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      We’ve given you a thumbnail sketch of three strategies to help organizations build talent from the inside out. Take a look at your existing talent management strategies. In addition to the suggestions above, check to see how you stack up on the following tactics:

  • Reward individuals for being “talent scouts” inside and outside of the organization;
  • Check your retention rates by mastery level and see where you have the most turnover;
  • Make lateral moves easy and frequent within professions – harder across professions unless deliberately chosen;
  • Tie IDPs to strategic initiatives, so people have a sense of how their position impacts the whole organization;
  • Assure that individual contributions are publicly linked to strategic initiatives;
  • Make mentoring a way of life and an expectation of all;
  • Focus on mastery and help each person see where they are in their mastery journey;
  • Make professional mastery more important (rewarded) than positional levels.

     Take a step now and commit to one of the above. Draw your own TalentMap® and start enhancing it. Engage your colleagues in the process of working from the inside out. Use all three strategies. They work.

1. “HR Can Increase the Odds of a New Executive’s Success”, April 9, 2007, MDA Leadership Consulting.

2. “Bridging the Generation Gap,” Business Week, September 17, 2007, pp 60-61.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D., is President of MasteryWorks, Inc. in Falls Church, VA. She has been a consultant, entrepreneur, and educator for over 30 years, Caela has worked with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to get them on their mastery path. Caela’s practice and company builds strong links between changing trends in industries, changing strategies of organizations and the talents and aspirations of individuals. People who work with her company discover their passion, their mastery path, and bring renewed contribution and high performance to their organizations.

Caela is known internationally for her expertise in developing talent management products and services. Her solutions are user-friendly systems that serve the needs of both organizations and individuals. She is frequently quoted in the media regarding her thoughts and advice on changing careers and work patterns in the nation. Hundreds of organizations have implemented talent management solutions from MasteryWorks, Inc. — consulting, workshops, assessment instruments and web-based talent management portals.
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Build Talent From the Inside Out –
Three Strategies that Work
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.
     What’s your talent proposition? The First Quarter finds most organizations completing the performance reviews from the previous year and building on them for the next year. Strategic planning and discussions of bench strength fill the plates of most managers and HR professionals. Do we have the talent we need for the future? For our strategic initiatives? To accomplish our mission? Who do we have ready for key positions and core projects? Where are we going to find the “right” people? Do they aspire to the same positions and projects?

     We have a bias for promoting from within. Maintaining that bias requires a long-term strategy coupling the organization needs with individual aspirations and talents. Performance overshadows politics. Mastery is the path. Slow, mentored practice tracks are the dojos for talent. Individuals choose certain organizations because of their reputations for excellence in one of the fields of their passion. Although no human institution is perfect, the intensive practice provided in the military, in sports or the martial arts provide templates for assuring mastery in mission-imperative practice areas or – professions and positions. Emphasis is on developing mastery, with the knowledge and expectation that years must be devoted to such a journey – for the individual and the organization.

     Another choice is to promote from without. This is smart and useful as a feeder pool for maintaining a balance of talent in the early stages of careers, to fill gaps or at the lower levels of mastery. However, we would argue that promoting from outside at the highest levels of organizations is fraught with danger. We have four recent cases that will bear watching:

  • Alan R. Mulally – new CEO of Ford Motor Co., former chief of Boeing Companies Commercial Airlines;
  • James E. Press – co-president of Chrysler, former highest ranking American executive of Toyota;
  • Robert L. Nardelli – CEO Chrysler, former CEO of Home Depot.
  • Joe Girardi – NY Yankees manager, former manager of the Florida Martins

     Being an outsider doesn’t necessarily mean failure. Some such promotions have been very successful. However, being an outsider to an industry, core professions, and/or the organization will frequently limit a new leader’s success. According to a recent article, “25 to 50% of new senior hires fail to achieve success in their new organization.”[1]

     There are definitely no magic answers in our quest for the “right” talent. However, there are three strategies that help assure that organizations have the bench strength required for the future:

  • Mission-Centered TalentMappping®
  • Mastery-Centered Career Tracks
  • Individual-Centered Professional Development

Strategy 1 - Mission-Centered TalentMapping®
     Our TalentMapping® Model and process gives C levels and HR professionals a systems framework for building the organization as well as attracting, engaging, developing, redeploying and retaining the “right” future talent.

