I recently wrote a post about the importance of giving employees a more active role managing their own talent.
Now I want to talk about how.
Despite the availability of increasingly sophisticated talent management solutions, most companies today leave employee development largely up to manager discretion.
And yet, study after study show we have a management skills gap.
This isn't terribly surprising, given that most companies put people into management roles based on criteria that have little to do with leadership skills and for the most part fail to provide any sort of training or coaching.
There are some great managers out there but that's not really the point.
The point is manager discretion. Here's why:
1) It's human nature to go looking for the next thing.
2) Ideally, you want people to look for the next thing at the same company.
3) If you rely on managers to broker the next thing you're blocking people.
When it comes to talent management, too much focus on management tends to drive away your talent.
It doesn't have to be that way: Imagine a company where employees can explore different career paths and evaluate the development steps they'd need to take to get ready for the next level. Motivated employees can, on their own time and initiative, start moving down a chosen path path and demonstrate regular progress, which is tracked.
Managers are involved in a coaching capacity, rather than a gatekeeping capacity.
Instead of hand-picking a few people, treating them like higher beings for a couple of years and hoping they turn out to be good leaders, internal recruiting at this company starts with people who have already demonstrated a steady commitment to self-development.
At the same time, managers can reward initiative by offering more leadership opportunities on the job. This, too, is tracked and the manager receives recognition for developing his or her team.
Pretty empowering, huh?
And it doesn't have to be high-tech: I once worked at a company where the VP of application development sent an email to the entire department inviting people to apply for several leadership positions and people emailed him back.
This was somewhat unorthodox because decisions like these are usually based on a predefined short list. But it was great for morale - and subsequent support of the new managers - because everyone had a fair shot.
Even the team iguana (if he had been more of a go-getter and literate) could have thrown his hat in the ring. I'm sure that meant a lot to him.
I'm not saying it's easy to put a new way of working in place because it's not.
On the other hand, we know that critical skills are going to be in short supply in the next years. We also know that relying on recruiting alone to acquire key talent is a risky strategy.
And we know that more than half of all employees identified as 'really good' are looking for new jobs because they feel frustrated and blocked in their current jobs.
Today's talent management solutions can track career paths, skills required for job profiles and development plans. Aptitude testing software is also available to help people decide where their interests and abilities coincide. Modern analytics can easily track what people are working on and how effectively they are managed.
So, maybe it's time to move away from top-down talent management in the direction of self-selection (aka, 'empowerment'), alternate career paths and mentoring.
Granted, this requires a lot of work, some investment and a completely new mindset.
But other than that, what's stopping you?
Picture courtesy of girlopinion.com.