Companies like to say that people are their greatest asset.  If that’s really true, why are so many organizations unprepared for facing the challenges associated with recruiting, selecting, and retaining the right people in the right seats?  

According to one COO I interviewed recently, “Talent management puts you under strain because it stops you from doing what you are rewarded for.”  This COO’s sentiment, one that I find many executives agree with, is one of the major obstacles to developing talent, family or otherwise: people simply don’t believe that’s what they’re paid to do.

Whether your business is privately held or publicly held, talent management and successor development in your organization probably share a common financial thread.  In both cases, development is expensed rather than capitalized.  Now you might be asking, “What difference does that make?”  Keep reading.

If talent management and successor development are expensed, then when revenues and profits go down, so does the effort put into people development.  When you stop developing your people, you dull your competitive edge.  That usually occurs when you can least afford to have that happen.  But the lure of a “quick fix” on the expense side of the financials is very seductive.

If talent management and successor development aren’t part of your strategic and succession plans, prepare to wander in the desert.  During one session with a group of CEOs, one asked me “Why are really talented people so hard to find?”  My answer is that there just aren’t that many to start with.  As a result, there is a real global “talent war”.

Check your organization on the following questions and see how you fare:

Senior managers spend quality time on talent management.   
The company encourages constructive collaboration and sharing of resources.   
Line managers are committed to developing direct reports.   
Line managers differentiate performance among their people.   
The senior team is involved in shaping talent management strategies.   
Talent management is aligned with business strategy.   
Underperformance is addressed as it occurs.   

Now, go back and look at your answers.  Were you really honest or did you just want to feel good today?  If you answered all seven as “True”, and if you were honest in answering, then you and your management team have learned how to manage talent and will be in a better spot when it comes time to identify successor candidates.  If some of your answers were either “False” or “Unsure”, then you might want to consider why finding and keeping the right people is harder than you would like it to be. 

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