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Bangers & mash, gooseberry fool and talent review – one magical week in London

Posted by Ken Klaus on December 13, 2008


It was my first full day in London.  I left the hotel around 8:00, expecting I would stop for a quick English breakfast before losing myself in the wonders of a brand new city (did I mention this was my first trip to the UK?); but the clear blue sky and bright sunshine blanketing Gloucester Road instantly made me rethink my plans.  First a strong cup of coffee: Venti, white, filtered (i.e. a large drip coffee with plenty of cream, thank you very much!) – made with love at the Starbucks across the road from the Millennium Bailey’s (a fabulous Victorian hotel in North Kensington).  With caffeine in hand I strolled a few blocks north and entered Hyde Park.  The air was cold and crisp and the treetops glowed in the bright morning light.  It was like a beautiful illustration from a favorite childhood storybook and just like the young boys and girls that inhabit such stories, I was instantly smitten, with the park, the city, the whole of this magical Kingdom (with apologies to Mr. Mouse).  I absolutely, positively, unreservedly fell in love with London.  The kind of love where you abandon reason and forget that in the real world there are bills to pay and employers who actually expect you to show up for work!  Thus, inevitably, as with so many of the great Bard’s plays, the story came too quickly to an end and the lovers, only newly acquainted, had to part.  I’ll give you a moment to feel my sense of loss, as poor Juliet must have done when she believed Romeo was dead and took up his dagger to join him.  Sigh.


Well that’s probably more drama than we need in one post and since I was in fact there on business, I suspect my manager might appreciate a few thoughts related to the work I was actually there to complete.  So, last week I was in London and Birmingham to chat with our customers about their talent management strategy and more specifically on how they are using talent review meetings to measure, motivate and manage their workforce.  Though the talent review process in general varied widely across geographies, industries, organizations, and business units; I found that the customers who saw the greatest return on their investment (and believe me you have to invest in the talent review process if you want to see the benefits) had some interesting things in common.


First, and perhaps most important was executive sponsorship and participation.  This was not simply support for the idea of talent reviews; in almost all cases c-level executives were actively involved in defining the purpose and outcomes for the talent review meetings as well as actively participating in one or more reviews.


Next, each organization had a set of clearly defined goals and outcomes for the meeting.  Without exception the companies who saw the greatest benefits from their talent review meetings were those who had a clear set of goals laid out before the meeting and an actionable set of outcomes at the end of the meeting.  Participants knew in advance why they were meeting (performance calibration, risk assessment, succession planning, etc.), what they had to do before they arrived, and, more importantly, what they had to do after the meeting was finished.  Kim Lamoureux over at Bersin & Associates had some great things to say on this subject in her post Succession Management – Making the Talent Review Work and the conversations I had with our customers certainly matchup with her findings.


Almost without exception the talent review process was owned and managed by HR.  The customers I spoke with all viewed the HR department as a critical partner that could not be left out of the talent review process.  Recruiting, retention, compensation, and employee development are all driven from HR, which means many of the actionable outcomes of the talent review meeting will need the support of the HR department.  Not surprisingly, most of the customers I spoke with told me the entire talent review process was owned and driven from within the HR department, in some cases by a dedicated Talent Management team. 


Calibrating performance and potential scores is only the beginning.  Most organizations focus on performance and potential calibration as the starting point of their talent review process.  But the talent review meeting can be leveraged for so much more: succession and career planning, creating talent pools for key roles and positions within the organization, mitigating risk of loss, developing diverse organizations and working teams, managing compensation plans and much, much more.  The companies who saw the greatest benefit from their talent review process were those who moved beyond performance calibration toward total talent management. 


Talent reviews are for everyone.  Many companies first implement talent reviews for their c-level executives, but most never get beyond the senior levels of their organization.  By contrast, most of the customers I spoke with had either already implemented organization wide talent reviews or were planning to do so in the immediate future.  Remember, the goal of the talent review meeting is to identify key talent and help them reach their full potential, which means every worker in your organization should have the opportunity to participate in your talent review process.


Before I wrap up, I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of the customers who participated in the feedback sessions we held in Birmingham as well as those who gave up part of their day to meet with us in our London office.  You are true pioneers in this arena and we wish you much success.  I also want to thank the kind and friendly souls who taught me how to enjoy a proper pint of British ale and for introducing me to gooseberry fool and bangers and mash.  I already miss you more than I can say.  Cheers!


8 Responses to “Bangers & mash, gooseberry fool and talent review – one magical week in London”

  1. These 5 points are so true and very helpful in understanding what Talent Review can do for an organization and what makes it successful. The point about being more than just for performance calibration (although a very important use) is particularly true – we need to see it as the capstone of, as you call it, “Total Talent Management” (great term.)


  2. Meg Bear said

    So I’d love to talk about a Talent Review but instead I’m going to talk about London. London was my first trip outside of the US and it is still one of my favorite cities. I’m so glad the entire thing was a success. I’ve noticed a trend with Ken and Europe, I seem to remember a fond love of Paris from you as well… I guess international travel suits you ;-).

  3. Ken Klaus said

    Thanks for your comments. I’d love to hear about your time in London. As for me, well I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Now if only I knew who to talk to about an international assignment. =) Cheers!

  4. Marcie Van Houten said

    Ahhh, love is so easy when the air is crisp and there’s no rain in sight. I think you need to visit in February before you commit yourself fully. Kind of like San Francisco in the summer.

  5. Ken Klaus said

    Doubt thou the stars are fire,
    Doubt the sun doth move,
    Doubt truth to be a liar
    but never doubt thy love.
    Love comforteth like sunshine after rain. – William Shakespeare

    Alas I fear the only way to know if this be love is for the lovers to be reunited! =)

  6. Amy Wilson said

    Oh yes Ken! I am looking forward to more around the world goodness!

    Your observations seem right in line with leading companies in the US and elsewhere around the world. Did you detect anything different in the UK? Are they further ahead in the world or do they just communicate their goals in a better accent?

  7. Ken Klaus said

    Excellent question, Amy. The customers I spoke with in the UK did seem to be further along in implementing talent reviews, in particular at the lower levels of their organizations. However, overall I think the process itself was very close to what we have observed in the U.S. I would be interested to find out if the same is true throughout Europe and the ASIAPAC region as well. I hear Australia is nice this time a year. =)

  8. Louise Barnfield said

    Ah, gooseberry fool! Brings back fond memories of one of my favorites, the way my Mum made it! So, there is something I miss from my English heritage after all!!

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