The War For Talent, Forbes.com
Dennis Zeleny 10.29.07
The biggest key to sustainable success for your company is hiring the right people to run it. After decades of chasing would-be silver bullets including Total Quality, Six Sigma, branding, restructuring and more, many determined CEOs have made their companies significantly better. But you’ll never be able to set the enterprise confidently on the path to long-term prosperity until you become a leader in the worldwide hunt to find and keep the right executive and management talent.
This may seem more banal than profound and arcane. But the truth is that relatively few CEOs have understood, at least until lately, the crucial importance of this principle. Other than the occasional General Electric, IBM, PepsiCo or McKinsey, whose CEOs long ago recognized that talent is paramount, few companies have been excelling in this arena.
That is why about two-thirds of senior leaders quit or leave an organization within the first three years of being recruited. With the retirement exodus of aging baby boomer executives and managers in Western economies in full flight, the underlying pressures on CEOs to recruit and nurture the right talent will only increase. Also adding pressure is the increasingly globalized demand for talent, including the quickly rising need for executives and managers in the developing world.
As a CEO, you’re painfully aware of the consequences of being on the wrong side of the talent equation--of the instability and disruption it causes internally, with your customers, and with other constituencies. You may have a brilliant strategy for making the numbers better every year, but over time, it’s people who will make it happen or fail at doing so. CEOs can put together marketing, sales, production and business-development plans all day long, but their companies cannot win in the marketplace if they don’t have the right people to carry out those plans.
And while more CEOs finally are waking up to the talent linchpin, their recognition doesn’t guarantee success in the competition for the best people or effective performance by those executives and managers once they’re in place. It may be sobering for leaders to realize that, with a given promotion or a new hire, they’re making a decision that could have significant ramifications for the company for five or 10 years, or even longer.
Yet, many CEOs wrongly believe that getting a handle on "the talent thing" is as simple as putting greater trust in their skills as a people evaluator and being sure to measure up candidates during the crucial job interview. Sometimes, given the press of other duties, they can neglect to put in the proper preparation for optimizing this crucial time with their potential new hires. It should be like the tip of an iceberg: The preparatory work before a CEO even begins the interview process must be done thoughtfully and deliberately.
Another mistake is hiring what they’d like to have instead of what they need--recruiting people in their own image when that’s not what a particular job requires. These CEOs don’t do proper reference checks. They may not even understand enough about what the job entails in terms of organizational requirements and fit.
Instead, CEOs need to take the hunt for good talent as seriously as any of their priorities and more seriously than most. In doing so, they should apply some very clear and powerful criteria to their overall talent-development efforts and, in fact, to every single executive and managerial hire and promotion.
In a multi-part series on Forbes.com, we’re going to examine the six steps to success for CEOs in the war for talent. We’ll take a deep look at each of them, present a strategy for harnessing them, and suggest some tools to help. In this first piece, we’ll present an overview of the criteria:
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