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Talent Management Takes Many Forms � and Time

By DeeDee Doke  9/1/2007
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HARROGATE, England—Business leaders must realize that investing in talent management programs does not result in “quick wins,” the global head of talent management and leadership development for Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) emphasized to an audience of British HR professionals.

When such programs must be implemented globally, as in SCB’s case, the challenges of meeting unique regional talent needs with a common framework of procedures and processes are significant and take time, said Geraldine Haley. “You won’t know if you’re doing the right thing until a few years down the line,” Haley said during her session presentation at the 2007 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conference held here Sept. 20. “It is a journey.”

Haley shared the stage with Andy Cross, head of organization and people development at iconic British airline Virgin Atlantic. With diametrically opposed brand styles, the companies face different issues in recruiting and managing current and future talent. But the companies have several things in common, too, including the need to identify and develop future leaders and leadership capabilities.

Already operating in 56 countries with more than 60,000 employees, SCB faces the probability of “huge growth” over the next five years, Haley said. Fortunately for HR, SCB’s people issues are high on the bank leadership’s agenda, and talent is on the agenda of every leadership meeting. In SCB’s strategic intent statement, the bank’s group chief executive officer Peter Sands has committed to “building a foundation for massively multiplying our leadership capacity.” Haley added that Sands had told her that this issue “is what keeps him up at night.”

SCB’s commitment to creating a “talent factory” is intended to grow the bank’s own leaders. “We need to create sufficient pipelines of people to take leadership positions; we can’t keep raiding the competition,” Haley said. “We’re … trying to ‘home-grow’ talent--about 85 percent of it, if possible.

“Where we’re struggling,” she added, “is with our 9,000 line managers. They’re bankers; they don’t get the touchy-feely stuff. We need to help them understand what they need to do for people.

“The big challenge for me is just to make managers accountable for talent,” she said. Currently, effective management of talent is not an official objective for managers. Haley said that the only way to ensure that it is taken seriously is to link delivery, and nondelivery, with bonuses.

Global processes to organize the talent pipeline include talent classification, quarterly talent reviews, staff engagement surveys, performance reviews and rewards, individual objectives, and development plans. In 2006, a global succession plan for 500 jobs was put in place. SCB employs five coaches to work with the top 200 executives around the world. She emphasized that the best resources, such as coaching, must be optimized so the company’s most talented performers benefit. “We can’t give everyone the same attention,” she said.

Virgin Atlantic, widely viewed as a hip, entrepreneurial company, has a hugely appealing employer brand. However, quality feedback and development had not been part of the company’s culture until recently, Cross said.

While the company defines and identifies talent through the equation “Achievement + Attitude + Ability = Potential,” it is asking its employees to predict their potential in newly introduced talent profiles as part of an overhaul of the company’s talent management program. Unlike some employers that emphasize continuous upward career progression, Virgin Atlantic also is encouraging its workers to take sideways steps that can offer valuable new experiences and a broadened perspective.

In addition, Cross said, the airline is adding to its potential leadership pools by bringing new people in at “the right level where they can grow, and then you know if it is a good fit” instead of installing them initially in key lead roles.

DeeDee Doke is a freelance writer based in the United Kingdom.

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