What can you do right away to improve your talent development process?

“Help your leaders so they don’t screw up performance reviews,” advises CCL’s Roland Smith. “Teach them how to hold talent conversations with employees.”

Individual leaders are in the best position to influence and develop talent — or shut it down. By having talent conversations, managers can give employees good reasons to be engaged, work effectively and build their skills.

Importantly, a talent conversation is not done to someone but with someone. It is about building a relationship that allows managers to influence employees 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.

The first step is for the manager to clarify what type of talent conversation he or she will have with each employee:

  1. The Top Talent Conversation. The message: 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.
  2. The Solid Performer Conversation. The message: maintaining or building value. Solid performers are typically individual contributors who are valued by the organization, but could take on more responsibility.
  3. The Potential Performer Conversation. The message: 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.
  4. The Underperformer Conversation. The message: improve performance. Underperformers are people who are not meeting expectations. The talent conversation should remain focused on the here and now, rather than future options, new tasks or additional responsibilities.

The conversation itself should have a structure, too. It helps for the manager to follow six 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 enhancement. 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. Are the goals meaningful? What support is needed? 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?

Finally, be sure managers know that whatever other formal talent management or leadership development systems are in place, the talent conversation is where development becomes real. It is the time to build commitment to the organization and engagement in the work. It’s where you have the opportunity to accelerate development and results.

When talent conversations are done right, they are one of the simplest, most effective ways to develop others.

For details of how to prepare managers to hold talent conversations, read “Talent Conversations: What They Are, Why They’re Crucial and How to Do Them Right” by CCL’s Roland Smith and Michael Campbell. Or register for a CCL On-Demand Webinar with the authors.

Bring this topic to life for your organization through CCL’s Speakers Bureau.

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