Everyone wants to transform talent management in their organization, but it’s easier to fix today’s problems with a short term view. It’s easy to demonstrate that using best-practice Talent Management tools, processes and policies leads to positive outcomes for organizations–reaching goals and objectives and/or profit targets, doing great things, getting the right people in the right jobs doing the right things in the right way and managed by the right bosses, and building a culture and employer brand that attracts and keeps talent.
It’s the easiest path to convincing the C-Suite to endorse, fund and engage in talent management practices in the here and now, because it helps them now. They get more done with great talent. They get compensated for a job well done by having great people and great teams doing great work.
Sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, offering competitive pay and benefits, hiring and onboarding are all processes essential to “Talent Now”. It takes strategy, support. funding, headcount and collaboration.
Talent Now vs. Talent Next
Selling “Talent Next” is harder. You are building the talent bench for team leads, supervisors and managers for the next talent promotion cycle three to five years out. The ask is for support, funding, headcount, engagement and collaboration for which there is an uncertain reward at some time in the future. While some decision-makers will be in role for the payoff, others will not be due to retirement, termination or being recruited away. So, for terminally busy, short-funded and perhaps near-sighted executives, the ask is to sacrifice today for the near- or even longer-term future. The ask is to give Talent Management high priority in funding, headcount, office space, attention, engagement and collaboration for the sole motivation of doing the right thing for the near-term future of the organization. The ask is primarily for talent reviews and identification, training and development, and retention pay and benefits packages for selected key talent in critical roles.
Ensuring leadership bench strength is the hardest sell. You are asking for succession planning and specific leadership development, coaching programs, mentoring and special talent assignments. You are asking for more than is typically given. The ask is directed to people who will not be there when the results are produced! No current top manager will benefit immediately from giving up today’s money for tomorrow’s needs. They don’t get a bonus or incentivized for long term leadership development engagement. They have to give up scarce time today so that tomorrow is better. It’s like life insurance. When you pass on, others will benefit. But you have to pay the premiums today.
Satisfying Future Stakeholders Today
The customers for long-term talent management are the future shareholders—investors, pensioners and leaders who care about legacy. Included are future employees, managers and leaders who will be able to get great things done because they are surrounded and led by talented leaders. Few of these people are in the room today.
The CHRO and/or the head of Talent Management have a steep mountain to climb:
“Give us funding, headcount, time, attention, support, engagement and collaboration this budget year and every year thereafter for the benefit of the future. Trust me, I (we) guarantee this will work and is worth it”.
Talent Management is for 3 timelines; today, the next cycle and forever. There will be three different sets of talent management professionals. Long term leadership development and succession planning takes the most knowledge, skills and attributes. There is a high dependence on the ability of the TM professional to influence and sway. To win the resources it takes respect, charisma (the ability to hold an audience), presence, confidence, Q&A agility, trustworthiness, business understanding and past performance.
It starts with knowledge of the science of talent, best practice and the evidence of effectiveness in organizations the audience respects. And there are a couple of points to keep in mind.
First, you are requesting hard-to-get resources to engage in activities that have little or no short-term ROI, other than attracting talent who are looking to join organizations that develop their talent. Even though it is connected to Now and Next talent management, it takes funding and resources above and beyond the needs the audience might care about. They are struggling to get today’s job done well, much less worry about ten years from now.
Second, and important to your cause, for most if not all of the leaders sitting in judgement in the room, each has benefited in the past by bosses, sponsors, mentors and leadership development programming during their career journey to the top. The funds and resources were spent on them in the past to get them to the table. The ask is for them to do the same for future leaders still climbing the ladder and needing assistance.
Planning to Win The Future Talent Game
- Present data and research that supports the proposed programming:
There are studies published annually on the ROI and benefits resulting from best practice-driven talent management. Find the three that match your organizational context and present the top line findings in a simple and straightforward manner. Best practices work in the now, the next and in the long term.
- Build a coalition of support from individuals in the decision-making group:
Before the pitch, meet with individual leaders to understand your audience and to soften the group. Create allies. Anticipate Q&A. Identify resistance. Sell yourself.
- Clearly articulate the benefits of the proposed programming in the language of the audience. Answer the questions in all their minds, expressed or not:
- “How is this going to help me now, in the next cycle and while I’m still here?”
- “What is the cost/benefit statement for giving up current funds and resources for the uncertain future?”
- “How much of my time will all of this take?”
- Address any potential concerns or objections that the leaders may have:
When building your influencing cadre, learn about the concerns and objections before the stakeholder meeting(s). Research on persuasion has found that bringing up objections and answering them as part of the presentation both acknowledges yet decreases the seriousness of the concern. It’s called the inoculation effect.
- Provide a clear plan for implementing or enhancing the long-term leadership development programming:
- Annual Talent Review
- High Potential and Protential nomination and vetting
- Succession Plan
- Assignmentology – setting the best development journey
- Coaches, Sponsors and Mentors
- Listening and delegation
- Building the developmental culture
- Present the ask: Funding, Headcount, Physical Space, Attention, Engagement, Collaboration and Time.
Make the point that this is “forever” resourcing. During bad times in too many organizations, HR, ER and TM are among the first budget cuts for weathering the economic storm. T & D is restricted. TM consultant and vendor spending is reduced. Offsites are cancelled.
Like R&D for Big Pharma or when organizations are upgrading facilities, short term cuts and project interruptions have a serious, negative long-term impact. Same for long term leadership development. Taking two years off will put you more than two years behind and you’ll find yourself paying search firms to fill key open jobs at the top.
It’s not really discretionary funding.
If the ask is approved, execute cleanly and as simply as possible. Stick with the science and best practices. Build it to last. And, don’t be diverted by bright shiny objects.