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    Entries in talent (28)

    Tuesday
    Aug262014

    You should never be surprised by someone that works for you

    Well, probably not 'never', but certainly not very much, and not when the 'surprise' is that the employee is really, really, really talented at something related either to their actual job or more generally to your business.

    The context of the notion that you, ('you' being a manager, leader, business owner, etc.), should have a strong sense of both the capabilities, and more importantly perhaps, the potential of the folks on your team. I know, not exactly some kind of breakthrough idea, right? HR and business leaders have been plotting folks on the 9-box Performance/Potential grid for years and years. In fact, there are at least a dozen really cool software programs that will help you automate and streamline and enhance the entire 9-box exercise.

    But so what, really? None of that matters if there aren't strategies in place to actually action the results of the exercise.

    Here's the specific example that I heard discussed recently on of all things, Bill Simmons' BS Report podcast, which is usually about sports topics. On this particular episode, Simmons and his guest were discussing TV talk shows, specifically the Daily Show on Comedy Central.

    Last Summer, The Daily Show's host John Stewart took an extended sabbatical from the show in order to work on a movie project. In his stead, Comedy Central slotted show contributor John Oliver in Stewart's place to host the show for a few months while Stewart was on leave.

    And long story short, Oliver killed it. He was funny, clever, and once his extended run was complete filling in for Stewart, he has suddenly in demand. He had many more options than perhaps he would have had he not been given this kind of showcase opportunity from Comedy Central. But once the guest run was completed, Comedy Central, perhaps surprised by how well Oliver performed in the 'top' job at the Daily Show, was left kind of stuck - at the they did not have a similar, high-profile kind of role to offer Oliver, and as was brought up by Bill Simmons on the podcast, they did not have Oliver contractually locked up into continuing on with Comedy Central at all.

    Long story short, Oliver moved on to HBO where his new show, 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver', has launched to critical acclaim and pretty significant buzz (amongst folks who care about these things).

    And Comedy Central is left wondering just how they managed to let Oliver walk, particularly when just a few months later another network star, Stephen Colbert, announced he was leaving to eventually become the replacement for CBS legend David Letterman on his talk show.

    In theory, better planning and understanding of their talent on Comedy Central's part might have led to a much more beneficial outcome for the network all around. Their #1 star Stewart, gets a needed break to re-charge and explore some important personal projects, a highly capable team player, Oliver, gets a chance to prove himself, and eventually slot into the #2 role, Colbert's when he leaves.

    Except that is not, in fact, what is happening, and Comedy Central is left wondering how they let Oliver go to (possibly) become a bigger star somewhere else.

    Hey, it happens. Maybe Comedy Central did know just how talented Oliver was, and just did not care that much. That is pretty bad.

    But maybe they were actually surprised by how good he was, and if so, that is even worse, because if you are really managing and engaging with talent, and not just playing with names on a 9-box, you should never really be surprised by someone that works for you. 

    Tuesday
    Jul082014

    The Obligatory World Cup Post - #8ManRotation

    My annual contract with the 8 Man Rotation Group, LLC (not a real thing, but we do have an annual FREE Ebook on Sports and HR - you can get the latest version here), obliges me to post at least once about the World Cup and what similarities, parallels, or HR and workplace takeaways you might be able to glean from the tournament (which I really do enjoy), so here goes...

    Talent almost always trumps all - Despite some interesting and surprising 'upsets' in the early round matches, (the USA getting out of the 'Group of Death', the legendary Spanish side failing to play to expectations), by the later stages of the event, the best/most talented teams had risen to the occasion. In the first knockout round the 8 teams that had been on top of their opening round groups, all defeated the second place in their group teams that they were matched against. And then in the quarter-final round, the four teams that advanced (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands), were among the pre-tournament top four favored sides. Winning at the World Cup, and in most every business as well, remains mostly about having a group of talented people working together towards the same goal. And since every team wants to win the World Cup, the tie-breaker is talent. Not fighting spirit, not fan support, not a 'unique' culture - it's talent.

