It is the Right Time to Focus on the Right Talent in the Right Seat
Ask a CEO, a General Counsel, a Managing Partner about the number one thing that keeps them up at night and you might be surprised by the answer. For many executives, the biggest cause for concern is talent management. Executives polled in surveys overwhelmingly named talent management as a top priority for their organizations.
There are always plenty of lawyers willing to consider new opportunities. However, decision makers must be disciplined in their hiring efforts. They must not fall victim to the “shiny penny syndrome,” and should refrain from making hires based on what and how they have done it in the past and by impressive credentials alone.
Many organizations react rather than making strategic hiring decisions. Developing and implementing a strategic hiring plan is a key step. A company’s leadership team should conduct an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the current management team and the organization or partnership as a whole. During difficult financial times, many companies manage headcount to save expenses in the short term and do not make more strategic long term decisions. First and foremost, the executive leadership of a company must set goals and develop a clear vision of where the organization is headed. Decision makers should understand the skills and attributes that each member of the team or firm must possess in order for the company to reach its goals and make the strategic vision a reality. Then, the current management team should be evaluated using those criteria. If there are gaps or weaknesses, the company should make strategic hires that will fill those gaps and strengthen the management team or partnership. The leadership team should recognize that staff attorneys or project lawyers may be the strategic answer to filling those gaps. Or, in this assessment, the leadership team may recognize that a lawyer position should be replaced by a paralegal. Whether it is a full time hire, a project hire or a staff hire, in evaluating a particular candidate, decision makers must keep the overall goals of the company in mind and determine whether that candidate has the right skills to ensure that the company meets or exceeds those goals.
The importance of culture fit is often times ignored by companies when conducting a search. It is a costly mistake that can be avoided. The decision makes involved in the hiring process should have a deep understanding of the real culture of their organization; they should understand the values that are actually lived by people in the organization day-to-day, the way decisions are made, the expectations around work styles, etc. The more you know about the subtleties of your own organization, the more you can communicate its shortcomings, potential, differentiators to candidates in the interview process. And the more able you will be to identify the kind of people who are successful in your environment and they are you seeking.
Decision makers must also try to learn as much as possible about each candidate’s work and management styles, personality, strengths and weaknesses. Just because a candidate had success in a previous position does not mean that he will enjoy the same type of success in a different setting. Interviewers involved in the process should be trained to ask follow up questions that will require a candidate to provide more details and insight about themselves. Involving more of the management team in the hiring process will provide different perspectives and more valuable insight regarding the fit of prospective candidates. Many companies also use psychometric assessments and third party consultants to objectively learn more about a candidate’s personality and leadership traits. Whatever methods are used, decision makers must ultimately try to evaluate the short and long term fit as well as anticipate whether a particular candidate will thrive or flounder in their company’s culture and environment.
Attracting Talent and Employer Brand
A company’s “employer brand” in the marketplace can dramatically affect the results of a search. How will the organization be perceived by candidates? What will current employees say to potential candidates regarding the working environment? Those involved in the hiring process must be prepared to address any issues with potential candidates and alleviate their concerns. First impressions are lasting impressions and perception is reality hold true in our world today. With the proliferation of blogs, social networking and our 24/7 media coverage, a candidate has a lot of information to form an opinion before they begin the interview process. Leadership at companies who are not proactive in identifying potential issues will be left wondering why they are unable to attract top level talent.
Identifying key members of the management team and hiring new talent are only part of the process. A company must also retain its talent. Many organizations cut or eliminated professional development programs during the recent downturn. This in combination with eliminated headcount has decreased employee satisfaction dramatically. Companies that do not address retention issues or develop long term strategies will find themselves in a precarious position as the baby-boomers begin to retire and top talent leaves to hang their own shingle with their friends. Not only will these companies lose their existing talent, they will be unable to attract new talent. The next crop of leaders are coming from Generation X and Generation Y whose members 1) have different motivators, 2) have members leaving the profession at record numbers, 3) have not had the leadership training to successfully transition and lead the organization. The resulting shortage in leadership will make talent management and retention even more critical over the next five to ten years.
Implementing the Plan
Those companies that take a strategic, reasoned and long term approach to talent management will attract and retain the right people for the right positions at the right time. Talon works closely with their clients in assessing, designing and implementing their talent plans. Our Talon Alignment Process aligns the leadership in the culture of the organization, matches the client expectations for the initiatives of a position with the right candidate, develops leadership skills in selected talent and assists with individual talent retention programs.