By Randy Samsel
Yesterday I had lunch with a successful HR consultant who has worked both sides of the fence – he has also been a successful VP of HR. In his recent consulting work he has served as part-time CHRO for mid-sized companies, coached HR managers on a variety of HR and talent issues and led projects for major HR initiatives, including acquisition integrations.
During our lunch, he confided that one of his frustrations with his consulting business is the low rate of proposal conversions. He described how he has great conversations with decision makers about their HR challenges, and how responsive they are to his recommended solution ideas. However, once it comes to approving a budget/spend for his consulting work there is a dramatic drop off. He commented that he is surprised and disappointed by the apparent willingness of companies to choose mediocrity when a reasonably priced improvement is available. That led to a lively discussion of how corporate spending decisions are made. I’ll save those details for another rant.
Actually, I was not surprised by his comments. Most of us are focused on the here and now so it is easy to put off taking action on long-term, strategic issues. Corporate America – especially publicly-held companies –is focused on the next quarterly earnings release. According to a recent Conference Board study, the average tenure for CEO’s dropped from 10 years to 8.4 years and continues to shrink. How can CEO’s plan for the long haul when they are concerned about their short-term job security?
All organizations have, or should have, a strategic plan. Strategy planning requires long-term views. Strategy execution requires people – especially talented people. A talent strategy should complement the overall strategy – also with a long-term view. Yet few organizations have a well-developed, written talent strategy. Why? Is talent strategy boring? Are there too many variables? Is it too difficult to calculate the ROI of talent? Are talent attraction and development practices too reactionary? Is the politically-correct CEO quote that “People are our most important asset” just lip service?
Until the identify-attract-hire-develop-retain talent supply chain is viewed as ‘broken’, talent strategy will likely continue to be an afterthought for most organizations. That’s OK. The organizations whose leaders have the foresight to develop and execute a talent strategy will have a major competitive advantage attracting and retaining the talent they need to reach their goals.