I truly award my top performers with such a limited budget? Should I do so at the expense of my ’Meets Expectations’ performers? What if I need to retain my ’Meets Expectations’ performers and giving them 0% to 2% increase puts me at great risk for turnover? But if I don’t recognize my top performers, don’t I risk losing them...?" These are difficult questions to answer, however you can determine the best solution for your organization by considering the following: Are your employees paid at market pay levels? Is your organization’s performance management process mature? Does your organization have other compensation programs in place to reward top performers (e.g. variable pay)? Market Pay If turnover is a concern, and your organization needs to maintain ’bench strength’ in order to achieve its strategic objectives, your biggest priority should be to ensure that you are paying your employees at market pay levels. Why? Historically, as the labor market strengthens, organizations become vulnerable in terms of losing people. Hiring and onboarding replacement talent is not only costly to the organization, but can also cause dissension among existing employees since new hires may be getting paid more. Be sure to stay abreast of market pay levels and trends, and use the merit budget to correct disparities. Performance Management Process Organizations vary significantly in terms of the maturity of their performance management process. Closely examine your organization’s process and look for ways to improve it. If there is a perception that one management team is an ’easier grader’ than the others, the process is inherently flawed and any pay for performance program will not be viewed as credible and fair by employees. A good place to start is to get a calibration process in place and communicate broad guidelines on expected distribution ratings. Variable Pay Programs Variable pay programs (e.g. bonuses) have become increasingly more popular across all industries and career levels. These programs provide the opportunity for employees to share in the organization’s success while not adding to fixed payroll costs. Some plans have an individual performance component which can be a very effective means to recognize top performers. However, in order for this type of program to be successful, individual goals and targets must be well documented and communicated. Again, this is largely based on the maturity of the organization’s performance management process which takes time to evolve. What are the best steps to avoid wreaking havoc on your pay for performance process? First ensure your pay levels are keeping pace with the market Continue to evolve your performance programs with calibration among managers and a rigorous goal setting process Promote variable pay plans to reward high performers without adding to fixed pay roll costs It’s not always an easy journey but, in the end, it’s best to use a measured approach that is based on business needs and a realistic assessment of your current programs and processes.