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​What's your Talent Philosophy?

The foundation of successful talent management doesn’t lie with your strategy, practices or technology. It’s created when your executive team agrees on how to best manage talent to achieve your business strategy.



Why You Need a Talent Philosophy

A company’s explicit or implicit answers to questions like those listed above comprise its Talent Philosophy – how it plans to manage talent to achieve its strategy. Given that few companies have an explicit Talent Philosophy, managers’ individual preferences and biases often guide the important choices made about employees’ careers.

These individual preferences can create huge variations in the quality, depth and engagement of talent. Depending on the manager, a high potential employee might be aggressively developed and rewarded or receive just a token recognition of their ability. A high performing employee with less than perfect behaviors might be quickly promoted by one manager or held back by another until those behaviors improve. If your organization is trying to build specific capabilities or deliver a consistent employee experience, the lack of a Talent Philosophy sharply undercuts those efforts.


Without an explicit Talent Philosophy employees must infer their company’s “rules of the road” by observing how talent-related decisions are made. It’s not likely their assessment will give your company the benefit of the doubt. If they perceive that promotions emerge from a black-box process, they’ll assume that favoritism and politics bias that process. If they don’t understand why some employees receive out-sized rewards, they’ll assume the company is fundamentally unfair in its compensation approach.


Companies without a clear Talent Philosophy face far more serious consequences than just having autonomous managers and confused employees. Without a consistent set of rules for how talent should be managed, companies risk:


Increased turnover of high potentials: Your company’s highest potential leaders will be especially sensitive to lack of transparency about their future or unexplained inequities in treatment. They won’t whine about them; they’ll just leave.


Decreased engagement: The elements of a Talent Philosophy heavily influence the factors that create employee engagement. If managers aren’t accountable for developing their teams or bad behaviors are left unchecked without explanation, engagement of your best talent is sure to take a hit.


Growing capability gaps: Without a Talent Philosophy, managers will rely on their personal preferences and biases to guide how they manage and grow their teams. Your company will never build the quality or depth of talent it requires with a “random walk” approach to managing talent.


Employees can adapt to a wide variety of talent philosophies. What they want is clarity about what “rules” exist and to see those rules consistently applied.


The Talent Philosophy Process

​When we help companies to create and implement their Talent Philosophy, it typically includes four steps:

1. Survey: We customize the Talent Philosophy Survey™ to the company’s needs and administer it to their executive team. The survey includes about 20 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Other leaders can also take the survey but the opinions that should shape the Talent Philosophy are only those of the CEO and his or her direct reports.


2. Present & Develop: We present the executives with the survey findings and a “From/To” assessment. We facilitate a discussion with the executive team that ends in agreement on a Talent Philosophy. We prepare and present profiles that describe how leaders’ experiences at work will change under the new philosophy.


These profiles ensure that executives understand that they’re agreeing to concrete actions and outcomes, not just aspirational statements.


3. Communicate: We help our clients to create and execute a communication strategy that supports the Talent Philosophy. This strategy often includes both the plan and its execution. We are able to provide comprehensive design and delivery of the collateral material that supports an effective global roll-out.


4. Assess & Recommend: We assess and recommend changes to your HR practices to support the Talent Philosophy. We audit your talent and compensation practices to understand where current approaches are misaligned with your new philosophy. We provide thorough analysis and specific recommendations for change based on our One Page Talent Management approach.

In Summary

A Talent Philosophy provides the foundation for talent management success. It aligns your executive team around a common vision. It clarifies for your employees how to succeed. It provides a “true north” around which to design your HR practices.

I’ve been surprised by the power of this seemingly simple activity and now recommend it to every client as the mandatory starting point for talent management success.


Reprinted with the permission of Marc Effron at The Talent Strategy Group.

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