What Is Wrong with and How to Improve Organizational Talent Reviews?
Before we discuss how to improve organizational talent reviews (also called OTRs), let’s first consider the purpose of organizational talent reviews. During normal times, organizations evaluate talent in order to assess an employee’s performance and potential in order to plan for the future growth of both the individual and the organization. During tough times, organizational talent reviews are used as input into Voluntary Separation Programs and Reductions in Force.
But many leaders tell us that the talent review process is broken and that they need to improve how they identify and treat talent. When organizational talent reviews go well, they can align talent, maximize resources, and set people up to perform at their peak. When organizational talent reviews do not go well, they can destroy trust and motivation within an organization.
The Good and Bad News
The process of reviewing an organization’s talent has important implications for succession planning, talent development, employee engagement, and the retention of top talent.
The good news is that over 50% of organizations have a formal talent review process in place for their top performing employees. The bad news is that just as many organizations are struggling to identify top leadership potential and talent, assess people manager competencies and potential, and generally motivate and retain top talent in critical roles.
Almost three-quarters of high-retention-risk workers believe that in order to grow professionally they have to leave their current company. This statistic flies in the face of the purpose of talent reviews. We need to understand how to fix the process.
Five Ways to Improve Organizational Talent Reviews
- Clearly Define Performance Expectations
First and foremost, leaders need to agree on how to define high performance, future potential, and strategic significance for each and every role. This collective definition process and outcome is the bedrock for creating a high performance culture as it gets everyone aligned and on the same page about what matters most.
While each company, each team, and each role is unique, the agreed-upon and explicit definitions of low, target, and high performance set transparent standards and measuring sticks for increased clarity, motivation, and accountability.
Work with your teams to define desired behaviors, key performance indicators, and meaningful achievements so that everyone understands and commits to what it takes to be performing above, at, or below expectations.
- Establish at Least a Quarterly Frequency
Performance reviews should not be a once-a-year exercise. Annual reviews lose their value for both employee and employer. Your performance management process should occur, either formally or informally, at least four times a year so you keep a fresh perspective on talent needs and opportunities.
To develop, engage, and retain top talent, managers need to keep a close and constant eye on their team’s performance, career growth aspirations, and retention risk.
- Make Talent Reviews a Team Effort
Don’t allow layoff decisions or performance evaluations to occur in silos. Most people work across teams and impact multiple areas. Transparency across functions and feedback from others is important to fill out the full picture, risks involved, and impact. Include other managers the employees may work with, their coworkers, and customers when ever it makes sense.
Talent decisions that are made collaboratively raise everyone’s consciousness about what is and is not working.
- Agree Upon Next Steps
It is not enough to discuss past and current performance. The real value comes in talking about each employee’s ambitions.
— What do they like best to do?
— Where do they see themselves in the next year?
— What kind of support do they need to achieve their work goals?
Set up an individual development plan with clear follow-up steps and agree upon who will be responsible for completing them and when.
- Focus on Those Who are Staying AND Those Who Are Leaving
People losing their jobs is a big deal for them, their families, and their co-workers. Even after thoughtful analyses and compassionate communications, employees wonder if leaders “got it right” and leaders worry about post-layoff damage that can harm their employer brand, employee engagement, and performance.
For Those Who Are Leaving
For exiting employees, behave as if the criteria, process, decisions, and outcomes will be printed in the front page of the paper the next day. Would your choices and behaviors be perceived as:
— helpful to exiting employees?
At the end of the day, you want exiting employees to feel like they were taken care despite the difficult circumstances. That includes providing meaningful and proportionate severance, career transition services, and support to help them land on their feet.
For Those Who Are Staying
First off, how you treat those who are leaving absolutely impacts employees who are staying. People talk and many coworkers are close friends. Don’t mistakenly think that you can ignore people who you will no longer count on to move the strategy forward.
Your next step is to ensure that you fully retain your high performers by taking care of your remaining employees in a way that increases their engagement and intent to stay. This requires its own change management workstream. After a reduction in force, remaining employees need honest answers and meaningful reassurance:
— Are more layoffs or cost cutting maneuvers coming?
— Is my job safe?
— Is the company viable?
— Why did we need to lay people off?
— What happens to the tasks that departing employees were working on?
— Are we expected to do more with less?
— Why do we still have open requisitions?
— Why is it worth it for me to stay and perform?
Active involvement, transparency, and frequent one-on-one communications are paramount to mitigating the emotional damage caused by layoffs.
From a retention strategy perspective, focus on the jobs that are the most important to organizational success and create individual retention plans to engage and retain the key people in those roles.
The Bottom Line
Talent reviews are fundamental to assessing gaps and strengths in your talent pipeline. Are you doing all you can to make the process of value to you, your employee, and your organization?
To learn more about how to improve talent reviews, download Why Organizations and Managers Must Reassess Career Development