Five Essential Fixes for Amateur Talent Management Tactics

Take this quiz to find out if impulsive managers are holding you back Take this quiz to find out if impulsive managers are holding you back.

That fly-by-the seat-of-your-pants approach to talent issues. It can leave you chanting “Inner Peace, Inner Peace” as you deal with the fallout.

Whether it’s a hiring or promotion decision misstep, things can get sticky when managers either overstep their bounds or remain too complacent.

Here are five common amateur talent management tactics, and what you can do about them to get your organization back on track.

Amateur Tactic #1: Use the Promote-to-Fire Technique to Deal With Lax Employees

The Situation: A manager puts forward a list of staff members for your company’s high potential program, designed to rapidly improve the skills of the best people. And who is on the list? A poor performer he has been complaining about but has refused to fire.

Why This is a Bad Approach: By avoiding the performance problem, the manager is simply passing it on to someone else in the organization. He is trying to get rid of the employee by flagging the individual as a high potential, knowing that these people are most often “poached” by other parts of the organization.

The Fix: The right way to deal with this situation is to handle it straight on: sit down with the manager and highlight the difference between the high performers who have been nominated and the poor performing individual that has also been included.

The key is to ensure that the right people are nominated for the high potential program for the right reasons. Make it clear to the manager why alignment with and support of this process is crucial to the organization overall. It is also important to discuss the issues the manager is having with the poor performer and provide options for how these could be addressed.

Amateur Tactic #2: Drain Productivity With Killjoy Policies

The Situation: The World Cup soccer tournament is only a month away. Concerned that this distraction will sap productivity, the manager asks you to tighten leave request policies and develop a disciplinary policy for anyone watching the game while at his or her desk. She believes productivity will be increased by tighter controls.

Why This is a Bad Approach: A draconian stance may actually lead to an increase in employee absences and reduced productivity.

In my previous role at an HR association, we benchmarked absence rates for over 100 organizations and found that the number of employee absences was 28 per cent higher during the first quarter of 2010 (when the Winter Olympics was in full swing) than during the first quarter of 2009 (when the H1N1 flu scare was prevalent).

Why the increase? Instead of watching an event for 2 hours during work, people were taking the whole day off.

The Fix: Demonstrate to your executive team — using hard evidence — that giving your hardworking staff a some flexibility during major sporting events can — along with team building — actually reduce absenteeism and maintain productivity. Read this blog post for a step-by-step guide.

Amateur Tactic #3: Apply Kindergarten Teacher Sensibilities to the Modern Workforce

The Situation: A director has been promoted, leaving an open slot for a new director. The person making the decision on how this position should be replaced asks you to start processing the paperwork for the employee with the longest tenure — claiming it is the individual’s “turn.”

Why This is a Bad Approach:  Obviously, you can’t approach a promotion decision the same way you would a decision about who from a group of five-year-olds should go down the slide at the playground next. When looking internally, a basic comparison of employee tenure won’t reveal who is the most competent employee for the job.

The Fix: Offer to provide a comparison across the set of most experienced and competent employees, then set up a meeting to talk through the pros and cons of each candidate. This evidence-based approach will help your manager move beyond guesswork towards a more sound decision making process.

Not sure if manager guesswork is holding back your talent management efforts? Take the quiz to find out.

Amateur Tactic #4: Chase Shiny New Talent in Greener Pastures

The Situation: Your company needs to hire a new project team lead — fast. The manager asks you to approach experienced project managers from your competitors and incentivize the move with the offer of a high signing bonus.

Why This is a Bad Approach: When there is a new leadership opening, it may be tempting to immediately shop around for shiny new talent outside of the organization. But the first step is to determine who from within the organization would best fill the role: Academic research has found that not only do external hires get paid more, but for their first two years on the job, they receive significantly lower marks in performance reviews.

The Fix: Consider the RBL Group’s 6 Bs  (Buy, Build, Borrow, Bound, Bounce, Bind) when determining how to invest in talent to get the full spectrum of options available to you. For more tips on taking an analytical approach, read this post.

Amateur Tactic #5: See No FMLA Abuse, Hear No FMLA Abuse

The Situation: After being granted FMLA leave due to a serious medical condition, an employee is spotted the following weekend doing the polka at a local German beer festival. You follow up with the person’s manager and find she has done nothing to monitor and understand the FMLA absences of her staff. She is surprised to find out that some of her people have been approved for FMLA.

Why This is a Bad Approach: According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 52 percent of all U.S. employers believe they have granted unfounded FMLA leave. When the situation is chronic, it can seriously dampen employee morale, and also drive up costs associated with replacement workers, overtime and lost productivity.

The Fix: Unwarranted employee absences — particularly those that fall under the category of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) abuse — can be tricky to track and manage. By looking at absence rates, you can determine your organizational patterns for leave requests for specific workgroups, geographies or divisions. These patterns enable you to spot outliers in the data  (i.e. people who take more leave than average or groups that are taking less leave than average). From here, you can determine which manager requires a conversation about better FMLA monitoring. Check out this post for more tips.

Staying Sane With Evidence

Every day, managers and business leaders make costly, time-sensitive people decisions. By encouraging more evidence-based conscious thought, combined with your expertise, you can help them avoid knee-jerk reactions or inaction due to complacency. As a talent expert, you can guide them towards better outcomes for your people — and your company’s bottom line.  

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Ian Cook |

Curious about the differences between gaussian and pareto distribution? Ask Ian. Want to know what it’s like to kite ski North of the Arctic Circle? Ask Ian. Not only is he an expert in statistical analysis and HR metrics, he’s also an avid cyclist, skier and runner. At Visier, Ian helps customers drive organizational change through linking workforce analysis to business outcomes. He is responsible for the workforce domain expertise within the Visier solutions.

Human Resources Today
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