06 August 2014

How good is your talent decision-making?

Recently I met up with a long term friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in many years.

Our lives had taken different paths since we were at university together. Although we both travelled, I came back to Australia after a couple of years and he did not.

He pursued a career in professional services with a global top-tier firm in another country and has since made his life there, although he frequently returns to Australia. Through capability that was never apparent to me thirty years ago, my friend had risen to be one of the most senior four partners in his firm. He is currently responsible for a business stream of nearly 300 partners.

The week before we met up, he had played golf with Phil Mickelson. He's moving in those sorts of circles these days.

As we talked about our lives and work, the conversation shot back and forth around the table to his other long-time two friends, who were also present at the dinner. These other two friends were both CEOs in well known local organisations.

As the good and bad of our respective work lives was discussed, the point that everyone agreed on was clear - one of the most important jobs that any leader has is the skill to select, hire and develop the right talent. In the current work environment that is greatly impacted by the respective forces of globalisation and communication technology (predominantly internet access on a mobile device), this skill is even more important than it has ever been.

The speed with which change occurs is only increasing which means businesses get left behind before they really know, or understand, what is happening, as former GE CEO, Jack Welch clearly understood.

'If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.'

The capability to make the right decision on talent, wherever that talent is in their life-cycle as an employee, is crucial, as Jack Welch proved in his legendary approach to employee appraisals:.

'You got to be rigorous in your appraisal system. The biggest cowards are managers who don't let people know where they stand.' 

Welch built his reputation on many things but predominantly, I would suggest his view of talent and the importance of making the right decisions on talent; who to hire, who to promote, who to let go, was fundamental to his success.

It appears that this skill is assumed in senior executives, but it never should be, as the conversation with my friend demonstrated. 

My friend was discussing another executive in his business, one of the firm's most senior leaders globally and the inability of this leader to make the hard decisions on people; the decisions necessary for the profitable future of the firm.

As recruiters, we see and hear about this lack of hard decision-making more frequently than many other professionals.

Yet for the leaders of recruitment agencies it's relevant to ask the question: How good are we at making those talent decisions ourselves?

It is interesting to revisit the interview I had with SARA Award winning Six Degrees Executive, Director Nick Hindhaugh earlier this year. This is what he had to say on their own recruitment and development process:

'There are a number of parts to our process that involve not just looking for clones, or people with existing recruitment industry experience, but being open minded to strong industry experience as well. Some of our best talent has come from non recruitment roles.

For us, energy, reliance, learning agility and ‘fit' are equally important but it's also crucial that new hires are passionate and high performers in whatever they do.

We are reasonably robust in the recruitment process which involves several in depth interviews, testing, a presentation and socialisation to assess team fit. The keys though to success have been a well structured induction and training program in the first 6 months as well as ongoing training post this.'

What I take from what Nick said is that Six Degrees Executives have:

1.    A clear and consistent recruitment and development process for their talent
2.    A clear and consistent decision-making criteria for each step of the process in (1) above

These two things might sound like common sense but I can attest that there are many recruitment agencies that have neither of these things in place.

Here is a checklist you may wish to use as a gentle form of self-assessment for your internal talent decision-making:

Talent decision making criteria
Yes/No
Action required
We have a recruitment process that we follow each time for every position?


The decision-making criteria at each step of the above process is known and followed consistently?


We have an induction process that we follow each time for every position?


Post-induction we have a development plan and decision-making criteria that ensures we can make a decision about continuing employment for each new hire before the probation period expires?


Post-probation we have a development plan and decision-making criteria which ensures that each employee is meeting or exceeding performance expectations, being performance-managed or their respectful exit is being arranged?



How much better would you be as a leader and how much more successful would your team or company be if you were a better decision maker on talent?

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