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Nurturing your top talent…

Jul 18 • Features, Management • 2315 Views • No Comments on Nurturing your top talent…

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As the field workforce of many companies begins to go through perhaps the greatest cultural shift in modern history, it is vital that companies begin paying attention to the stars within their midst and help them grow into more senior roles.

Jennifer Lescallett, Affymetrix, explained exactly why and how we can achieve this during a presentation at Field Service Medical earlier this year…

Apparently only 10% of companies spend time developing their top talent. This is despite the fact that talent acquisition and retention is a critical area for most companies. In field service where training engineers to maintain a specific set of devices can be both a long and costly endeavour this is perhaps magnified even further.

So why doesn’t nurturing our top talent take more of a front seat?

“As leaders of Service and Support organizations, we are all hard-wired to fight fires and resolve immediate issues facing our customers. We want our customers to be successful, our teams to have the resources to make it happen, and for our businesses to thrive. Given the many day-to-day issues that arise, it can be difficult to carve out time to strategize and focus on top-talent. It is undeniably, however, our most important job,” explained Jennifer Lescallett, Senior Director, Affymetrix, at Field Service Medical held a little earlier this year.

“As leaders of Service and Support organizations, we are all hard-wired to fight fires and resolve immediate issues facing our customers. …”

“Focusing on individuals in our company that are earmarked for those future jobs takes time and it’s time that we need to allocate away from all the distractions of our daily work environment,” she continued.

Identifying potential stars given the above it’s crucial that as a first step you can identify those with genuine potential.

“Imagine the bell curve” Lescallett explains “At one side of the curve you have your lower performers, people that haven’t employed all of the best practices. In the middle you have those people who are solid, steady team players who love what they do – fixing issues and working with customers.”

“And then there is the final part of the curve, the top performers; this is where the focus needs to be.”

However, Lescallett advises that we then drill deep into these high performers to find those that can fill future leadership roles.

“These are people on your team that have curiosity and deep engagement. They are the ones that face adversity with determination and grit. And they have a way of looking at a customer problem and knowing intuitively how to resolve it.” Lescallett explains

“People with these high potential qualities also want to be engaged at the strategic level. They have insight into your organisation and a keen ability to connect the dots. Their capacity for learning is vigorous and expansive. They feed off of challenges and high-stakes situations.”

Lescallett herself has adopted a three part process for identifying and developing talent.

The process is identified as:

1. Developing success profiles

2. Assessing and reviewing your talent strategy

3. Executing the plan

“The first two steps are relatively easy. You can lock you and your team away in a day-long, closed door session. Don’t forget to leave your phones and computer at the door and delegate the fire-fighting to someone else. Use this precious time to get your talent plan aligned, develop success profiles and assess your organisation.”

“It is the third element, however, that is the trickiest to implement because it means scheduling time to devote to it on a routine basis,” she says.

“You want someone who can identify a need and has the enthusiasm and energy to figure out a solution. You want someone that can think out of the box, that’s truly creative, that works well in a team or whatever the key behaviours are that you are seeking in future leaders.”

Let’s take a look through each of the stages.

There are three key steps in developing your success profiles Lescallett suggests.

The first of these is defining the behaviours that drive success.

“You want someone who can identify a need and has the enthusiasm and energy to figure out a solution. You want someone that can think out of the box, that’s truly creative, that works well in a team or whatever the key behaviours are that you are seeking in future leaders.”

“You have to then build the competencies around the behaviours that you want.”

“Next you have to define the destination roles in your organisation.”

Maybe it is an assignment in a new territory/geography you are expanding into, or maybe it’s leading in a small business unit  within the organisation for example.”

“It is important to help people not only build their expertise in the service and support department but also make sure that they can rotate through different groups within the organisation” she adds

The second process Lescallett suggests is to use different models to assess future ability.

““It’s often easy to spot the ‘racehorses’. Those that come into an organization and are raring to go, always making contributions and searching for more. However, there are diamonds in the rough that are worth unearthing too,”

“One approach that has been very successful is using 360-Degree Assessments from Zenger Folkman. The participant obtains feedback from direct reports, managers, and peers on a range of competencies along with written comments about strengths, weaknesses, and fatal flaws. You get in return an anonymous feedback assessment that helps the person identify strengths they can build upon.” The report helps the employee create a career development plan with their manager or mentor.

While the 360 report is a tool for the employee, the leadership team can use other tools like a talent grid to assess the organization as a whole. This provides a way of comparing and contrasting the organization and getting a better feel for the talent pool.

Lescallett explains that “there are many ways of evaluating teams, including a matrix format mapping them on a grid, with potential being the x axis and performance being the y axis – this is a particularly useful and commonplace tool for visualising exactly who on your team have both the potential and the work ethic to step into a leadership role, whilst also helping you see who could potentially be in need of more coaching and guidance.”

Another avenue for critical feedback is getting the opinions of more than just the line managers, says Lescallett.

“Certainly they [line managers] have a very good idea of where their team is, but it’s important to get assessment from a range of leaders in the business because people can see different things in different individuals.”

“It’s often easy to spot the ‘racehorses’. Those that come into an organization and are raring to go, always making contributions and searching for more. However, there are diamonds in the rough that are worth unearthing too,” she explains.

“People that might have the technical skills but haven’t fully refined some of the leadership skills you need in the organization. You have nurture them and build on their strengths. It is important not to discount those who may not be 100% polished yet.”

The final process Lescallett suggests is a broad review of the data.

“You should review the group data as a team of managers to make sure that other teams like Marketing and Sales are evaluating their teams in the same way that you are evaluating yours.”

As a manager, mentor or coach, it’s vital to set the expectations that a person’s career is their responsibility – they own it. A person may have all of the qualities of being high potential, but it’s up to them to pave the way for their own success.

One thing is certain though, building a healthy pipeline of future leaders is critical for the success of every business.

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