America’s Got Talent…but Does Your Organization?

No, I am not a fan (nor even a casual watcher) of the ultra-popular NBC reality show whose seventh season just kicked off last week. But my mind has certainly been focused on “talent” over the last few weeks for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I am the incoming chair of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation (DMEF) whose mission is to attract, educate, and place top college students in direct/interactive marketing careers.” Our whole existence is about talent: finding it, educating it, nourishing it, shaping it and supplying it to organizations in the marketing sector. We eat, sleep and breathe talent. It’s highly rewarding work that keeps me focused on talent during much of my non-Clarity time.

The second reason that my talent radar has been on high alert is due to some exciting hiring activity at Clarity Group.

You see, people are our greatest asset at Clarity Group. Yea, I know that every organization says that…but we really mean it! As a boutique (read: small) consulting firm, we have to be very careful about whom we hire and how they fit with our culture.

We just hired Kristin in our Boston office – you met her on this blog not too long ago. She’s an amazing addition to the team for so many reasons: she’s smart, funny, energetic, client-centric and smart (again). But you probably already know that if you’ve read her insightful blog post from a few weeks ago.

And now we are about to announce another fantastic team member in the next couple of days. This mystery person brings a wealth of different experience, perspective and connections to our tight-knit family. She’s the final piece of our Clarity Group “starting five” and her arrival really sets us up for incredible growth and success in the coming years. We are beyond the moon excited about our team!

So talent has held a great percentage of mind share for me recently – both within and outside of Clarity Group. That’s not always the case, but certainly it has been of late.

Unfortunately, we don’t always see talent being as high of a priority as we might expect (or hope) with many of our non-profit and faith-based clients. Talent is sometimes seen as a “necessary investment” or even worse, a second tier priority that gets any leftover dollars after the “more important” initiatives are funded.

So, in an effort to create a higher level consciousness around talent, I wanted to share five key questions that you should ask about your organization’s talent management efforts:

(1) Do you have a talent management strategy for your organization? You certainly have a fundraising strategy. You likely have a marketing strategy, as well as a product strategy. Heck, many of our clients even have an IT or technology strategy. And yet many, many lack a talent management strategy. They approach talent management in an ad hoc manner that produces pockets of success, but equal amounts of frustration. The right talent management strategy includes elements of staff and volunteers, as both constituents are critical elements of leveraging talent in a non-profit or faith-based organization.

A good talent management strategy takes some time to create and requires thoughtful consideration. But don’t think that a well-crafted talent management strategy requires additional staff to execute. As a matter of fact, the best talent management strategies we’ve seen are owned by the entire organization and can be supported through shared ownership.

For example, our largest client has placed a critical priority on building their talent management strategy and they are “doing it the right way.” They have committed a cross-functional, multi-level and geographically diverse group of non-HR leaders to develop and implement the strategy. A huge commitment – but one that will reap long-term, sustainable rewards.

Sure, a dedicated and talented HR person can help things move forward more quickly – but not having one should not paralyze an organization’s talent management efforts. What’s important is that you have an intentional talent management strategy to drive your organization.

(2) Does your organization focus on all three areas of talent management: Recruit, Develop and Retain? Candidly, organizations that do talent well are usually good at all three areas. They understand the linkage between the people you bring in the door, what you do with them and whether or not they stay with you. It’s a part of their culture and there are many examples of organizations big and small that do this well.

Unfortunately, the inverse is true as well. Organizations where talent is not a priority find that they often recruit and hire the wrong people and subsequently (and not surprisingly) struggle with talent development and retention. Talent management is not a part of their culture nor seen as a critical element to the success of the organization’s mission. Sadly, this leads to very little success FOR the organization’s mission.

In short, make sure you have a holistic approach to talent management across the lifecycle of your employees. Find them. Develop them. Keep them. And remember it starts with your culture. [Note: Culture is another blog post for another day…but you are welcome to download our latest white paper HERE on this very topic if you are so inclined.]

(3) Have you created measurable objectives for your talent efforts? One of our favorite sayings at Clarity Group is, “What gets measured gets managed. What gets managed gets done.” Are you measuring your talent efforts? There are some common measurements like staff turnover and employee satisfaction. But what about setting some stretch objectives that will motivate your team? Something like being recognized as a “Best Place to Work” by a local business journal or being considered the “Board of Choice” in your local community? And make sure whatever measurements you create are SMART objectives.

(4) Do you make efforts to recognize great talent? Sure, you can give raises and great performance reviews. And you should, both regularly and appropriately. But we also recommend that you create other tangible, visible and meaningful rewards that celebrate great talent. There are so many ways to do this within organization through mechanisms like employee-sourced recognition programs.

You might also consider recognizing talent outside of your organization. For example, as part of our commitment to talent at DMEF, we are hosting our annual Rising Stars dinner in New York city on June 5. This well-attended event recognizes the future leaders of the marketing industry who have a proven track record for giving back to the industry through mentoring and education, showing promise as tomorrow’s direct/interactive marketing leaders. This event celebrates tomorrow’s leaders while heightening the importance of talent throughout the industry. [And yes, a few tickets remain if you want to be a part of the exciting festivities in just a few weeks!]

(5) Are you investing enough in talent through training and development? Candidly, as proud as I am with the team we’ve assembled, this is the area of talent management that I personally struggle with. I know that we (read: I) need to be more formal, disciplined and rigorous about our staff training and development. I am working on it and look forward to the day when this is a strength of our organization.

Across our client base, training is not an investment that is always prioritized. It’s often considered an expense and not an investment, and it’s one of the areas that is cut first during tough economic times. Sad but true – and the implications are significant and long-term.

One of my favorite anecdotes around making the investment in training comes from a book called The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey (the son of the man with so many good habits). Covey writes,

“I’ll never forget what one CEO said about the risk of investing in a focused training initiative for his company. Someone asked him, “What if you train everyone and they all leave?” He responded,  “What it we don’t train them and they all stay?”

Talent is a critical enabler of mission success for our clients. Please don’t take it for granted. Your staff…and your mission….will thank you.

And I promise you the return will be much greater than the $1.0 million reward that Howie and Howard are currently offering.


About Craig Wood

Husband. Father. CEO. Working with those who make the world a better place. Trying my best to help.
This entry was posted in Culture, Marketing, Organizational Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to America’s Got Talent…but Does Your Organization?

  1. Pingback: Our Family is Growing – Meet Ret | Moments of Clarity

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