Haven’t we met people who aced their annual performance appraisals year after year, but were passed over when their boss vacated the position?
What happens when someone is passed over?
A person who earns top grades and top bonuses consistently nurtures the ambition to move higher up the ladder. Many in the organisation assume that the person would get the job of the boss as soon as the opportunity comes. However, events do not turn that way in some situations. Most often, the person in the case not only is shocked but gets bewildered, and turns negative and hostile. Most people at the workplace closely associated with this individual become negative towards the organisation and its leadership.
When the person is determined to prove his or her worth outside the organisation, he or she takes the risk of leaving the comfort and familiarity of the known environment. Not always, do such moves become fruitful, thus denting the person’s confidence, disrupting the work-life and severely damaging the career graph. At the same time, the organisation loses a high performer; maybe, a competitor gains the advantage of having an experienced and insightful expert with them!
Why doesn’t the best performer get the top job?
The fact is that the talent management committee finds gaps between the person’s competencies and the desired levels associated with the role. They end up hiring someone from the market. Nobody ever talked to this person in the past about the possible career paths that lie ahead and the preparation that the person must do to pursue one of those paths.
The line manager possibly did not have the skill to hold this crucial conversation and the human resources department did not facilitate this either. Talent management practices fail to serve their objectives due to such minor cracks in the organisational processes. At the roots, probably it is the lack of intent of the leadership team that gives rise to these cracks. We have to address them at the outset.
How do we spot talent at the right time and nurture it?
Leadership intent could be the first step, but it does not guarantee success in spotting the high-potential talent, nurturing and growing it at the right speed. Multiple steps need to be taken consistently and rigorously as per the talent management processes defined and agreed upon among the members of the top-level management. The human resources team (HR) has to point out to the top-level leaders that the process has to be executed by them as per the calendar and the details mutually agreed. Hence, the process must be easy to understand and implement; at the same time, effective.
No process is perfect and needs mere copy-and-paste. Rather the process and the details have to be suggested by HR keeping the organisation’s ambitions, goals, context and strategic priorities in mind. Further, the values and norms followed in the organisation need to be reflected in the details of the talent assessment process. This design is an important phase of the process.
After the design is discussed and agreed upon among the senior leaders of the organisation, the most significant step is to percolate it down the hierarchy of the organisation and enable the managers at all levels to hold these crucial conversations. Finally, HR along with the senior leaders have to use multiple channels of communication to set expectations across the organisation and ensure that the timelines are followed consistently.
Employees, particularly those with high potential and the ones with high to moderate performance track records as per the 9-box tool need to hear from the managers and HR about the career paths they can take and the development journey they need to undertake to get ready to take up enhanced and larger roles. The proof of the pudding is in eating; similarly, this is the ultimate test of the talent management process.
The art of spotting the talent, nurturing and developing it is an important organisational process that calls for leadership intent and rigorous execution.