Talent management is risk management

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I suspect few human resource managers or organizational development specialists think of themselves as risk managers, but in my view that’s exactly what they are. More importantly, understanding them as risk managers adds to their importance to your organization. A few significant questions arise when HR and OD specialists are seen in this way.

At the top, there is the question of identifying the talent present in your company, and determining the benefits and risks of keeping employees where they are, or moving them around to other roles.

It is one of my core beliefs that employees go to work to be enriched and to do what’s best for their employer. With that premise in mind, I believe employers have the obligation to provide an enriching experience for their employees.

So consider the following employees in your company. You know who they are. They show up faithfully, they do their job well, they are well-connected to their colleagues, and deep down you know their abilities far exceed their performance… in other words, they are underperformers. Do you risk moving them out of their comfort zone and move them into a position that matches their talents, or do you leave them where they are?

You risk upsetting the applecart if you unexpectedly move them to a new position, especially if you ask them to supervise or manage teammates who were once their peers. On the other hand, you risk not maximizing their contribution to the company if you leave them where they are.

How can a company manage this risk?

Several tactics come to mind. Having a formal talent management program is first and foremost. Having an effective performance review process is integral to that program. Setting the expectation and building a culture around personal growth and development underlies it all.

From a Learning perspective, you ought to have clear performance expectations for each role in your company. Provide the training and support necessary for your employees to achieve the level of performance you expect.

From a Quality perspective, you can benefit from applying what Thomas Gilbert – a human performance guru – called the “Potential for Improved Performance” (PIP) metric. Identify the top performers in a role, and determine the potential for all employees in that same role to achieve the same results as the top performer. Then coach all those underperformers to achieve at the level of the top person.

It’s my bias that underperforming employees are untapped assets, and it is worth the effort and energy to invest in them and turn them into top performers. How do you deal with underperforming employees?

What do you think? Are HR and OD specialists also risk managers? Was Rick able to persuade you? Let us know what you think in the comments section. You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Rick Swanson

Rick Swanson is founder and CEO of Learning Meets Quality LLC, providing risk management consulting services to businesses and nonprofits. Rick is a Six Sigma Black Belt, and a former chemistry and physics teacher, specializing in mitigating risks associated with inconsistent product quality and poor employee performance. In his spare time he enjoys photography, playing banjo, and brewing beer. Follow on Google +

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