Performance Pointer

From the Penumbra Group - Your Complete Resource for

Talent Management Solutions
September 2008
In This Issue - Talent Management: What's The Point?
Leveraging The Employment Experience to Build Talent Wealth
Beyond Concept to Tactical Strategy
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According to a Gallup study, the difficulty associated with managing talent effectively leads to an unproductive and disengaged workforce.  So much so, it costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion a year in lost productivity, higher turnover, and diminished business success. 
To worsen matters, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be more than 10 million vacant jobs by 2010.  It's no surprise then that the two words on the tip of everyone's tongue are "Talent Management".
Wikipedia defines Talent Management as "the process of developing and integrating new workers, developing and keeping current workers and attracting highly skilled workers to work for your company". 
This is a pretty simple, user friendly way to understand the buzz-term on everyone's radar.  And there are countless other definitions to choose from.  Ask three people and you'll probably get three different variations on this broad topic. 
The concept of Talent Management (TM), or Human Capital Management, first emerged on the HR/OD scene in 1990 and has since taken on many forms.  Some consider TM to be solely about retaining and optimizing top performers, while others see it as a catch all description, encompassing the broad range of HR duties involved in workforce management. 
Before you pass up this article thinking it is only for HR professionals, consider this. In reality, the heart and soul of Talent Management lives within the ranks of people managers.  If you manage people, you are a Talent Manager. 
The Employment Experience -Your Primary Source of Competitive Power
A person's direct supervisor will have the greatest impact on their employment experience, far more than HR ever could.  So crafting the employee experience around acquiring, developing, and retaining that talent wealth should never just be a job for HR.  It is vital that our people managers understand and adopt a talent-over-tasks mindset. 
The real power of this concept is not rooted in what the term means but rather what it does.  It is a mindset that redefines the way you see your workforce.  Rather than employees to be managed, your people are your talent bank account - assets that are capable of producing far greater dividends than any competitive product or service. 
They are the force driving you to market. They are your arsenal of performance weapons to be strategically deployed, not just given the same standard task list of every predecessor in the role before them.  
It's a given that all companies must continually stretch themselves to create new, innovative, value-added programs to maintain market relevance and satisfy their customer base.  But what might happen if we approached our employee initiatives in the same way we handle our business development?  What might be the impact if the same focus and intensity was used to design employee retention, development, and rewards programs?  
Simply put, your people need to be valued as equal to your most important CUSTOMER and treated as such.  If organizations truly understood this, the performance results and bottom-line business impact would be compelling.  In his book, "The New Gold Standard", Joseph Michelli shares a quote from a Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company employee:
"I can't imagine a more respectful environment from the application process, through orientation, and into the daily training, they continue to help me feel special and valued. They spend so much time, money, and effort welcoming, nurturing, and putting all of us in the places we need to be to serve the guest."
That last sentence says it all.  Putting the right people in the right job and treating them the right way is the essence of strategic talent management. 
In a nutshell, this Ritz-Carlton associate is describing the total employee experience within that organization.  Your employees are your primary source of competitive power and their experience working for you helps them decide whether to stay (or ever become) connected or jump ship and plug in elsewhere. 
A significant influencer on the success of this "experience" is whether or not employees feel they are being utilized and developed properly - tracing us back to Talent Management.  Creating a leadership culture that demonstrates a continuous desire to tap into and build upon the unique talent assets of your workforce is the hallmark of a first-class employment experience. 
But accomplishing this requires more than a change in the way we conduct everyday business.  More importantly, it marks a mindful shift in the way we lead others.  It's the end of the "they work for me" era.  You work for each other and you rise and fall together.
Moving Beyond Concept to Tactical Strategy
Day-to-day demands and distractions often prevent us from keeping our employee's needs and their skill development top-of-mind. Hopefully by now we all know that human capital is THE critical factor in surviving today's hypercompetitive landscape. 
However, knowing this and doing something about it are two different things.  When asked to explain how performance is being measured, standardized and proactively cultivated, many leaders offer a vague patchwork of answers describing "under construction" programs and ongoing brainstorming meetings.

An effective TM program - one that produces measurable performance improvement - should address all workplace systems: recruitment and selection, on-boarding, performance management, skill development, compensation/rewards and retention
If tackling all of these areas seems daunting, there are a few key strategies you can employ right away to jump start your talent "revolution".  Consider the following projects to get you started:
1. Clearly identify selection criteria by carving out the must-haves and nice-to-haves for each job you hire for.  Most organizations think they've done this but in reality, the only kind of job "analysis" happening is reviewing an outdated job description, sifting through the same template resumes and conducting a handful of candidate interviews. 
Are you really taking steps to build your talent bank account by attracting and selecting a diverse array of ability and experience?  Or are you just going through the motions to fill the opening and hoping for the best (i.e.,posting the same ads in the same places and asking the same aging interview questions).
Properly aligning someone's talents and interests to the specific responsibilities and culture of the job will create a much higher probability of star performance and emotional engagement.  Which means they will stay longer, be more productive, and recruit other top talent.
For more techniques and helpful insights on this piece, email us for a full copy of July's Performance Pointer, "Smart Hiring".
2. Overhaul your on-boarding program with a new "employee as customer" mindset.  Is your Orientation program basically a review of paperwork and benefits? Do people leave excited and energized about their employment choice? What do you think they tell their families about your company when they get home from work on their first day? 
Take a close look at your current program and really ask yourself, "would I want to spend a day like this?" Most people would rather have a root canal than spend a day repeating orientation.   
Your on-boarding program is the first impression, standard setting road map for the people who will have the greatest impact on your customers.  You have only one shot at it.  Delight them and they will delight your customers.
3.  Implement mandatory, talent-minded leadership training for all management.  This should include performance assessments, classroom training, experiential exercises, post-training learning measurements/reinforcement and one-on-one coaching (as needed). 
Managers will need training to learn how to shift to a talent management mindset - to move from being a supervisor to an "asset" manager.
Employing these strategies will mark the end of just talking about improving the bench strength of your team.  It will help you get out on the field to analyze the performance nuances between a base hit swing and a home run wallop.  And best of all, it will allow you to employ that knowledge to teach your new players the secrets of success. 
Talent Management takes a proactive approach to creating the ultimate employee experience. It is an approach of constant refinement and analysis.  Rather than accepting performance results, a talent mindset always asks "why?" and "how?" - even (and most importantly) in times of great success. 
Why are your bottom performers struggling and your top performers soaring?  How do you bring the bottom up or get more of the best to replace them?  You won't find the answers to your performance problems until you start asking the right questions.
At the end of the day, your employees are not only the means to achieving your next big company "It".  They are It
Stay tuned for next month's edition where we will discuss the most Frequently Asked Questions about Talent Management. 
We'd be happy to hear your Talent Management questions.  What are the issues you've been struggling to solve? Send them to and they may be featured in our FAQs.
For more information on coaching and training services from Penumbra Group, please visit our website at  And you're always welcome to contact us directly at or  
Thoughts, questions, or comments about this month's Performance Pointer?  Email us at  We'd love to hear from you!
All the best,

Jennifer Shirkani and Faith Csikesz
Penumbra Group Inc.