Simplifying Talent Management

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The authors of One Page Talent Management propose a streamlined way to do a number of activities in the talent management space: performance management, 360-degree feedback, talent reviews and succession planning, engagement and engagement surveys, and competencies. For each area, they review what is know to be effective practice (which they call “the science”), propose simplified ways to achieve success compared to what is commonly done in organizations, and rebut expected objections to their approach.

While some suggestions do ring true for me compared to the cumbersome processes I have experienced with some of my employers, other approaches they suggest do not quite jive with what I see as effective from my experience. My biggest criticism of the book is the lack of what I would consider credible references to back up their assertions of what “the science” says. Not that they don’t cite credible academic authors and studies by well-known consulting firms… it’s just that they don’t always make a case for dismissing some of the current practices. Of course, I say that in general, and I am not going to present an argument for all the specific places in the book where I raised my highbrows. And to be fair to the authors, the book is an interesting read and its length and clear organization make it an interesting overview of a number of current practices in talent management.

Each chapter features a review of current thinking (“the science”), suggestions for lighter processes (eliminating complexity, adding value), suggestions for creating transparency and accountability, arguments to overcome objections to their suggested approaches, a series of questions to assess whether your organizations’ practices pass muster, and case study materials. Given the length of the book (less than 200 pages), it is very much crisp and straight to the point.

I particularly like the final section of each chapter, where a number of questions help the readers assess how these practices are used their own work environment. For example, the following questions pertain to the 360-degree processes:

  • Is your 360 process customized to the behaviors that are most important for your organization’s success?
  • Does it take more than ten minutes to complete?
  • Are the results easily understandable by the average manager?
  • After reading the 360 report, does the manager specifically know both which behaviors to change and how to change them?

From previous use of different 360 tools, my experience is that they are often very comprehensive (they include many behaviors with no sense of what matters most), they take a long time to complete (often about one hour), the results are difficult to interpret, and managers are quite baffled by what to do next. Certainly, a simplified data collection tool, a more straightforward report and built-in guidance on what to improve sound like an improved approach.

Reference

Effron, Marc and Miriam Ort. One Page Talent Management: Eliminating Complexity, Adding Value. Harvard Business Press: Boston, MA, 2010.

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