Grow leaders from within: Warren-Smith

04 Oct,2013


By Priyanka Sangani


Over the past decade, Australia’s mining boom has resulted in a shortage of engineers and mine managers. Eventually, the country had to work at attracting, hiring and retaining people from other countries. It’s a simple lesson in talent management which can be distilled down from a country to company level.


“Be aware of your talent needs, scan the gap and figure out how to fill it, even if it means looking outside,” says Andrew Warren-Smith, managing director, Development Dimensions International, a talent management firm which helps companies evolve their talent management process.


“The mission must be to grow leaders from within. The idea is to help organisations translate their business strategy into their talent strategy.” The most important thing about getting your talent management strategy right is to treat it like any other process. “The board and the CEO must adopt the idea of growing leaders from within. If there is buy in and direction from the top, the process will be successful,” he says.


Companies need to learn to identify and quantify their talent needs, and the gaps that exist within the system. Once you have defined where you are and where you want to be, it becomes easier to fill up the gaps.


According to Mr Warren-Smith, having a formal talent management strategy is mainly a Western concept, and as more Western companies have set up shop in other countries, it has gained traction world over. Companies in India are at varied stages of maturity when it comes to their talent management practices.


“While some organisations are as good as some of those in the developing world, if you look at the broader landscape, it’s more comparable to other emerging markets,” he says. Based on his experience in other economies, Mr Warren-Smith says that the talent management process in most organisations tends to go through three stages.


The first is ‘installation’ when small and mid-sized companies first start to experiment with the idea of talent management at a very basic level. Next, there is a degree of systemisation that comes in with the organisation adopting a systematic approach to leadership and talent development, working in collaboration with other business functions.


Finally, there is the optimisation stage where leadership development is given a separate emphasis and the organisation starts tweaking established systems and experimenting with outsourced HR services or a shared services model. So what does good leadership development really look like? Mr Warren-Smith recommends the 70:20:10 model where the onus of development lies in learning on the job with the balance being made up by coaching and formal training respectively.


“Simply training people isn’t enough. Good leadership development involves creating experiences for people ahead of the opportunity where they actually have to step up and lead or drive change,” he says. It’s important that employees get a chance to be involved in a change management project, for instance, before they are actually put in charge of one.


“You can skill up people, but they also need to understand what they need to do. If they have no actual experience then it becomes difficult for them to assimilate the environment,” says Mr Warren-Smith. Companies need to pay close attention to frontline or first time managers and ensure that transitions are handled carefully where people have to step up to an increased level of responsibility.


“There are different aspects to it – dealing with a multitude of stakeholders, dealing with expectations and developing your own capabilities. How you systematically immerse a person into the transition is also an important part of leadership development,” he says.


At times like this when there is a fair bit of uncertainty in the business environment, Mr Warren-Smith suggests that CEOs take a close look at the company’s core competencies and be clear about what they are good at.


“You have to start work keeping the end in mind. What can you do better than anyone else? Once you determine this, then the talent management programmes need to be designed keeping these objectives in mind,” he says. Depending on what it is that the organisation wants to achieve, it needs to invest and place its bets on different leaders.


Different people have different skills – if the company decides it wants to take advantage of the slowdown and acquire brands for cheap it will need a different kind of leader as compared to an organisation that decides it wants to consolidate and exit non-core businesses. “You have to put your leadership capability behind where you want to go.


Identify and assess your talent and determine who is most ready for the responsibility,” he says. Once you have a clear brief on what the major business priorities are over the next few years, focussing on no more than five key business and cultural priorities, it becomes a lot easier to equip leaders with the skills they’ll need.


And finally, be brutally honest about your capabilities. Mr Warren-Smith points out that we all perform differently under pressure, and at such times, your own style of functioning can get in your way.


“At these times, it is imperative that people understand these factors and how it can derail them,” he says. More than the skills you possess, it is your awareness of skills that you don’t posse


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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