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Talent Conversations Fuel Manager Effectiveness & Bolster Employees

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Talent development centers on the conversations between manager and employee on performance, potential and development.

I know you've coached at least one of these scenarios in your work as a Talent Development Professional:

✔️ Chris was too busy to address and coach performance. Employees didn't know how they were missing the mark, were afraid to ask and became performance issues. Chris spent all of her time on letters of expectation, documenting performance gaps, micro-managing and eventually firing employees faster than she could backfill them.

✔️ Pat inherited a team of star players, and didn't make time for bench conversations with them. All were enticed away to higher level roles at competitors. They had no idea they were on succession plans within the organization and shared in exit interviews that they did not have development plans.

✔️ Joe was distracted and neglected to have ongoing performance conversations or 1:1s with his team. Performance slowly waned. Employees were less engaged each year and performance was mediocre. Stagnation set in and the team was finally disbanded for not producing anything of value.

Which of these scenarios have you coached recently?

  • Chris

  • Pat

  • Joe

You can vote for more than one answer.

Unfortunately we see these scenarios all to often in our organizations. It's sad really. We've watched managers overwork and stress out, putting in long hours to compensate for lack of team performance. Some of them quit and move on to start the cycle anew. Many are passed over with no idea why.

The best way I've found to change this chain of events - talent conversations between employees and their managers. It's a topic I bring up periodically and one I'd like to spend more time discussing.

A Talent Conversation is a discussion between a manager and employee about performance, potential or career development. More here in this post on the importance of clear, frequent, simple Talent Conversations.

Must Have Talent Conversations - Manager-to-Employee

Whatever talent activites are scheduled in your annual talent development cycle, follow-up conversations with employees are a must-have.

  1. Performance check-in (At least once a year. Twice a year is awesome. Quarterly - mind-blowing. I mean, talk about an employee engagement tactic. This one always wins.)

  2. After a leadership team's succession planning discussion

  3. Merit updates

  4. Career development discussions

I believe that talent development is 100% about the conversations that happen after a talent development session—leader to employee. Talent planning activities should support the conversations that occur with the talent (the PEOPLE) that are the subject of the activities.

Your Role in Supporting Managers with Talent Conversations

You can support managers with these conversations by providing a simple toolkit and including an action item as a follow-up.

For example, hosting a succession planning discussion? Before wrapping up the discussion and in a follow-up communication, include Talent Conversation action items with talking points and follow-up accountability to ensure the touchpoint with the employee occurred.

Make it easy for managers to follow-through, and if they don't, accountability wins the day (ie, you're following up to ensure the conversation happened).

Talent Conversations within Leadership Teams

Leadership teams should be talking collectively about talent quarterly, and you should be leading that conversation. Rather like the talent reviews conducted as part of traditional talent planning where leaders brought their binders and settled in for a long slog through profiles… but not quite. We're going to lighten it up, and focus on the conversation. The goal: two hours each quarter with a leadership team talking about the talent on their team. Topics vary each quarter and are tailored to the needs of the team or current talent hot spot, such as:

  • One quarter dives into critical talent.

  • Another quarter you discuss retention risks and how managers can lean in as a team to support.

  • One quarter discusses succession pools for critical roles.

  • You get the idea.

Talent Conversations with a leadership team gets them intentionally talking about their employees as a group, raising concerns and working together to identify talent gaps, issues and successes. It's muscle building and it takes time.

Talent Conversations Are Working in My Organization

I introduced this concept two years ago and we've seen tremendous results. The "talent awareness" of each leadership team hosting Talent Conversations is rising. They have identified opportunities to partner together as a team to address retention risks and are talking with pride about employees who have achieved successes or taken on growth opportunities.

Each of these leadership teams has a list of critical talent, retention risks and a leadership succession pool. They are making plans to get employees together for department and development events, increase their mentoring and move talent around for growth.

In just two years of Talent Conversations, I've noted that managers are talking about employee potential and performance with more ease. Career and stay conversations are happening when needed - without prompting. These leadership teams are addressing talent more strategically and with intention. We will be continuing and growing the practice of Talent Conversations in my organization.

Talent Conversations between you and a leadership team is a concept we'll talk more about in future posts. Stay tuned!

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