Obstacles to Effective Talent Management

As the CEO or HR of a company you want to know what is working right for the company to continue its upward mobility. You would also be interested in knowing what you could avoid in terms of manpower issues to ensure continued growth. In other words, you want to know the good and the bad news of employee performance from your Human Resource Department. But the question remains - how to go about it?

Any seasoned HR person will tell you that to work out the above considerations you need to first check the performance evaluation practices in your organizations. But that is easier said than done; unpleasant surprises come in the shape of certain obstacles to Effective Talent Management. This makes it necessary to study and eliminate these pitfalls.

Age old wisdom says, "A stitch in time saves nine"! So it is with effective performance reviews. One of the biggest roadblocks is the time to be invested in a proper performance review. Managers may complain that the time needed to ensure impartial and effective performance evaluations could be better invested. But that almost makes it a chicken and egg problem because employee contribution becomes impossible to measure without a proper performance management system in place. The solution lies in a continuous evaluation of the employees" contributions. It is more helpful to keep a continuous record of the employees’ performance and administer regular feedback that helps keep track of their progress. This generates a positive feeling that their efforts are continuously being monitored and appreciated by the management. This can take the place of or work in conjunction with the more common method of quartely, half-yearly or annual performance reviews. Positive or negative feedback provided within a short time after the observed performance can be far more valuble. The time factor becomes even more problematic if there is more than one manager involved in the job; because it takes more time and effort to co-ordinate them.

Moreover, having multiple evaluators, especially in the same level maybe from different departments can often complicate the consistency issue. It may often happen that each of them may use separate criteria for judging the comparable level of performance. In some cases personal bias, experiences and cultural differences can also cause a vast variation in a performance review. Such widely differing ratings of performance may compromise the employee relationship. This makes it necessary to make both managers and employees aware of the benchmarks of performance that would be used by the company in performance reviews. Consistency issues can be solved by allowing managers to develop a common format for performance review ratings. However some companies use an additional checkpoint by using a senior manager to review the performance appraisals. The creation of a unanimous format would also help the performance reviews to be carried out in a positive manor for both managers and employees.

Often managers consider it a necessary cross that they have to bear as part of their duties. Some managers are unwilling and even uneasy in the role of performance evaluator they may think of it as "judging" people; a feeling often echoed by the employees themselves. It’s no wonder performance appraisal times are so tension fraught in some organizations. Besides, as performance reviews are more often than not, related to monetary and career gains of an employee; managers are sometimes ill at ease to rate employees knowing that they are possibly ruining their chances of a pay rise or career progress.

However, regular performance appraisals, not linked to a pay revision or career decisions, can help both manager and employee to view it as an employee performance enhancement tool. Then such performance evaluations could contribute to the growth of a positive employee-manager relationship. Such a positive atmosphere between managers and employees can not only alleviate the emotional negative responses about performance reviews but also tackle the problem of lack of enthusiasm.

As long as employees feel that their management is reasonable and the chosen performance appraisal tool is a meaningful tool to direct them towards greater performance enhancement - and not a management eccentricity which they have to bear on their already overburdened shoulders – they will enthusiastically participate. Management will find that employees are willing to hear the negatives as well as positives about themselves.

Moreover, if the employees feel that their own voices are also being heard they will take greater ownership and responsibilities too. So it is necessary to include the voices of the employees (maybe through self-review) in the performance appraisals. An effective way to ensure that the performance evaluation is complete and that it provides a proper idea about the employees is to seek peer reviews of employee performance. The peers of an employee are often the best people to provide effective feedback because they have often dealt with the employee as equals and thus have a greater understanding of their abilities and personal interaction skills from a different perspective.

Legal risk is also one of the reasons that many refuse to put anything down in black and white. They feel that they can be held accountable for anything they write. But the fear is unfounded if the performance appraisal format is well constructed and is supported by clear documentation. It is actually a greater risk to make an evaluation which is not supported by documents, because the employees then see it as arbitrary, partisan and unfair.

An unfavorable management action taken based on performance, if not supported by preceding reviews, or written documentation of individual incidents may become the basis for legal action against the company. Management may then find it hard to prove that the action was not discriminatory or arbitrary.

It is increasingly becoming necessary to know if performance reviews really add anything to the talent management goals of an organization. The employees, the subjects of these performance reviews are interested in knowing:

  • What they will be evaluated on
  • How ratings are calculated
  • How they influence income
  • How they effect career progress and achievement.
  • How they are recorded and utilized

It is necessary to create an environment where performance evaluations are a regular and constant entity, then an atmosphere will exist where performance reviews are viewed as an instrument to highlight ones abilities. It can be used to not only look at ones abilities but to also voice concerns and thus start a fruitful dialogue.

However, there are certain prerequisites to an effective performance evaluation system. First of these happens to be a clearly defined job description. Once such job descriptions are created it becomes easier to follow through to the next step, getting the right people to do those jobs. But it is also important to make it clear to those selected for the jobs exactly what their roles and responsibilities are. This can easily be achieved through proper orientation, on-the-job training and education. Not only at just the beginning of their jobs, but throughout the time they keep working at it.

Continuing with employee coaching and feedback through the job life-time increases possibilities of talent retention as well as better employee performance because the employees find it conducive to their growth. Such feedback can be provided most effectively through quarterly or monthly performance discussions related to the planning of the enhancement of their work; without the strings of pay or career advancement attached. These are also times when exceptional and consistent good performances must be acknowledged either through a forum in view of their peers or even a one-time monetary grant or other compensations as per the companies work culture.

However, it is wise to remember that money is just a symbol of the appreciation that the company has for its valued employee. It is also necessary that the growth potential of an employee is not neglected but rather enhanced by continually challenging them.

So it is important that performance appraisals do not become a tension fraught battle ground where the employee feels hunted by the manager/reviewer or the manager/reviewer does not feel like an unwilling executioner about to carry out a sentence against an innocent. Rather it should be a free and frank discussion of how the employee could contribute to the growth of his company and what he is doing right to make him valuable to his firm. In other words, it’s more about co-operation than competition – it’s about making the company rise.

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