If You Love 'Em, Keep 'Em

Sean Conrad

Managers are forever looking for ways to improve their team's performance – be it the latest business book, closing technique or marketing automation tool. But they often overlook a valuable tool that's right under their noses: their organization's talent management practices.

Talent management is generally defined as the set of practices and processes used to manage recruitment, performance, goals setting, development, succession and compensation.

Here's a look at how you can leverage some talent management best-practices to improve your staff's performance.

Identify the competencies that underpin success and develop them in your employees.
In talent management, competencies are about “how” you accomplish work. They are the behaviors, skills or values that lead to high performance in a role. So if you want to improve individual and team performance, first stop and examine the performance of your top people. What are the specific competencies they demonstrate that lead to their success?

As Richard Libin suggests, they might be accountability, communication, comprehension and consistency. Or they might be things like customer focus, industry knowledge, strategic thinking or data analysis. The competencies, or at least the way they are exhibited or demonstrated, should be unique to your organization, so identifying them and defining them as they are used in your business is vital.

Then communicate these job specific competencies to your staff. Have managers work with their teams to evaluate employee proficiency at these competencies and help them further develop them. Identify a complement of learning activities that are proven to expand and deepen these competencies, and then leverage them to improve employee performance.

And periodically review and revise your list of key sales and marketing competencies to ensure they're still the most important and appropriate ones.

Assign SMART, aligned goals.
There are three recognized talent management best practices for setting individual goals:

  • Making sure all goals (individual and organizational) are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
  • Ensuring each individual employee goal in some way supports a higher-level organizational goal and is linked to it.
  • Revisiting goals at least quarterly.

Set goals that are achievable.
There is nothing more demoralizing that being setup for "failure" with an unrealistically high lead target or sales quota under the misguided view that it will encourage high performance.

Making sure individual goals are linked to organizational goals is important for giving not only sales and marketing but all employees a larger context for their work. This has been shown to contribute to employee engagement and high performance.

And research shows that organizations that revisit goals at least quarterly have better financial results. Regular revisiting of goals allows you to check in on progress, take corrective actions where necessary, and even adjust goals to accommodate market or economic changes, changes in strategy or priorities, and even changes in personal or departmental circumstances.

Provide ongoing coaching and feedback.
Talent management best practices call for managers and their staff to maintain an ongoing, two-way dialogue about performance. The manager's chief role is to coach their employees and support their performance and development. This means helping staff hone their skills, celebrating successes, identifying potentially limiting attitudes, behaviors and actions, and challenging staff to deliver their best, on a daily basis.

Recognize and reward high performance.
Another talent management best practice that helps to drive performance is to recognize and reward high-performance, not simply pay people to "show up". But recognition and rewards go beyond any pay for performance compensation scheme. It also means giving public praise and recognition for accomplishments like signing an important deal, achieving quarterly targets, providing a stellar prospect experience or demonstrating tenacity. Employees need to feel valued for what they do. While the monetary rewards are important, so are the “thank yous” and “Way to gos.”

Foster accountability.
Your talent management practices help foster accountability by keeping a focus on individual and organizational performance. By aligning and managing goals, identifying and developing competencies, regularly reviewing performance and progress, fostering employee development and career progression, recognizing and rewarding performance, and hiring high-performers who are a right fit for the organization, you continually communicate the importance of accountability and high-performance throughout the organization. And that leads to improved performance for employees as well as for the organization overall.

Sean Conrad works in sales, as a senior product analyst at Halogen Software. He helps his team continually sharpen its product knowledge, and stay in touch with customer needs and talent management best practices. He’s a regular contributor to the Halogen blog as well as a host of other industry publications.