     Every organization has its own DNA. – the mission, strategies, professions, positions and required skills sets or practices. These may be conscious or unconscious. But they’re there. When we clearly articulate these, we have the basis for a robust talent management architecture. When these are missing or poorly articulated, people can’t have a sense of success, make wise tactical decisions, or craft a development plan that will make them a valued resource to the organization for the long-term.

     Show us an organization that’s not successful or has low morale and we’ll show you an organization with an unclear or quickly changing mission. Missions are the drivers of organizations. The mission is why the organization exists, for example – “design and build energy efficient homes”; “provide economic health for investors”; or “put a computer in the hands of every child on the planet.”

     The mission gives meaning and direction to hundreds or thousands of people. The mission is the heart of an organization. The mission distinguishes one bank from another, one armed service from another or one school from another. The mission creates passion, emotion, and allows diverse people and professions to work in harmony towards a desired result.

     We put the mission at the center (inside) of our TalentMapping® process. All other choices radiate from the mission – strategies, professions, key positions, competencies, etc. Changing a mission impacts the entire fabric of an organization. (We see that blatantly in the current Iraq War and the implication on the military, State Department and Homeland Security.) Lack of agreement on “the mission” fragments any further decisions.

TalentMapping® Model

© 2007-2008 MasteryWorks, Inc.

TalentMapping® Model

     As any leader knows, a mission is never achieved fully. Changes in mission require changes in strategies, personnel, tactics, etc. People join organizations because of their missions. They choose one organization over another because of the mission, strategies and the kinds of people who will need to work there. Working with an organization whose mission is clear and exciting makes people proud, stokes the emotional and intellectual fires and attracts talented people. When the mission gets muddied by new leadership, changing technology or bureaucracy, morale and motivation diminish. Productivity drains. Politics influence strategies. People leave physically or emotionally.

     While missions need to stay constant for a long time, strategies change more frequently. Strategies tell employees how they’re going to attain the mission – customer service excellence, speed, technical innovation, product innovation or global reach. Strategies directly influence the “kinds” of people (professions or trades) that will be needed. Employees can see quickly whether their profession or trade is core or secondary to an organization, based on its strategies. Strategic initiatives change the concentration of time, energy and required resources for a given year or more. Strategies drive the talent base requirements.

Ordinarily, each strategy will require a minimum of two or three professions or trades to succeed:

New Product Development
  • IT
  • Project Management
  • Marketing
  • Developer (designer, scientist, or videographer)
Faster Financial Transactions
  • IT
  • Accountants
  • Brokers
  • Regulative Lawyers
  • Marketing

     We coach individuals to determine whether their profession or trade is core or secondary to the mission and strategies of the organization. The more their professions are needed, the more secure and longer shelf life they’ll have in an organization. If they are secondary, we suggest they explore organizations where their profession or trade is core.

     Given the mission and strategies of the organization, what professions and/or trades are imperative? What expertise, knowledge and skills must flourish to succeed strategically? Mapping strategies to professions/trades provides a great visual map for managing resources. (See the example above.) People can quickly see the entire “talent system” through this mapping exercise. Although there may be thousands or hundreds of thousands of positions, there are ordinarily a very finite number of professions or trades required for success.

Several years ago, when working with the American Red Cross, we determined with them that 3,100,000 volunteer and paid positions required only 27 distinct professions and trades. This made it easier to see strengths and gaps in their talent base. Development initiatives could be quite focused.

     We urge organization leaders to maintain deep bench strength in core professions or trades and outsource or subcontract secondary professions and trades. We believe organizations become at risk when their core professions are subcontracted. They can lose the wisdom and expertise to make smart decisions in the implementation of their strategies. They can lose control of the staffing or development of their subcontractors. This may make short-term economic sense but not contribute to long-term organization health.