    The more people needed to create the finished product, the less individual stars matter - Soccer is played by 11 people per side, thus making any single individual's ability to impact and influence the outcome of the match relatively less than say basketball, where a single star player is often the difference between winning teams and losing ones. Sure, each of the top 4 teams have their share of 'star' players, but in a 90 minute match these players can often go for very long stretches of play without even touching the ball, much less making game-altering plays. Soccer is often about discipline, strategy, organization as much as about singular talent. So while talent (usually) trumps all, it is really kind of a collective talent level that I'm talking about. Many of the top sides have seen their star players go down to injury, yet their overall talent level and team organization has allowed them to continue to thrive. The HR lesson here? Once about 10-15 people are involved in any project or initiative, you might be better off passing on the 'star' talent in favor of raising the overall talent level of the group. 

    Performance is relative (and a function of expectations) - Just like how for most publicly traded companies their quarterly performance in terms of absolute revenue or earnings means much less than how those figures compared to Wall Street's 'expectations' of what those results would be, a team's performance in the World Cup usually is assessed against some kind of nebulous collective expectation of what that performance would be. Case in point -the USA team played four matches in the World Cup. They won one, drew one, and lost two. The win was against probably the worst opponent of the four. The draw happened when the USA allowed a shocking goal in the 95th minute of play (essentially the last kick of the game). But yet after the USA was eliminated from the tournament, the general consensus was that the USA had a successful tournament and is on the right track for the future. But objectively, a record of 1-2-1 in four games is pretty terrible. But against expectations, it was a success. We see this effect at work all the time - someone's just sort of average performance is viewed as wonderful if they have a track record of being incompetent. Someone else's good performance is not appreciated if they had somehow done a little better in the past. We'd probably be better off trying to forget the recent past, let go of 'expectations' and try to evaluate people and performance for what they are.

    Anyway, there it is, my 8 Man Rotation 2014 World Cup post is in the books!

    Happy Tuesday.

    Tuesday
    Jun032014

    The trickier part of Moneyball: Understanding the price of performance

    I'm out at the HireVue Digital Disruption event in Park City, Utah (I know what you're thinking, your humble correspondent sure has it tough), and at the opening general session the audience was treated to a talk by Billy Beane, GM of the first-place Oakland Athletics, and more famously, the subject of the book and movie Moneyball.Park City, UT

    By now just about everyone in the HR/Talent space is familiar with the Moneyball story, as Beane and his former assistant at the Athletics, Paul Depodesta have both been pretty regular fixtures on the HR conference speaking circuit these last few years. The story, even if getting a little familiar, still resonates, and having the hook of a movie based on the Moneyball book and starring Brad Pitt has helped to extend the life of the story somewhat.

    But it seems to me that while everyone in HR now knows the Moneyball story, that mostly we kind of only accept it at the first level, i.e., that HR needs to apply more data and analytical tools towards the management of talent in the organization. How Beane and Depodesta took a data-driven approach to managing talent at the Oakland A's was the fundamental message of Moneyball, but it was not the only message.

    The more important, and much harder aspect of Moneyball is the concept of the value and price of performance. In his talk yesterday at the HireVue event Beane showed a chart that explained this concept playing out in decisions about major league baseball pitchers. A few years ago Beane traded one of the top pitchers in the league but who had a $6M or so salary and replaced him with a pitcher that had just about equal success on the field, but who had a salary of 1/10th of the guy he replaced. So while the emphasis and focus of the Moneyball approach to talent has been (mostly) about identifying the right data (and tools to analyze that data), that leads to high performance, once you have done that analysis then Moneyball demands you apply that to the costs or price you can or should pay for that performance.

    And it seems to me that side of the process, the 'How much are we paying for performance?' question is where the true value is to be found in the entire Moneyball story. In baseball and maybe in your business too, it probably is getting easier to determine what metrics to apply in order to identify and predict performance. But it is much tougher to understand the tradeoffs between costs and performance. Beane and the Athletics continue to succeed not because they still have some secret understanding of what metrics to apply, they stay on top because they consistently find ways to acquire the performance they need at a much lower cost than their competitors.

