What can you do to improve your talent development process?
Help your leaders. Teach them how to give feedback regularly and well, and how to hold talent conversations with employees.
Individual leaders are in the best position to influence and develop talent — or shut it down. Managers can give employees good reasons to be engaged, work effectively, and build their skills. Or not.
Importantly, a talent conversation is not done to someone, but with someone. It’s about building a relationship that allows managers to influence employees toward improved performance, development, and positive outcomes.
It is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to develop others. And, if the employee has been given honest, ongoing feedback, these conversations don’t come as surprises.
Some of the most valuable feedback is given in the moment and on routine, day-to-day behaviors. Plus, when feedback is given consistently and well, managers establish and strengthen trust. The more trust and rapport managers can build, the more readily subordinates will accept and act on future feedback, creating a pattern of learning and growth.
How to Give Constructive Feedback
Make sure your managers know that giving feedback regularly is more effective than saving it all for the performance review. It can:
- Motivate employees to continue a behavior that increases their effectiveness.
- Stop using a behavior that reduces their impact.
- Encourage them to begin or modify a behavior that will make them more effective.
- Foster their commitment to their work and the organization.
CCL’s 3-step model for delivering feedback, the Situation-Behavior-Impact Model (SBI), is proven to reduce the anxiety of delivering feedback and also reduce the defensiveness of receiving feedback. It’s a process that may feel awkward or too formal at first, but once managers get some practice, they find it is incredibly helpful. (For more details on delivering SBI, see 3 Feedback Steps that Won’t Crush Your Team.)
How to Have a Talent Conversation
A talent conversation allows managers to influence others toward improved performance, development, and positive outcomes. Talent conversations can happen at any time, but one of the most critical moments for getting them right is during your organization’s regular performance review process.
Managers need to be prepared to have 4 types of talent conversations, based on how an employee is doing. The first step is to clarify whether the employee considered top talent, a solid performer, a potential performer, or an underperformer. The conversation will have a different focus, depending upon how the employee is seen:
- The Top Talent Conversation: Future Investment. Individuals who clearly meet or exceed expectations and deliver superior results are top talent. These are the individuals who are seen as the future leaders in the organization.
- The Solid Performer Conversation: Maintaining or Building Value. Solid performers are typically individual contributors who are valued by the organization, but could take on more responsibility.
- The Potential Performer Conversation: Short-Term Success. Potential performers are individuals who may not have had enough time in their role to show significant results, but are expected to bring a lot to the role they are in.
- The Underperformer Conversation: Improving Performance. Underperformers are not meeting expectations. The talent conversation should remain focused on the here and now, rather than future options, new tasks, or additional responsibilities.
Whatever other formal talent management or leadership development systems are in place, the talent conversation is where development becomes real. It’s the best time for managers to build their direct reports’ commitment to the organization and engagement in the work. So the conversation itself should have a structure, too. Things will go more smoothly if leaders and managers follow these 6 steps:
1. Clarify the goal. What is the purpose of the conversation? What exactly does each of us want to accomplish?
2. Explore the issues. Assess strengths, vulnerabilities, development needs, and performance. Identify motivation and career aspirations.
3. Identify the options. Generate ideas and opportunities for learning and improvement.
4. Set expectations. What do we want to do first? Next? What are the obstacles?
5. Motivate. What support is needed? Are you sure the goals are meaningful? How can I help and what other sources are needed?
6. Identify the plan. How will we know you are on target? How will we track outcomes?
Demands placed on managers to meet performance goals can be relentless, and priorities and challenges shift frequently. So what’s the key to improve your talent development process? Ensuring managers know how to give routine feedback well and how to hold meaningful talent conversations. That’s a talent development quick win.
Plus, check out our guidebooks, Talent Conversations: What They Are, Why They’re Crucial, and How to Do Them Right and Feedback That Works: How to Build and Deliver Your Message.