Key Positions/Projects
     Positions and projects are simply arbitrary ways of packaging and compensating people for smaller skill sets or practice areas within a profession or trade. In Finance we have bookkeepers, financial analysts, accounts receivable managers, accounts payable managers, budgeting managers, accountants, brokers, investors, etc. In small organizations, a professional might be required to have the skills set from all of those positions. In large organizations, unfortunately, one can work for 15 years in several positions and never have practical experience in the whole set of financial practices and competencies required to be a master in finance.

     Positions change frequently because new projects or new strategies evolve. The risk for both individuals and the organization is that the core professions become subservient to how we organize them into positions or projects. In many organizations, people identify much more deeply with their positions than their professions. This is a risk for individuals and the organization. Changing positions frequently requires changing professions. This must be done with a great deal of consciousness. Compensation schemes must be aligned first with professional mastery and then with positional level.

     One of our major services today is to co-develop career portals that link professions, positions, and interests. It’s one thing to see the organization talent system. It’s another to have tools that help individuals link to the “right” positions and places for them.

Caterpillar Web Portal

© 2008 MasteryWorks, Inc.

Screenshot of Caterpillar Web Portal

     We are most interested in assuring that the basic practices required to excel in a profession or trade are clearly articulated in the organization. Individuals who want to be masters need to see the practices required and the positions they need to progress through in order to excel as a nuclear scientist, sales professional, bank manager, project manager or radiologist. We’ve seen an over-concentration on what we call generic leadership or management practices/competencies (strategic vision, results-orientation, business acumen, customer orientation, communication) to the detriment of the professional practices required to be a marketing master, financial professional, customer service professional, IT professional, etc. Many of the current performance management systems list the generic competencies and expect managers and employees to fill in the professional or technical competencies. If the manager or general manager is not from that profession or functional area, coaching and discussions about professional mastery can be very shallow.

     Because of technology, the components of a talent managment system can be showcased easily to all employees.

ACTION: Take out a blank piece of paper and draft your own TalentMap®. Being able to see the human resource requirements on a sheet of paper makes it possible to have succession planning discussions that don’t get lost in personality and politics. You can help frame conversations that work from the inside out. See

Strategy 2: Mastery-Centered Career Tracks
The Mastery Process
    We see professions and trades as the centerpiece for both organizational and individual career planning. Why? It takes 10-17 years to master any profession or trade. Organizations need to have a blend of workers in the four stages of mastery to assure long-term success.

Individuals progress through four levels of learning to become masters:
Beginner or apprentice in the profession/trade – learning and practicing some of the basic practices in the field – new in the profession (0-3 years); needing coaching and mentoring and hours of practicing the basics;
Individual contributor – able to execute a number of practices with minimal supervision; 4-7 years in the field; needs on-going mentoring to move to the next level of mastery, broadening skills in each practice area;
Mentor/Coach – so skilled in the profession or trade that others come to the person naturally and spontaneously for feedback and coaching; 8-10 years in the field; unconsciously competent in basic practices;
Master/Leader – skilled in all the fundamental practice areas in the profession; known throughout the profession for skill and expertise; 10-17 years in the field; seen as a leader and innovator in the profession by others.

     The dilemma facing many organizations is that successful people get promoted too quickly into management and never have the time to develop mastery in all the basic practice areas of their profession or trade. Although a person has the positional designation or role of leader, he or she may not be at the top of their game. Having multiple career tracks where people can choose to stay with their profession and still accrue increased compensation and other perks is still a major challenge for many organizations. This has been an on-going issue with our consulting clients for the past 20 years.

     We believe that the first step to making mastery-driven career tracks a reality is to develop a picture of the current talent base and then decide how to fill any gaps that show up through intensive development programs, mentoring and smart acquisition of talent. Subcontracting may be a partial stop gap but has potential limitations as a long-term strategy.

     It’s critical from a succession planning/talent management standpoint to look at every profession or functional area and outline the positions, basic practices and skills required for mastery in that field.

