I was asked to speak about talent management to a group of about 1,800 procurement leaders in the insurance industry. In the same week, in meetings with two CEOs in different industries, both discussed talent management as a key strategic imperative for their respective businesses.
I started to think about the attributes of a great talent management program. I pondered which industry sets the standard for attracting, retaining, developing and deploying talent. Perhaps because I just experienced the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in Phoenix and attended a workshop for sports related philanthropy, the sports industry stood out for managing talent.
Both college and professional coaches scout talent, follow high potentials throughout their high school and college careers, consistently review player strengths and weaknesses, create a shortlist of needs, cultural fit and potential, then they recruit. While they may recruit star players, they always have their eye on recruits who have few bad habits, but are extremely coachable.
Starting with talent with the right attitude, smarts and cultural fit, coaches teach players the business by starting them in a rotational program, introducing them to mentors, shaping thinking, behavior and practices. They pare down the team; are they good enough to make the cut? Some companies like GE, Textron and others have embraced this process and move future leaders through the rotations, make them survive boot camps and grow into their destined positions.
I lived in Ann Arbor when Tom Brady played for the University of Michigan. He started college as 7th on the quarterback depth chart, and moved to back-up QB for two years. Then he battled Drew Henson for the starting position when Brian Griese graduated. In the 2000 NFL draft, he was selected with pick #199 in the 6th round. Now considered by many the top NFL pick of all time, he’s the poster child for finding “talent” with a high degree of coachability and high drive to improve.
Players are not developed to leave the team in free agency. Coaches must have defined career paths, challenging projects, continued coaching, training and development processes to drive the competence and capability of players to another level. Teams must also have an incentive scheme that makes it more difficult to leave once an investment is made in an individual. Just like sports, company development programs must be focused on individual and team needs to retain the talented employees they’ve invested in.
Playing the Game
Professional athletes are not only expected to have high skill levels and good game thinking, they are also expected to provide leadership to new recruits. The same is true in business, when the leadership and technical skills are in place, the business is learned and the team member is playing to his or her capability, it is important to align responsibility, authority and accountability with the individual and their position to help them become winners.
Winning the Championship
To get the best players, coaches and general managers know that they must grow, manage, develop and invest in talent to get to the championship. Talent management, whether leading procurement, supply chain or company organization, is not a short term proposition. It requires a plan, patience and investment to put the best team on the field. Great talent, customized to your business strategy, is not usually found as a star; find the coachable player and develop talent–great draft picks are waiting!
What’s your winning talent management strategy?