Right People, Right Places: How to Utilize
Talent to Best Effect
By Megan Martin
Talent management: Sounds like a simple concept, right? In theory, yes. But in the real world, making sure you have the right accounting and finance professionals in the right positions can be a challenge.
Peggy Grigoryev, President of Key Executive Associates, Inc., writes in her Journal For Quality and Participation article, “Hiring by Competency Models,” that not only are these types of failures expensive and time-consuming for companies, but also result in “a loss of confidence in management's decision-making prowess, potential destabilization of the workforce, and morale problems….A key position filled by a bad hire can knock an organization back by years, in terms of competitive advantage.”
You can prevent and even reverse poor hiring and placement decisions and keep top talent happy and productive for years to come.
Outline Your Needs
CJ DuBé, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Oberon, says the first mistake many employers make is not knowing their needs.
“A lot of times, organizations don't have a defined profile of what they're looking for—they haven't looked at the background, personality and skill level that's needed for that position. They interview and find someone they like. Then in six months they realize the new hire doesn't have the skills they need for the role.”
Oberon tackles this problem by doing assessments to determine exactly what they need. DuBé recommends having a senior-level employee analyze the position to determine the key aspects of the role and what type of employee would be the best fit.
The most obvious way employers end up with the wrong people in the wrong places is by making a wrong hire. “It's expensive to onboard people, and it can be expensive to let them go,” says DuBé.
The 2005 study, Why New Hires Fail, conducted by the Washington DC research firm Leadership IQ, concluded that, according to hiring managers, nearly 50 percent of new employees did not fulfill the obligations of their positions in the first 18 months.
Even more dismaying is the fact that 82 percent of the managers acknowledged that, in retrospect, there were clear signs during interviews that the new hires were not right for the position.
By conducting in-depth pre-interviews and interviews, you may be able to avoid hiring mistakes.
Nancy Mercurio, President and co-owner of Leadership Training Systems Inc., in her Canadian Institute of Management article “Matching Talents to Task: The Pre-Interview Process,” says hiring managers can avoid this problem by implementing a thorough pre-interview process.
“Most candidates express interest in positions based upon written job descriptions or recruiter interpretation and perception. It's rare that a candidate can say that they truly understand ‘exactly' what they will be doing if hired,” she says.
Before jumping straight to the interview, Mercurio recommends inviting top candidates to spend an informal day at your office. Team members can get an idea of whether the candidate is a good fit by asking questions. What is her working style? What skills does she possess? Does she prefer to work individually or as part of a team?
The ensure that the candidate comes away with a realistic view of the position, encourage her to talk candidly with the person currently in the position.
At the end of the day, ask if she is still interested in a formal interview for the position. Mercurio notes: “52% of the time, the candidate opted not to have an interview after seeing the actual role and requirements.”
Meet as a team to decide whether the candidate's skill set and personality would be a good fit, and whether to invite her back for an interview.
DuBé says, “One thing I say to a lot of hiring managers is just breathe—take time to make sure you know what you're looking for. People panic about filling the position, then as soon as they click with someone they like, they bring them on—often too quickly.”
One method DuBé recommends, and that has been successfully employed by Oberon, is Topgrading—an in-depth process that traces a candidate's work history from their earliest employment to the present. Topgrading is the latest trend in interviewing, and touts itself as a proven tool to help organizations consistently recognize, recruit, and retain top talent.
Good People, Wrong Match
Another mistake companies make all too often is hiring excellent employees—then assigning them to the wrong positions. This leads promising talent to seek more rewarding work elsewhere and sends you back to the drawing board.
DuBé says, “This is why it's not enough to get a referral from a business associate or friend. They might say, ‘Sally's great—you should look at her.' You hire her, and while she may be great, that doesn't mean she fits the profile for the position.”
Know Your Employees
If, for example, you have a burgeoning young accountant who is motivated by recognition but he doesn't feel important to the company, a raise isn't going to help drive him in his position, or even keep him.
If you understand his needs, however, you can remedy the situation by broadening his role. Simply by putting him in charge of a new project or committee, your problem is solved.
Consider Promotions Carefully
When considering promotions, think of them in the same way you would think of a new-hire scenario.
Just because someone does an excellent job in his current position doesn't mean he is the best choice for another—especially if it requires a different skill set, personality or schedule. Just as you would with a new hire, make sure the employee understands the new position and glean a sense of why (or if!) they are interested in it before offering a promotion.
The Wrong Match
If you find that you've hired or promoted someone to a position they are not cut out for, what's the next step?
“If you feel they're talented, see if there's somewhere else in the organization that you can put them where they can be a valuable resource,” DuBé suggests.
If that is not the case, she says, be honest. “Sit them down and have a good conversation. Tell them it's not the match that you thought it was going to be. Nine out of 10 times, the employee knows it as well, but they're not going to pull the trigger.”
“The days of being at a company for 30 years are gone,” she says. “A lot of people are at one place only a few years, but many of these would stay longer if they fit well and were given the right opportunity.”
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