Succession Management – Making the Talent Review Work


I recently conducted a member forum which raised the lack of accountability for action plans that come from talent reviews.  To remind you, talent reviews are the periodic meetings used to calibrate, validate, and implement the output from succession and performance management.  Conducting talent reviews and implementing their decisions is a critical element of corporate talent management.

There are a number of important action items that come from these discussions including:  implementation of development plans, assignment of coaching, reorganization or restructuring of workgroups, talent transfers, and moving people into new positions.  But at the end of the day, as our members told us, many of these plans are not implemented.  Why is this?  We found three key reasons:

  1. Lack of accountability among business leaders
  2. Lack of transparency with high potentials
  3. Programs which event-driven and not process-driven.

Lack of Leader and Manager Accountability for Development.  Too often the right people are not responsible for making sure that that talent management activities occur.  HR managers are most likely to take responsibility and then left to figure out how to make it happen.  Business leaders and executives do not take ownership for employee development.  They are not held accountable to implement these plans  And there is no incentive to develop people in their compensation scheme.  Managers and leaders expect HR to put together some grand training program that will miraculously develop the entire workforce.  

Transparency of Talent Information.  The second issue our members discussed is the inability to share and discuss talent information.  Many companies do not have a culture which encourages or permits detailed discussions with employees about how their career aspirations, how the companie views them, and what kinds of positions they are being considered for.  As the director of training of an electronics manufacturer described, “We have a “no tell” philosophy.  It makes it hard to translate the development goals down through the levels.  It is hard to promote development with out telling the employees why.”   When I asked this person why she felt this was the case she indicated, “The Company is fearful of creating favoritism and elitism.”  Let's be honest:  development can not be a secret.  Companies can not try to “manipulate” talent in the hopes that, when the time comes, there will be a pipeline that is ready and willing to fill key positions.

Lack of a Process-driven Approach.  The third issue we discussed is the mind-set that talent discussions are a one-time event held once per year.  During the talent review session there is excitement, energy and great intent.  But after the meeting is over, action plans become lost and only HR tracks their progress.  Northrop-Grumann, for example, holds talent review meetings more frequently to address this issue.  They are held quarterly instead of annually.  According to the Northrop-Grumman HR manager, "We try to get folks used development being a part of their daily work."

Bottom line:  Talent development takes time, continuous focus, and is the job of line leaders, not HR.  Whether this means facilitating open career discussions, creating on the job development opportunities or making timely promotions, managers and business leaders must take ownership for the process.  HR managers should be advisors, not someone to delegate to.

Does your organization have a process in place to ensure talent review action items are executied?  If so, tell us how you make it work.

Andrea Derler

Andrea Derler, Ph.D., joined Bersin by Deloitte in March 2015 and leads the Leadership & Succession Management research practice. She brings international work experience as leadership trainer & coach and a solid academic background to this role. Prior to joining Bersin, she collaborated closely with organizations in the USA as well as Europe in order to pursue practice-oriented leadership research. Andrea studied international management, organizational culture and integral leadership and facilitated leadership development efforts in a variety of industries. She holds a doctoral degree in Economics (Leadership & Organization), and a Master’s degree in Philosophy. Her work about leaders’ Ideal Employee recently received wide-spread media attention in Europe and was published in the Leadership & Organization Development Journal

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