Seven tips to create broad support for talent management

When it comes to talent management, you probably have no lack of ambition in your department. For many HR managers, the big challenge is to embed this focus on talent management in their organisation as a structural feature. How can you gain the required commitment from both your line managers and senior management?

Taking our cue from Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we would like to share seven tips with you. Based in part on our own experiences with clients and in part on the experiences of HR managers who took part in our session ‘The Psychology of Talent Management’.

1. Be pro-active

Don’t wait until you’re confronted with a request for help – take the initiative. Pro-actively strike up conversations with your internal stakeholders: how can you help them to improve their team’s dynamics and performance or increase their turnover? Allow them to see and experience for themselves how information about people’s talents can help them achieve their objectives. Because it allows them to recognise high-potentials in the earliest stages of the recruitment process for example, or because it becomes easier for managers to direct their teams on the basis of attitude and behaviour.

2. From the outset, keep your sights on your ultimate objective

Create focus in what you are trying to achieve. In a multifaceted strategy like ‘talent management’, you can easily be tempted to write a detailed and extensive plan. While this can be useful, it is less likely to win you strong and enthusiastic support in the short term. That is why you should always keep an eye on the bigger picture, within which you can set yourself a number of concrete and feasible targets. For example: In two months’ time, we will know exactly which competencies are the key to success in this sales position and we will select candidates on the basis of these competencies. Or: In three months’ time, we will know which of our current branch managers can take the step to become manager.

3. First things first

Along the same lines as the previous tip: Don’t try to change the world in one fell swoop. Start small. Seek out those internal stakeholders who are most likely to join you in your ambitions. Take a first step, demonstrate its added value and share it with the rest of the organisation. Start for example by fine-tuning your selection for a specific position by agreeing on a uniform profile with the line managers and testing to which extent candidates conform to this profile. Start building on this approach once the line managers have seen its added value for themselves and it has become clear to everyone which advantages it may yield (a better-functioning team, for example, or lower staff turnover).

4. Think in terms of win/win

Look for methods of working that yield advantages for everyone involved. For instance, if you’re looking for an assessment instrument that can serve as a point of reference for managers and recruiters in selection interviews, ensure that the assessment report uses clear language and has practical value for everyone involved. And that the candidate also recognises him or herself in the picture that is painted of him or her.

5. First try to understand others before seeking to be understood yourself

Put yourself in other people’s shoes to build support for what you hope to achieve. Listen to their concerns. A managing director, for example, is primarily interested in safeguarding the continuity of the organisation and expects a clear business case: Why exactly will this new approach yield greater returns than the approach we have taken so far? The line manager’s schedule is often already over-full, causing him or her to think: Even more work? Please – no! Translate your plans into clear advantages for all relevant stakeholders. Persuade your managing director with a clear business case. Show the line manager how your plan will make his or her life easier.

6. Seek out synergies

Your proposals may be enthusiastically received by your internal stakeholders or they may not. But even if you come up against a brick wall at first, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put your plans back in the drawer for another year. Combine the previous tips to arrive at an alternative solution. Find out where the business’s real ‘pain points’ lie. Listen with an open mind to your stakeholders to find out what concerns them, think in terms of win/win and come up with alternative proposals that place strong emphasis on the desired returns.

7. Continue to strengthen your own HR team as well

Covey concludes his list of seven habits with what he refers to as ‘sharpening the saw’. By occasionally taking time to increase our own effectiveness, we can achieve more in the remainder of our work day. When it comes to talent development, HR teams are used to focusing on the rest of the organisation. Be sure to keep a close eye on the talents and development potential of your own team. Developing your HR department into a strategic business partner requires different competencies of your team members – advisory skills, persuasiveness and commercial awareness, to name a few. Invest in the personal talents of your team members, so that together you can achieve more within the wider organisation.