Is a Talent Assessment Missing From Your Strategy?

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

 

Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?

 

Strategic Planning Is Not Enough

Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.

 

“One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy:  a strategic talent assessment.

If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.

 

“A strategic talent assessment examines the skills needed to execute.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

What is a Talent Assessment?

Simply stated, a strategic talent assessment examines the organizational skills needed to execute the strategy. It should include:

  • Necessary skills to assess the market needs, attractiveness, competition and size
  • The know-how to define, plan and price the product
  • Type of talent to actually develop the product
  • Competence needed to market, sell and deliver the product
  • Skills to provide customer readiness and adoption
  • Expertise needed to provide service to customers for products
  • Leadership talent to actually execute and deliver the strategic initiative
  • Certain cultural elements of the organization: decisiveness, accountability, delegation, results, etc.

 

“If the necessary talent is not present, the strategy is flawed.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Performing a Talent Assessment

Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.

The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.

One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.

 

“Even if the necessary talent is present, execution fails without leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.

One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.

Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.

 

“Execution before the proper skills are in place can waste resources and damage credibility.” –Bruce Rhoades 

 

How to Remedy the Strategic Talent Gap

Out Execute the Competition

Irv Rothman is the president and chief executive officer of HP Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company. Prior to joining HP, Rothman was president and chief executive officer of Compaq Financial Services Corporation where he led it from its founding to growth of over $3.7 billion in total assets.

Irv is the author of Out-Executing the Competition.  What I really admire is that Irv is donating all of the royalties he earns on the sale of the book to Room to Read, an organization dedicated to children’s literacy.

 

The best way to out-execute the other guy is to know your customer’s business as well as you know your own. -Irv Rothman

 

Attracting the Right Talent

Much of success in business is about finding and cultivating the right talent.  How did you attract and retain the talent needed to accomplish your goals?

Attracting and retaining the right people starts with a leadership commitment to first develop high performers in-house.  And this has to be more than an annual “talent management” exercise.  It’s an activity that leadership must consistently demonstrate is important by developing people and promoting from within.  This sends key messages to an organization:

1)   Leadership can be trusted to do as they say they will.

2)   Career opportunities exist…. No need to look elsewhere.

3)   Leadership recognizes and acknowledges that outside hires are a 50/50 proposition.

In short, provide an atmosphere where people can learn and achieve advancement based on merit.  Not only will the good people stick around, their hearts will be in it.

 

Developing a Culture of Execution

 

Out-Executing the Competition

Your book title is all about execution.  How do you develop a culture of execution?

A culture of execution starts with devotion to the customer.  Since it is theoretically easier to keep a customer than to find a new one, all messaging and reward systems need to be packaged around a “customer for life” philosophy.  And a pay-for-performance compensation system is a must.  Moreover, it can’t be black box; people need to be clear as to what rewards can be expected from results and behaviors.  Once you’ve got all that organized, creating an environment where people have freedom to act on behalf of the customer is crucial. You can’t have a circumstance where people are bound by the linear strictures of a traditional command and control organization. It not only frustrates your employees, it also makes for dissatisfaction on the part of the people on the other end of the phone.