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The CEO's Talent Management 'To Do' List

Pity the CEO. Costs rising, consumer caution, funding tightening – déjà vu all over again! And the one resource still not available in any quantity is skilled people. That problem never seems to go away.

How to turn an advantage in a challenged economy and a difficult market? First on the list should be talent – attracting and retaining key skills necessary to complete your business goals!

Crises come and crises go and the developing world will continue to need infrastructure to house, support and feed its populations. The demand for the right products and services will return.  In the developed world, the boomers continue to age and will gradually be able to afford to retire, leaving us with more unfilled jobs than skilled people to fill them. 

We have compiled a CEO’s Talent Management “To Do” list comprising actions that we see companies undertaking to be better prepared for whatever the future holds:

1. Operating controls; the tight control of operations and the protection of cash is paramount. In the rush to reduce cost, trimming headcount is always the easy answer… but ensure first that high potential individuals and those with key skills required today and in the future are identified and excluded from the cull.

2. Add talent; individuals that we couldn't afford or couldn’t attract now need to be approached. “In the money” options won’t be! What better sign of confidence in the future than hiring for the upturn (Buffet buys equities counter cyclically for long term value – smart CEOs do that with people).

3. New reward plan; do our retention devices still work? Be certain that there is enough long term value in place to retain top people. Note that we may also need to add a capping mechanism to avoid excessive payout when the market takes off again.

4. Employment brand; what is it? Are we positioned to meet the integration of gen x/y into the organization, and then to channel and harness the (potentially) positive disruption they will inevitably bring? We continue to have terms and conditions designed for baby boomers. What messages does our brand convey, do we walk the talk, and are incentives and people programs aligned with our values? Fewer younger people are willing to relocate. Do we want to retain older managers if they repel or can’t engage younger talent?

5. Governance; Investors and the board frequently point to people as representing a significant execution risk (e.g. not having or being able to attract the right people means budget and timelines not being met). Do our career plans develop our people fast enough, do our promotion and job grade systems support rapid development, do we know what our talent inventory is, where the gaps are, and how we will efficiently bridge them? 

6. Talent Management; a timely opportunity for the HR team to make a strategic contribution by growing their leadership. If they can start pressing their ideas in language that the rest of the leadership team can understand this could be a unique opportunity to add a meaningful people component to the strategic plan.

7. Acquisitions; the time will come to add additional businesses and/or select properties. We should ensure that we complete a soft due diligence and full talent audit of any target well in advance to ensure that we acquire and are able to retain the assets that do not appear on the balance sheet (the human capital).


Paul Pittman
Senior Consultant
The Human Well

The Courage To Think Differently - And To Act!

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