Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Increasing the Productivity Yield from Your Employees

In many of the articles that we have published here, we have commented on the need to have the right business strategy. While that is true for the overall business, it is equally true for how companies use their resources and in particular, their most critical resource, their people. Yet, all too often companies either simply promote people who are doing well in their current job or in these days of layoffs and job cuts, move a manager from one job to another. Both are often done without sufficient reflection on the how the talents of the manager match up with the new responsibilities or how the talents fit with the overall business objectives. It’s important to stay smart in the current economy. You must have a talent strategy aligned with your business goals to increase leadership effectiveness, improve team performance, and stay competitive.

How do you develop that strategy? Cathy Hammer, a fellow Principal in 4Views, has some thoughts based on extensive experience and success.

How is talent strategy related to business strategy?
One grows directly from the other. You start by looking at the overall business strategy and identifying the skills, relationships, and global knowledge needed to execute that strategy in the short and long term. The idea is to make sure you have the talent to cover where you are going. For example, there is a company in the Silicon Valley hiring more engineers than they currently need because of the shortage of major talent in that sector. They’d rather spend money now than be caught short. But having a strategy isn’t just about new hires. Gaps can also be covered with additional education, networking exposure, mentoring etc.

What can be done to keep the talent budget in check?
With the need for quality managers vastly outpacing available talent, it’s critical to identify and grow a solid percentage of your next generation of leadership in house. Having a clear articulated leadership pipeline has the added benefit of improving the retention rate of quality employees. They are more certain they have a future with you. In terms of outside recruitment, identify great potential employees and sources of potential employees even when they aren’t needed right now. Stay in touch with them and woo them so that they will be available to you when you are ready for them. This will save you opening a lengthy expensive new search every time you have a key opening.

What should people do about their training and development budgets in this economy?
It’s tempting to cut back on development in tough economic times, but look at it as an investment in your people rather than as overhead. People want to do a great job but may lack some of the skills or experience that are required to maximize their performance. The new generation of workers is more likely to stay in positions that value their professional growth. Find a means to give it to them. Reduce costs and capitalize on your own talent by implementing facilitated mentoring to transfer knowledge to the next generation of leaders. You don’t have to have the training function in house. The ROI on training can be significant if it’s the right training.

How do you know if you are getting this ROI?
It’s important to have an appropriate tracking mechanism for professional development that matches your business goals. Creating a simple chart matching what each candidate is learning to a specific business goal is a start. Having a replacement plan that clarifies your leadership objectives is another important tool. This way you are more prepared if someone in a critical role leaves unexpectedly.

How to put it into action?
Often the decision on talent management is held by the executive team alone. This misses the critical group of implementers the managers. Make them part of the process. Take a look your direct reports as a start and determine how they are matching up with the performance expectations you have set together. Then find the means to fill in the gaps either through training or if needed replacement. One weak performer can dramatically slow down an entire team.

Cathy has expertise in this area with executives and managers, as well as with their teams. Contact her if these ideas resonate with you. She can help you put this into action and increase the productivity yield of your employees.



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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