After much discussion and research it became pretty clear that the organisation's approach certainly provided the HR department with a sense of control over the process. However, from an employees point of view it was seen as a route to development opportunities and, in their view, very little else. Indeed even people on the "star" programme had low expectations of what it would do for their career at this particular employer. It also doesn't take a genius to imagine the effect it was having on "non-stars"!
When working with individuals and firms in this context I always ask 2 critical questions:
"Who do you work for?" and
"How much do you spend on your personal development every year?"
In my experience how people answer these questions is critical in understanding weather or not they are likely to succeed in an organisation. By this I mean, if someone appreciates that they are working for themselves and sees the necessity of investing in their own development then they are set to progress.
So what do I advise? To be honest, I'm still thinking about that. However, a recent article published by the Fast Company by David Clutterbuck suggests 4 things that represent are a pretty good start:
- Start thinking of talent and succession as complex, adaptive systems. Stop trying to control them and focus instead on enabling talent to make itself visible. Think of talent as a wave: energy that needs to be pointed in the right direction.
- Instead of filling vacancies with people like the previous incumbent, encourage people to propose how they would transform those roles. Take more risks and don't panic when a few fail spectacularly--that's still better than a lot of mediocre performances!
- Open up a wider, more honest dialogue with employees about talent and put more effort into supporting them in managing their own career development.
- Look for talent in less obvious places. For example, in many organisations there is informal, often unrecognised leadership emerging every day in the intranet-based social networks. This leadership is distributed, has no respect for hierarchy, and can be the main source for innovation.