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Careering on-track

The most effective career development strategy is achieved by implementing a formal talent management programme which encompasses all methods of enhancing job performance and career development.

Traditionally, people would have gained experience by upward moves, with accompanying increases in status and salary. Nowadays, that may not be possible, because organisations are less hierarchical, with fewer management layers. A sideways move into a different job may be all that is available, without any extra cash. Therefore, companies need to consider alternative motivators and methods of gaining and retaining employees such as transparent training opportunities, flexible working structures and a respectful management style. Some organisations are also taking advantage of secondment opportunities as a way of providing wider development opportunities to potential leaders.

When defining any talent management programme it is imperative to identify what the business goals are and then start at the beginning: define the job roles within the organisation and the competency framework which supports those roles and against which all individuals will be measured through an effective performance appraisal process. What gets measured gets done: with this in mind ensure personal objectives are linked to the bottom line success of the business and recognise and share success through relevant reward mechanisms – both financial and non-financial – to celebrate individual achievements.

In order to rise to the challenges that face businesses today, companies need to ensure they have the right people, in the right roles, right now, whilst also identifying their ambitious achievers for the future. It is imperative to consider the role of HR in this process as talent management needs to be owned by line managers and actively led by the chief executive who has a key role in ensuring that it is given the importance it deserves by other senior managers. Ensuring that there is a healthy pipeline of potential leaders is about safeguarding the future of the organisation – it is not realistic for CEOs and those around them to have sole responsibility for this; they have neither the time nor the expertise.

The HR function therefore has a critical role in supporting and facilitating the process. Any career move at senior level is a process of multiple dialogues, in which HR collect views from senior line managers by testing, challenging and amending them as the dialogue goes on, making sure that all possibilities are covered. HR may also be involved in giving career advice and information to individuals, assessing and advising on specific development needs. The HR function is also centrally involved in the design and management of assessment processes and competency structures where appropriate.

The value of developing the individual can be increased exponentially by then focusing on the development of the team and the team spirit within the organisation. However, good teams don’t appear by chance – they require an investment in time, training and constructive feedback in order to nurture, involve and develop the working relationships within them. To ensure that this forms part of the overall talent management programme and company ethos, ensure that the role each individual has within the team is clearly defined and that objectives and associated reward strategies incorporate an element of team targets as well as individual targets. Personality profiling or the introduction of a 360 degree feedback process that measures team effectiveness can be used to ‘mend’ dysfunctional teams as well as reinforce good practice learned from outstanding teams.

Finally, don’t forget to share the success that the development of your talent may bring; this can be done internally, through company updates and newsletters for example, and externally through the achievement of industry-specific awards. Communication is critical to any successful development programme in order to gain regular and constructive feedback. So ensure there are channels of two-way communication readily available to all, such as one-to-one reviews, team meetings and project groups, and consult with staff on business matters where possible and appropriate. After all, three heads are better than two!

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