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Employees want to be successful, but they need clear guidance
and direction to develop professionally. There are essentially five key
conversations managers need to have with their employees throughout the year in
order to influence successful talent management practices and outcomes,
according to Kim Janson, CEO of Janson Associates, an organizational and
employee development firm.
Janson is the author of Demystifying Talent Management:
Unleash People’s Potential to Deliver Superior Results (Maven
House Press, 2015). She has over 20 years’ experience working in over 40
countries in senior roles such as chief talent management officer at the H.J.
Heinz Co. and senior VP of leadership development at Bank of America.
Janson discussed with SHRM
Online the types of conversations managers should be having to
develop and engage their employees. The five conversations described below are
identified in her book.
SHRM Online: You list
setting expectations as the first key conversation to have. Is it the most
Janson: If you
don’t have the “setting performance expectations conversation” and don’t do it
well, the rest doesn’t matter. Establishing clarity and agreement is essential
to delivering great performance. Somewhere along the line, it became acceptable
for managers to not have defined performance expectations or goals for
themselves or their direct reports.
Start with the strategic direction of your business, and have
performance expectations flow from there. Cascading strategic direction and
making it relevant at each level of the organization is every manager’s
responsibility. Use measures to ensure that you get where you want to go. Keep
it simple. If things change, modify the performance expectations. Be clear and
enable your employees to be successful.
SHRM Online: How
about periodically checking in on employees?
Janson: The “how
is it going conversation” vies for a very close second in terms of importance.
An iterative, ongoing dialogue about progress and challenges, brainstorming and
troubleshooting ensures fantastic results. Managers should be disciplined about
spending time with their employees to reinforce good progress and to be
available to coach as needed. Coaching is at the core of a manager’s job and
consists of helping employees understand their current situation, how to change
their situation, helping employees practice and letting employees know how they
did. Coaching, contingency planning, approaching things with transparency and
providing high-quality feedback are all elements that will help an employee
achieve success. It’s a good idea to take notes periodically to make annual
review writing easy.
SHRM Online: Tell me
about the dreaded performance review conversation.
performance review process should be easy. That is presuming you’ve done a good
job of setting goals, modified them as they changed throughout the year,
provided ongoing feedback and coaching, and communicated all of this. The big
questions are “Did the employee do what they said they were going to do? Did
they do more? Did they do less?” Self and peer reviews as well as client or
partner input provide validation of results. Conducting calibration sessions
across groups of managers is a smart way to ensure equitable ratings. If an
employee underperforms, create a formal performance improvement plan.
SHRM Online: Then
there’s talking about money.
expect to be paid fairly and equitably. Having the pay conversation after the
performance conversation helps drive a pay-for-performance culture.
Compensation appears as an issue in most employee engagement survey results,
but lack of understanding and lack of communication seem to be the root causes
of the problem.
Courageously use differentiation with bonuses and merit
increases to promote top performance and to drive out the weak performers. The
company’s compensation philosophy should be applied consistently at all levels
of the organization. Consistent and reliable pay practices make a big
difference in creating loyalty in employees.
SHRM Online: What
about planning for the future? When is it right to have that conversation?
who have their goals intersect with their reality have mastered the technique
of creating their future every day. While having a somewhat formal planning
conversation about the future is powerful at the beginning of a performance
cycle and midway through, having an eye on the future and regular discussions
help to map hopes with plans and results. The more this conversation becomes an
event, the less likely it will get great traction, so approach that
conversation with a dual focus of both “now” and “in the future.”
Development is a strategic business imperative. It is just smart
business to tap into employees wanting to do more. And managers should consider
themselves ineligible for another role without a clear successor.
Succession planning and career development both take into
consideration strategic direction and the employee’s needs and interests, but
the level of importance switches based on who you are. Decisions made during succession
planning should be based on input from good career planning conversations.
Outputs from career- and succession-planning conversations should be translated
into employees’ individual development plans.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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