Working with a talent advisory group of thirty-five respected sales professionals, we determined the dozen basic practices required for sales in a burgeoning consumer product market. They categorized over 1600 positions into 40+ positions, using a consultative process with teams of people in those positions. They then ranked each position according to the level of sales mastery required: Apprentice, Individual Contributor, Mentor/Coach and Master/Leader. These position profiles and rankings were displayed in a company-wide database so that all managers and employees could engage in developing career paths that would gradually enhance their mastery and value to the company. Having high-level sales and regional managers involved in the process guaranteed that the outcomes would be used in recruiting, selection, development, and advancement. Advisory members were using the outcomes before the system was fully implemented. It gave them a way to recruit, assess, mentor, and develop a powerful sales force. And they increased the retention of key sales professionals by over 30%.

     Experts in the profession or trade know the series of practices and competencies that make sense for organized learning. They can help rank the various positions in each of the four mastery phases.

     The same Mastery Model can be used to assess the talent blend of professionals in the core professions of the organization. At present thousands of masters will be leaving U.S. organizations in the next five years. What are you doing to assure you’re developing the masters to replace them? Having a framework for managing that assessment and development is the first step to making it happen.

One of the most fascinating examples I’ve read recently that combines building bench strength and on-boarding the twenty something employees is at a Dutch company, the Randstad employment agency. They’ve combined job-sharing and pairing senior people with Generation Ys. This provides nurturing to the new employee, learning for both (junior in this case brought technology savvy to the more senior with sales experience). Neither person is the boss and they share the physical space. Randstad’s ability to retain employees has improved from 50% in 2006 to 60% in 2007.[2]

     Being true to the distinction of master – best in class; known throughout the profession; disseminator of new ideas and processes; teacher of aspirants – is very important for the long-term health of organizations. What would happen if organizations determined they would take on the talent gaps by starting alliances and partnerships with the local grade schools, high-schools, trade schools and universities in a ten-year program to build the talent base they require for the future? What if the school/work distinctions were continually bridged by professionals and trades people who loved their craft and were helping the organization by growing the future. This is what the masters of old did. This process is revered in the military services and martial arts. Go to any esteemed Dojo and the masters are developing the next generation of masters. Teaching is part of the mastery process.

     Leaders and their HR partners have a dual responsibility to: 1) Show the professions and key practices required for mastery; and 2) Reward depth in the core professions and trades through well-designed career tracks for the individual as well as the organization. They need to also continually monitor each track to assure they have people in each level of the mastery track.

Strategy 3 - Individual-Centered Professional Development

     Our spirits or souls are the source of our uniqueness – our DNA. Our uniqueness comes from this life force. We are each unique with wonderfully different and complimentary talents. Getting to know ourselves deeply provides the individual roadmap to choosing the professions, organizations, industries and positions where we will flourish:
  • Our style of being – how we interact with the world and others;
  • Our passion and mission in life – our calling;
  • Our interests – the sources of joy and aliveness;
  • Our values – what we really care about; what’s important;
  • Our skills – what we can do in life – innately, or with practice and coaching;
  • Our knowledge – what we learn and apply to life, work and world situations.

     We’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals over 30 years. Our message is: Be Yourself! Know Yourself! Build from your unique talents! Start from the Inside Out! Radiate from your interests, values, personality style. Build your competencies! Choose the profession, industry, organization and position that “fits” you and inspires your learning and development. Unique talents and strengths can come from inside of us – the unique way we are hard-wired.

CareerFit™ Model
© 2007-2008 MasteryWorks, Inc

CareerFit™ Model

     In our workshops and web portals for individual contributors, we say “find yourself and then choose your place!” In other words, move from the inside out. Our CareerFitModel provides a guidance system for individuals. Our CAREERSMART® Workshop provides the framework and a set of tools that fosters a life-long mastery journey. The great magic in life is when the Person and the Place come together and ignite each other. It’s not just the position that counts! One has to be in the right industry, organization and profession in sync with our unique strengths and aspirations. that forge life-long learning. We’ve seen strength-driven development pay out many more dividends than the “fix what’s wrong” model of development. Start from the inside out! See NEWSITE/workbooks/workbook_cs.htm.

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