Improving the Employee Experience? Build Leaders Who are Talent Managers

By Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood | October 29, 2019

Leaders define the experience of the employees in your organization.  Leaders who engage the hearts, minds, and hands of their employees communicate, create aligned direction, build competency, provide resources, and create a positive work environment.

The most important thing a leader or HR professional can give any employee is an organization that wins in the marketplace because then the employee experience is possible. Leaders who are able to engage the hearts, minds, and hands of the people on their team or in their organization have significant impact on financial and customer results.  These talent managers bring out the best and most from their team in order for everyone involved to succeed. They create an environment at work where individuals can and want to give the discretionary efforts that build agile, high-performing organizations who win.  

Outlined below are five keys to ensuring the talent in your organization is fully engaged. Building leaders with these behaviors requires an act of will, and even courage, to make them happen consistently. But once established and ingrained in the culture of the organization, talent managers deliver employee experiences that generate high-performance.

Key #1: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Leaders who are serious about engaging and developing talent, connect with employees candidly through honest, open and two-way dialogues. Employees need to understand why they are there, what is expected from them, how their work connects to the organization’s larger mission, and how well they are doing.

Leaders who are great talent managers are clear and deliberate about: what they’re saying (content); who they’re addressing (audience); why it is being said (purpose); how it is said (communication channel and source); and when it is said (timing). Effective, frequent, and open communication ensures employees have the information they need to succeed. 

Key #2: Create Aligned Direction by Connecting the Individual to the Organization.

Successful talent managers bring together people with different skills, perspectives, and preferences and align these varied individuals to work together toward a shared outcome.

One helpful tool for aligning around strategy while allowing for individuality is to have every member of the team publicly identify his or her goals for the next sixty or ninety days. Once public, team members are able to offer feedback on each other’s goals, leading to discussion and potential adjustments. Discussion surrounding the shared goals, including how these goals connect to the organization’s broader mission, results in a shared sense of community and purpose.  It allows team members to see how and where their work connects and to feel a sense of team unity and purpose.  It allows them to be part of something bigger.

Key #3: Ensure that People Have the Competencies they Need to Succeed.

Leaders who are great talent managers understand what is required to deliver the necessary outcomes and help individuals use or grow their existing competencies to meet the requirements. One of the most critical elements of the employee experience is the sense of personal growth and development.  Leaders who build competency, start with two questions:

  1. What are your personal strengths (competencies, predispositions, abilities) and where do you want to grow?  This question helps identify the baseline for what an employee does well and not so well. Talent managers can get a quick rundown of skills by looking at an employee’s education, career background, personal interests, and career successes. However, candid conversations with an employee can bring to light skills and motivation for growth that aren’t visible on paper.
  2. How can you use or develop these competencies to serve others? This question is aimed at matching employees’ strength to a contribution that delivers results for the organization.  Helping employees identify areas of growth that enable results ensures that both employees and the organization’s stakeholders’ benefit. 

Talent managers are gifted at finding positions and assignments that allow individuals to use their current skills while building new competencies. Helping employees develop is another important key to being a talent manager.

Key #4: Provide People with Resources to Cope with Demands.

Talent managers want their employees to be at their best.  They know that in pushing for growth and higher performance there is a sweet spot between stretch goals and assignments and overwhelm, discouragement, and hopelessness.   They recognize and eliminate silly demands like excessive meetings and reporting or unnecessary and constraining policies. They understand, listen and provide the right resources (coaching, training, technology, tools, staff, work-life balance flexibility and time-off, etc.) so that their employees can perform and grow without experiencing burnout. 

Great leaders set high expectations for employees because it stretches them and causes them to grow, but also have the wisdom to help them access the resources they need to meet these demands.

Key #5: Create a Positive Work Environment.

A positive work environment is a key contributor to the experience your employees have at work.  When leaders can create this for everyone on their team, we see conditions that generate many of the most recent leadership aspirations: growth mindset, trust, empathetic leadership, culture transformation, inclusion, etc.  A positive work environment creates better engagement, better results, and a more innovative and inclusive culture. 

While there are definitely behaviors that foster (or destroy) a positive work environment, leaders who genuinely build this kind of workplace tend to have cultivated certain innate ways of being. They are open.  They connect with people and they connect people to bigger goals.  They show courage.  They demonstrate humanity, justice, and temperance in their interactions with others.  They have fun at work—by helping their teams rejuvenate, reenergize, and connect.  They do this in ways that matter to their employees and are consistent with their culture and brand—from bringing dogs to work to hosting parties or sports competitions to holding family carnivals.

In sum, when leaders communicate, create aligned direction, build competency, provide resources, and create a positive work environment, the employee experience improves.  More importantly, they engage in ways that generate better results for the team, the organization, and external stakeholders.  They see how their work contributes, are willing to invest discretionary effort in achieving those goals, and have the resources to be able to do it. 

If you are interested in more information about building leaders who are more effective talent managers, click here.

Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped how people and organizations deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

About the author

Norm Smallwood is a partner and co-founder of The RBL Group. His research and consulting focuses on helping organizations increase business value by building organization, leadership, and people capabilities that measurably impact market value. He has written extensively about leadership and organization effectiveness in eight books and over a hundred articles. 

About the author
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