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    Entries in talent (27)


    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.


    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. 


    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!


    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:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese on BlogTalkRadio


    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. 


    Three quick performance lessons from the Oracle of Omaha

    Legendary investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet dropped his annual shareholder letter last week, and as usual it is full of insights about investing and business and offers plenty for anyone interested in better performance - of investments, organizations, or individuals to think about and learn from.

    1. On taking the long view

    Buffett: "Games are won by players who focus on the playing field -- not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays."

    HR/Talent lesson: Like many investments, the true payoff on many talent decisions/initiatives are only realized in the fullness of time. New hires can take as long as a year to be fully productive, that big HRMS project could have an 18-month timeline, and that new recruiting blog or Facebook page you've set up is simply not going to catch in the first month. We want, or are trained to expect, a faster payoff or return on everything we do, but as Buffett reminds us, often patience will be rewarded. Probably the most difficult, and most valuable, ability for any manager is the ability to know just how long to keep pursuing a strategy and when to change course.

    2. On understanding your strengths and weaknesses

    Buffett: "You don't need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren't, you must recognize your limitations and follow a course certain to work reasonably well. Keep things simple and don't swing for the fences."

    HR/Talent lesson: This is the classic workplace  trap of wanting to do everything yourself, followed closely by trying to staff your team with people that also think they can do everything. I am utterly convinced people are more happy, engaged, and productive simply doing the things they are good at more often than they have to attempt the things where they are not so capable. Let people build on their strengths, don't focus obsessivley on trying to push them into areas where they are not ready, or not as talented. Some folks will want to stretch and challenge themselves no doubt, but not everyone is that comfortable or that driven, and that is ok too.

    3. On listening too intently to what others think

    Buffett: "Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. Indeed, it is dangerous because it may blur your vision of the facts that are truly important. (When I hear TV commentators glibly opine on what the market will do next, I am reminded of Mickey Mantle's scathing comment: "You don't know how easy this game is until you get into that broadcasting booth.")

    HR/Talent lesson: I am a pessimist or a cynic I suppose, but I remain convinced that about 75% of the people you know really don't care about your career success, 20% are actively conspiring against you to various degrees, and maybe 5% are truly in your corner. You should care about what these 5% have to say, listen to their advice, etc., and everyone else should be ignored. Completely. And if you are not sure if a particular person is really on your side or not, then you can just assume they are part of the 95% you should be ignoring and thus, ignore them as well.

    Once again, really solid advice and perspective from a guy who's credentials mostly speak for themselves. Think about the medium term and long term, know what you are good at (and like to do), and don't get caught up in what the crowd thinks - most of them hate you and want you to fail anyway.

    Have a great week!