Competencies, talent, gamification... there's no doubt about it, we like us some buzzwords. Like bright shiny objects, these ideas entice--and largely detract.
Sometimes new ideas and ways of thinking can lead to significant improvements in the way organizations manage their people. But here's the truth that no one seems to want to talk about: many organizations fail to get the basics right. So while leaders may be leaping headlong into the nanofied virtual talent management sunset, the foundation of HR is lacking.
What are these basics of which I speak?
1. Adequately defining jobs--based on subject matter expert data. Every single job should be defined and documented in terms of key tasks, requirements, and expectations. The form this takes is less important than the quality of the data. This is the bedrock that helps you recruit, select, reward, and manage effectively.
2. Recruiting like you're selling, not like you're being forced to. Writing attractive job ads is so easy, why aren't we swimming in them? The same reason many organizations fail to accurately describe the job: laziness and lack of discipline.
3. Using valid hiring measures. Speed of hire is important, but not even remotely as important as quality. I can make you a sandwich really quickly if it's just bread. Do you think Google gets millions of resumes each year because candidates are hoping for a quick hire? Importantly, the higher in the organization, the more time should be spent on valid assessment.
4. Holding leaders accountable for being leaders. This really should be #1 except I was trying to go chronologically (and will fail miserably). All too often, it's the line staff who are quickly called to the carpet when they make mistakes. But holding leaders accountable for their behavior (hint: ask their subordinates) is exponentially more powerful.
5. Listening to each other. Many if not most good ideas for improving your organization are in the heads of your line staff. Do you ask them regularly and implement their ideas? Is listening skill considered critical for all employees?
6. Saying thank you. It's easy, it's cheap. Do it more, and mean it.
7. Dealing firmly with poor performance. This is top to bottom, from not being helpful on the phone to running productive meetings. Again, the higher in the organization, the more important this is.
8. Growing your people--forever. Sure, they may leave, but they'll leave sooner if you don't invest in them. And like everything else on this list, it grows your reputation.
9. Treating people with respect and fundamental human decency. If you have this as a backbone, many other things simply follow. There's a reason why one of the most popular business books recently is The No Asshole Rule.
None of this is incredibly difficult, it just takes the most precious resource of any organization: time. And it takes commitment and discipline. But these aren't initiatives. They're part of an organization's DNA--or not. They're how people respond when asked what it's like to work there. And who is responsible for ensuring they happen ? The people at the top.
So before your organization jumps on to the latest buzzword bandwagon, make sure it's getting these basics right (by, I dunno, measuring them). Just promise me this, if you pick just one thing on this list:
Select. Good. Leaders.
Select. Good. Leaders.