    The focus on the costs and value from performance is why the book was called Moneyball and not Metricsball.

    Identifying the metrics is only the first step - knowing how much they are worth, what you can pay, and when to 'sell' an overpriced asset and 'buy' an undervalued one is the real and much trickier lesson from Moneyball. 

    Monday
    Apr282014

    What's so great about top talent?

    Pretty much every article or analysis of the drivers or pre-requisites for consistent high performance in an organization eventually mentions the concept of 'top talent.'

    An organization needs the best or 'top' talent in order to continuously generate great new ideas, to execute their strategies, to improve productivity and efficiency, and so on. Some estimates of the comparative advantage provided by 'top talent' compared to average (and much easier to find) talent rate that advantage as high as a factor of 10. Whatever the actual factor is, and it probably varies pretty widely depending on the industry and type of work, there is pretty much universal agreement that while not always available (and affordable), acquiring 'top' talent should be most organizations goal.

    But why, exactly?

    What specifically do these 'top' talents bring to the organization? What do they actually do that is demonstrably superior to average talent and how would the answer to that question help organization's improve their recruiting and development strategies?

    Well, a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study titled Why Stars Matter, has attempted to identify just what are these 'top talent' effects. It turns out that just being better at their jobs only accounts for a part of the advantage these high performers provide and that possibly the more important benefit is how the presence of top talent impacts the other folks around them, (and the ones you are trying to recruit).

    Here is a summary of the findings of the 'top talent' effects from HBR:

    The paper points to three different ways that superstars can improve an organization, and measures the magnitude of each in the context of academic evolutionary biology departments. The first, and most obvious, is the direct increase in output that a superstar can have. Hire someone who can get a lot of great work done quickly and your organization will by definition be producing more great work. But, perhaps surprisingly, this represents only a small fraction of the change that superstars have on output.

    The researchers found that the superstar’s impact on recruiting was far and away the more significant driver of improved organizational productivity. Starting just one year after the superstar joins the department, the average quality of those who join the department at all levels increases significantly. As for the impact of a superstar on existing colleagues, the findings are more mixed. Incumbents who work on topics related to those the superstar focused on saw their output increase, but incumbents whose work was unrelated became slightly less productive.

    So 'top talent' (mostly) gets to be called 'top talent' because they are simply better, more productive employees. But a significant benefit of these talented individuals is that they help you recruit more people like them, who in turn also are more productive than average, continuing to raise the overall performance level of the organization.

    But this only works in the real world if indeed the top talent actually can help you (and actively help you) recruit more people like them.

    The findings of the NBER study suggest that beyond their own performance, and the potential of them to elevate the performance of the rest of your team, the real benefit to organizations from 'top talent' is really tied up in whom they help you recruit next.

    It might be something to consider adding to your interviewing and assessment process a question something along the lines of "If you were to come on board, who would you recommend we hire next?"

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Mar252014

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 178 - Making Talent Data Actionable

    HR Happy Hour 178 - 'Making Talent Data Actionable'

    Recorded Friday March 21, 2014

    On the latest HR Happy Hour Show, hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane sat down with Mark Brandau, Vice President of Solution Marketing at SAP, responsible for Cloud Solutions including SuccessFactors to talk about talent management, Talent Reviews, and how some of the latest developments from SuccessFactors including the new 'Presentations' capability are helping to make workforce and talent data accessible and actionable.

    If you have been in HR or line management long enough you know how tedious, manual, and downright painful traditional Talent Review meetings can be. Lots of paper, lots of manually created PowerPoint decks, lots of people trying to make some of the most important talent management decisions for the organization but spending too much time on executing the process and not enough making the important, strategic decisions that the business demands. Modern technologies for Talent Reviews have come light years from where they were just a few years ago, and the modern HR organization can now have advanced capability to rate, review, align, and develop talent all in one place.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here or using the widget player below:

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    Additionally, you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or for Android device users, from a free app called Stitcher Radio. In both cases just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your podcast subscription list. 

    This was a fun and informative show and I would like to thank Mark and the folks at SAP for being a part of the HR Happy Hour Show.