According to George Anders, author of three books and the former West Coast bureau chief of Fast Company magazine, even in the best-run organizations, there’s always something a bit mysterious about “talent.” When companies set ambitious goals but can’t spell out a precise roadmap for achieving them, they usually end up hoping that an extra splash of managerial wisdom or technical know-how will make everything work out. In such situations, talent becomes clearly defined only after the fact.
In Effron’s surveys, more than 20% of talent-management specialists conceded that their tools for succession planning, executive coaching and identifying high-potential employees are widely regarded within their own companies as not being simple or easy to use.
In the words of Roger Cude, senior vice president for talent management at Wal-Mart, that creates a corrosive culture of “talent importers” — executives who shirk the essential but selfless tasks of developing stars themselves, instead relying on constant poaching of other units’ best prospects to meet expansion needs. But Cude says Wal-Mart has found the antidote. It tracks how well its top executives are doing to meet and inspire the company’s up-and-comers. Data is shared and compared. Executives with strong scores are rewarded; those who can’t be bothered are told that hey have a problem. The result, Cude says, is that Wal-Mart’s intensely competitive top echelon of executives try to outdo one another in being seen as champions of talent development.