When Was Your Last Good Talent Check-up?

When you’re feeling good, it’s easy to take your health for granted.

Most of us appreciate when we feel great, but few of us spend the time to figure out how we got there — and how to stay there.

It’s the same with organizations. If nothing’s obviously wrong, if people aren’t leaving in droves, if “people issues” aren’t driving costs up, managers tend to get complacent.

However, if managers are to understand the underlying health of an organization, they need much more than the basic pulse-check of annual performance ratings. Otherwise, they might be bleeding talent before they realize anything is wrong.

Yes, you need regular check-ups

The basics of good health are not rocket science:

  • Exercise more;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Cut out the cake.

Similarly, HR professionals are often well aware, in broad terms, of what they need to do. According to SHL Talent Management’s latest annual Global Assessment Trends Report, their talent health focus is on internal development, and not external hiring.

In fact, the engagement and retention of talent continues to be the primary priority for the majority (56 percent) of 1,400 plus HR professionals who participated in the research.

Organizations are clearly focusing on building their “internal muscles” but, to get the most return on their people investments, they need to understand who has the right potential, what training or development they need, and in what areas.

That’s all too important to rely on guesswork. But nearly twice as many organizations measure talent only when they hire them, rather than throughout their tenure. According to our report, only a minority of organizations use talent measurement to guide development (46 percent) and inform promotion decisions (43 percent).

Few would argue that the only health check you need in life is the one at birth, yet our research suggests that many organizations fail to objectively track employees’ skills and potential once they are onboard. That’s going to make it difficult for any HR director keen to show the board that he or she can align the organization’s talent to its most pressing business needs.

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Fad diets aren’t very healthy

Of course, most organizations (64 percent according to our report) do have a formal performance management process, though this may be little more than an annual performance rating. In terms of formal, objective measures of talent post-hire, only 40 percent use tests of skills or knowledge (73 percent in pre-hire) and only 34 percent use personality assessments (62 percent in pre-hire).

Relying on subjective measures like one-size-fits-all performance ratings could mean HR teams spend time and money on things that don’t help (like a fad diet) or targeting areas that don’t need attention (like dropping five pounds instead of rebalancing your cholesterol).

Without real data, they’re left with only opinions about where the “skills gaps” are and how best to fill them. It’s why broad training programs sometimes get rolled out that benefit precious few, while real development needs are unaddressed.

Instead, the right measurement will help organizations quantify talent gaps (by function, business unit, or team, and even for each individual) and target them with the right training, development, or recruitment programs. They can then use objective measurement to monitor those programs’ success.

Don’t wait until there’s a problem

The most successful organizations don’t risk waiting until it’s obvious there’s a talent problem. They measure their talent continuously to know where they stand; what’s working, what’s not, and where the gaps are. It means they can help their people stay on track and continue delivering for the business.

Remember, prevention is better than cure, especially in talent management.

Jean Martin is the talent solutions architect at CEB, a best practice insight and technology company. Her areas of expertise span the HR spectrum, including leadership, the future of the HR function, workforce diversity and labor market trends. Contact her at MartinJ@cebglobal.com.

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