On Purpose Enterprises Blog

Are You Managing Talent Or Herding Squirrels?

The owner of a business with several hundred employees once told me, “If it wasn’t for all these people, my business would be easy!”   Heck, if we could just sit in a nice office and watch products and resources get moved around by computer-controlled forklifts while getting paid – and not deal with all these pesky people (who want to be paid and take time off) – managing a business would be a snap, right?   But in order to operate any business, we need people.   And then, we must make some difficult decisions.     

After 25+ years of observing businesses, I think there are two basic models of ‘people management’:

  1. ‘Herding Squirrels’ – attempting to do business in what you believe to be unpredictable and unplanned circumstances, sometimes referred to as Managing Chaos   
  2. Managing Talent – an intelligent orderly planned process which ensures that your organization has enough of the right people in the right places doing the right things at all times

 Most organizations, if asked, would say that they operate their organization using  model #2.  (Of course, a survey has found that 64% of people think they’re ‘above average’ drivers, which is interesting).  In my humble observation, however, the organization that actually uses model #2 is the exception and not the rule.

Most organizations are managing chaos with model #1.  They spend significant (unnecessary) time  ‘herding squirrels.’   These organizations see themselves as victims rather than the controllers of their marketplace, circumstances, policies and planning (or more accurately, lack thereof).  There is a kind of, general, sort of plan but it’s mostly seat-of-the-pants flying.  Rather than building their house with a solid foundation on high ground, they live close to the river and keep a lot of sandbags on hand just in case, planning to call friends over when the flood comes.  And then surprise! it always comes.  Darn it all, they just can’t seem to avoid problems, keep things under control and make a profit!       

Is your organization 1) Herding Squirrels, or 2) Managing Talent?   Based on your responses to these 10 statements, you can determine which model is present where you work:

  1. Your organization is recognized for its great people,  just as much as its excellent products and services.  Your customers are loyal advocates and raving fans who express strong preference for your brand over your competitors.   Y  N
  2. Every key position in your organization has a clearly defined, written job description, and every person has read and understands their specific job description.  It is used as a major criteria of regular performance reviews, and compensation, promotions and rewards are adjusted based on the individual’s performance to its criteria.   Y  N
  3. Employee retention and performance in every key position is high.  Key employees seldom leave, and when they do, other employees who have already been identified and trained are ready to take their place.   Y  N
  4. Employee turnover is low, and key positions in critical areas  (i.e.; sales, executive, IT, etc.) are stabilized.  Recruiting, hiring and turnover costs are quantified and closely monitored at all times.   Y  N 
  5. All managers and supervisors are trained and have the information necessary to understand and effectively communicate with the people they manage.  They are actively involved in helping their people develop their skills in order to advance in their career with the organization.   Y  N
  6. The organization’s goals and values are clear, written, understandable and have been communicated to all employees and stakeholders.   The goals and values are regularly reviewed by all employees, from CEO to front-line, and they are the standards of accountability for every employee.   Y  N
  7. All employees understand and are committed to the organization’s goals and values.  Every employee understands how their particular job and individual performance impacts the achievement of the goals, and is rewarded appropriately for their contribution.   Y  N
  8. A hiring and employee development process is in place which attracts top talent and ensures that your organization has enough of the right people in the right places doing the right things at all times.  Only those people who ‘fit’ with the specific requirements of open positions and agree with your goals, values and organizational culture are hired.   Bad hires and under-performance rarely occur.  Y  N
  9. Your organization has a positive reputation in your community and industry, and is recognized as an employer of choice for top performers in your industry.    Y  N
  10. Levels of employee engagement are regularly monitored and are consistently high.  Employees are committed and overall morale is positive.  Problems with employee discipline or motivation (absenteeism, conflicts, poor performance, etc.) seldom occur.   Y  N

If you answered ‘Yes’ to 8 or more of these questions, you are managing talent.  It is likely that your brand is strong, your organization is a leader in your industry, you have very few major problems and your financials are healthy.  You’re on the right track! 

If you answered “No’ to 5 or more of these questions, your organization’s financial statements should probably have a line item for nuts.  It’s probably the way you’ve always done things.  There are a lot of squirrels, but it seems…normal.   Until something goes wrong, and things do go wrong, at the worst possible times, and you have a difficult time understanding why or fixing the problems.  If all of those darned people would just do their jobs…  

But seriously, there is a better, easier and far less costly way of doing business.  In my recent blog entitledThey Are Your People – Not Human Resources“, I discussed talent management – a different and better way of being successful with your people.   

Don’t get me wrong.  Squirrels are cute, but spending your time, money and energy trying to herd them can drive you nuts.  If there’s a squirrel problem at your organization, contact me for a confidential conversation.  We can help you implement a talent management process that will make your organization more successful and your life much easier.