The Talent Management Double Play

Tinkers to Evers to Chance was a famous double play combination for the Chicago Cubs back in the 1900’s. Tinkers would scoop up the hit ball at shortstop and throw it to Evers, who would step on second base before the runner slid in to get the first out. Evers would then pivot to throw the ball to Chance at first base, just ahead of the charging batter, for the second out.

Like a double play, managing and developing your company’s talent should be a multi-pronged approach consisting of three main players: performance management, career development and learning management. These players, while distinct, each make up one part of a unified talent management workflow that is essential to not only ensure an employee’s current success, but adequately prepare and train them for their future within your organization.

Today there exist integrated software systems that can manage all three of these areas together. Unfortunately, most companies often settle for a more shortsighted approach and invest time and money in a best-of-breed performance management system, neglecting career development and learning management.

Here, we look at why an integrated software system with a single interface that includes all three essential components of a talent management suite is one of the best investments your company can make towards achieving your revenue goal.

Performance Management Starts the Play

A performance management system provides a way to enhance accountability and visibility within your organization’s ranks by automating and tracking the employee appraisal process. Like Tinkers of the Cubs, it opens the play and provides a guide as to what your employees need to accomplish on any given day.

According to a Gallup Poll, only half of all workers have a clear understanding of what is expected of them when they begin their workday. By implementing an effective performance management system, you provide your team with the ability to set and support goals, monitor their own progress and assess both their ongoing and eventual achievements.

In order for a performance management software solution to be effective, it’s critical to have clear and credible goals for your team to accomplish before you begin. One of the best ways to achieve this is by adopting a specific methodology, such as the SMART goal methodology first introduced by George T. Doran in 1981.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It’s a system both implemented and highly recommended by many top CEO and entrepreneurial organizations around the world, including Vistage and Gazelles. These leaders strongly believe that companies in all stages of development can benefit from the SMART goal methodology because of its granular and precise structure.

Once you’ve created clear and executable goals and implemented a performance management system to track and monitor them, you’ll have a clear window into the productivity of your employees. This will provide pertinent, easily accessible data that will enable you to quickly identify the top performers you should invest the most time and energy in so as to advance them to the next level.

Career Development Extends the Play

After receiving the “ball,” so to speak, from performance management, career development—Evers in our baseball analogy—steps in. This is where your company needs to invest in developing the future of the top performers you identified with your performance management solution. According to a survey by the Hewitt Association, 30 percent of respondents rank career development higher than compensation when considering where to work, so having a clear career path in place for them is essential for both recruiting and retaining talented employees.

In addition, a career development system can help your organization plan for future needs.  Once you’ve effectively identified and begun managing top performers through your performance management system, you must ask yourself two questions:

  • What can I do to keep this person from going to work for a competitor?
  • Can I increase this person’s level of performance by advancing them to a higher position?

The second question is often the answer to the first. However, hastily promoting a productive individual contributor can be risky: you may put them in a new position they’re unprepared for, which may negatively affect the employees they’re tasked with managing.

Career development software tackles this challenge by offering features like succession planning, which helps you identify the positions you’ll likely need filled down the line. Gap analysis then helps identify how closely an employee will fit this need, and the areas in which they need improvement. As a result, you’ll be able to groom an individual for a new assignment and gauge their progress before you advance them out of their current position and into one with greater responsibility.

Creating a successful career development plan also requires incorporating key data and metrics from an employee’s performance reviews for the positions they’ve held at your company. This data helps project an employee’s contribution if given roles with greater responsibility.

A successful plan should have the following four key elements:

  1. A list of both short and long term goals, with the shortest goal being three months in the future, and the longest three to five years down the road.
  2. Examples of formal and informal experiences such as training, mentoring and project leads. Illustrating this visually, e.g. in a flow chart, helps the employee to better envision their future path.
  3. The individual’s strengths, and how these strengths link to potential career directions, ensuring success.
  4. The plan should be applicable to both the employee’s current as well as any future positions.

In order to perform well and develop to meet new challenges, however, employees also need to be equipped with the right knowledge. This brings us to the final part of the process.

Learning Management Stretches to Complete the Play

Just like Chance in our baseball analogy, learning management rounds out your full talent management suite. A learning management system enables a company to plan, track and measure the effectiveness of training programs as well as accomplishments for employees. Training content can be supplied internally by your organization, externally from one or more vendors or even obtained on the Internet, where there is a great deal of free content available for many industries.

Proper employee training is essential for organizations to be successful. A recent IBM survey shows that lack of training often takes a big toll on employee retention—41 percent of employees at companies with insufficient training programs plan to leave within a year, compared to just 12 percent of employees at organizations with strong training programs.

Better training can also lead to increased productivity. The same survey reports that, for every dollar spent on training, telecom company, Motorola netted approximately $30 in productivity gains within three years.

A learning management system that’s integrated with its fellow players—performance management and career development—allows your company to gauge long term performance benefits and helps identify which individuals are stepping up in their career and implementing the training provided to become leaders.

This makes learning management the anchor of your talent double play. Just as Tinkers throws to Evers, and Evers throws to Chance, performance management should work hand-in-hand with career development and learning management to maximize your talent investment.

A Play Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

As with the individual players of a baseball team, each module of a talent management suite—performance management, career development and learning management—has value by itself. However, all three players must be used together in order to effectively assess employee performance, plan for their future and equip them with the proper training needed to evolve into leaders that will help your organization grow.

So the next time you’re considering investing in either a performance management, career development or learning management system, look for a system that will eventually provide all these components in one common platform with a single interface. If you do, then your team can perform like Tinkers, Evers and Chance. You might not win four National League Pennants and two World Series, but your company can achieve equally awe-inspiring success in your industry.

Article originally published in The New Talent Times.

Connect with Tom

Tom McKeown was recently the CEO and Co-founder of TrenData, which was acquired by isolved HCM in 2021. He currently manages the product team and business unit for their People Analytics offering.

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