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but why?

Posted by Meg Bear on February 1, 2010


I hear a lot of people talking about their Talent strategy in a way that makes me think that they might be missing the big picture.

A good example is the current focus on Performance Management solutions.  Conversations often go something like this

HR group:

Our talent strategy is to have 100% participation in the performance process, where every person in our organization has a recorded performance rating.

Me: Why?

HR Group:

So we can make sure we have a common measurement of our resources

Me: Why?

HR Group:

So we can benefit from the Pay for Performance best practice. [Alternate: So that we can make sure we are “right sizing” the correct people]

Me: Groan

While it’s hard to know where to begin in deconstructing this discussion in a single blog post, let me start with the idea that I think we are again, confusing strategy with tactics.

A Talent strategy is one that shows how you can to achieve critical business results with people [your most important resource].  Technology might be  important, but for it to be effective, you must first make sure you know how to define success.

Of course, I’m a huge fan of Performance management systems/plans/initiatives.  I think having a solid system to measure people is a good thing.  I also believe that the communication of achievement, competency, etc. is important for both managers, employees and human resources.   I just get frustrated when I realize that people often forget that, at the end of the day, it is also a lot of paperwork.

The value is real, but so is the cost and in any event, this can only ever be a stepping stone for an effective Talent strategy.  You need this measurement to help you understand your workforce, to ultimately be able to better utilize them.

Without appropriate line of sight between the required effort and the desired outcome of the activity you will end up with a lot of frustrated people in the middle and no real results for the business.    Your strategy needs to connect the dots between the activity and the business results.  What does the business get from your [insert current talent focus here] initiative?

Do you know?  Do they care?

5 Responses to “but why?”

  1. Nicely put. Performance Management does cost quite a bit to implement, bit of a shame if the entire value add is that you populate an ‘overall rating’ field in some database. Not that I’m judging😉 but one could achieve that same result more cheaply with a SQL insert. To be fair, though, HR often has performance management tools but not business application tools to tie the results back to the business.

    • Meg Bear said

      “To be fair, though, HR often has performance management tools but not business application tools to tie the results back to the business.”
      => bingo!

  2. Great post. The most important sentence in the entire blog post is: “A Talent strategy is one that shows how you can to achieve critical business results with people”. In all of our HR and HR Technology initiatives, there has to be a business result that is driving the initiative.

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