March Madness: Look Beyond “One Shining Moment” for Lasting Results

This is the time of year when sports fans pay attention to college basketball: The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament – a.k.a. “March Madness” – officially kicks off with the “First Four” on March 15 and wraps up with the traditional playing of the song, “One Shining Moment,” at the end of the championship game on April 4.

While no team will enter the tourney with a dominating record, Villanova and Kansas have certainly had great seasons. It’s also interesting to note that the two teams have relied on experienced talent: Villanova has eight juniors and seniors on its 14-member roster, and Kansas has 10 juniors and seniors among its 16 players. In addition, juniors and seniors have served as the top three scorers for both Villanova and Kansas for much of the season.

Not all programs go about team-building in the same manner. Take the University of Kentucky and its head coach John Calipari, who is famous for targeting what are called “one and done” high school stars – blue-chip athletes who play at Kentucky during their freshman year, then leave for the NBA. Last season, however, Kentucky came to the tournament with a perfect record but lost in the Final Four to a far more experienced Wisconsin squad. And while Duke won the championship last year primarily with freshman superstars, the two prior winners – Connecticut and Louisville – were led by upperclassmen.

This demonstrates that winning schools don’t always build their programs with “elite” blue-chippers. Many prefer high schoolers who perform just under that level but are more likely to play three or four years, to derive longer-term value. Organizational HR/talent management executives should consider a similar approach. Why? Because, in recruitment, there’s a risk in focusing solely on job candidates from the most exclusive and high-profile colleges and universities. Frequently, these candidates join a company to earn some impressive resume bullet points quickly, and then immediately move on to the highest bidder.

For example, I once worked with an HR department which encountered this. Its managers sought graduates coming out of top-tier schools with 4.0 GPAs, and they were thrilled when they landed these grads, thinking they had “won” the recruitment game. But they were wrong. The 4.0 graduates only lasted with the organization for a short time before (to borrow a famous quote from NBA star LeBron James) “taking their talents” elsewhere. Through analytics, I was able to show the department that it was getting more out of its 3.2 GPA college grads because these employees stayed for years while earning superior performance reviews. Within a reasonable period, the same staffers developed as key leaders.

The lesson learned: Vision and analytics must come together to implement a talent management strategy that fosters a “game plan” of lasting, continuous improvement, bringing the following benefits.

Continuity. With analytics, you assess the traits of candidates who are likely to remain with an employer while meeting or exceeding performance expectations. Which schools do they come from? What are their GPAs? What academic and community activities do they participate in? Where did they serve as interns? Then, you deploy analytics to determine which onboarding, training, mentorship and other support programs help these employees succeed. To extend needed continuity, allow analytics to predict when key contributors are likely to retire, so you can plan ahead to replace their skill sets. Thus, you recruit and develop an indefinitely stable and productive workforce.

Investment/ROI. Since you’re not seeking “one and dones,” you’ll reap the rewards of employees that will hopefully stay with your organization for longer than average. While you still need to keep recruiting and remain on the lookout for top talent, you’ll gain the most bang for your recruitment investment, and not waste onboarding and training costs for people that won’t stay around.

Leadership. Once again, pure talent doesn’t automatically translate to a “title.” Plenty of “Cinderellas” make an impact in the “Big Dance” of college basketball, like George Mason’s Final Four season in 2006, or Butler’s back-to-back finals appearances in 2010 and 2011. Leadership has proven essential here, enabling a team to rise above its collective skill level. At your organization, talent management analytics can help you gain a competitive edge via the intangible but still critical component of leadership. First, analytics can identify the common characteristics of leaders, involving factors such as productivity, performance quality, and engagement levels. Then, you accelerate their progress through training. Hence, you nurture an environment in which expectations for everyone – both leaders and the staffers they inspire to do better – are surpassed.

In talent management, there are all kinds of ways to “win the big one.” But do you want to do so through a repetitive, time-consuming – and expensive – “one and done” model? By taking advantage of analytics to align recruitment/development to long-term strategies, your organization will prosper in a lasting, impactful way, at a significantly lowered cost.

After all, why settle for “One Shining Moment” when you can enjoy success – over and over again?

Photo Credit: paid.highly via Compfight cc

2010, We Hardly Knew Ye. My Culture of Talent Musings

It’s tempting, in an end-of-year post, to mourn and dwell what didn’t happen in the year past, to give cheery career tips for the new year, or to speculate on emerging innovation trends. I thought about it briefly and then simply decided not to. It’s likely already been done.

I’d like to take a different tack to talk about how 2010 taught us that workplace culture brands need to ‘personalize’, and how truly exciting is has been to watch corporate brands become more authentic and dynamic. It’s a complex work world now and this makes me very happy. There are still many mountains to climb when it comes to workplace, leadership and talent innovation. Thank goodness – right? The real work is still really just beginning.

Down markets are not always times of smart leadership, innovation and inspiration, but 2010 saw these themes emerge powerfully, driven by social media – connecting employees and brands – as well as a return to the realization that emotional intelligence is a critical component in today’s geographically dispersed yet deeply interconnected workplace.

At the TalentCulture social community, I examined the notion of intent and what it means for companies. People seek community. As I said then, “…people come to communities with a purpose, an intent. They are looking for a place to be, a place to learn, a place to grow and interact in a meaningful way. The trick then, for companies, is to behave as social communities. It’s a powerful and new metaphor for the workplace.”

In a company that operates as a social community, there is more room to create a workplace that celebrates and accommodates differences – in backgrounds, personal brands, skill sets and personality temperaments. A healthy workplace “…focuses on ensuring personality/culture fit between employees and the organization, people of diverse skill sets and temperaments can collaborate and succeed – because they have the intent to succeed, and the social context – the community – in which to realize their intent.” Smart and true collaboration holds so many valuable keys for all of us. Bring diversity and enthusiasm into the mix and you really have something special.

Companies that recognize ‘intent to belong’ in their employees know how to build culture by fostering different modes of interaction among the company and its employees. They go beyond transactional interactions with employees to transformational interactions, and then to tacit interactions, where trust is built to create a shared and sustainable competitive advantage. They will be the winners as they recruit and retain the very best talent.

Strong workplace brands that reflect a healthy corporate culture bring an advantage in hiring and creating memorable products, services and missions. We’ll see even more hiring growth in 2011, so companies and people (personal brands) must think about maintaining their brands. As I wrote earlier this year, “Link corporate culture and brand with your people and the magic really starts…Remember that your brand and culture are your biggest attractions…. Your best defense, as an employer, is to have culture and brand in place. Be irresistible to your employees. Be desirable to candidates. Be your brand, revel in your culture, and never abandon either.”

As social media permeates the workplace more deeply in 2011, be prepared to support it, plan for it, even celebrate your social media ‘rock stars’, who are your front-and-center culture brand ambassadors. How cool and fabulous are they? Very.

I, for one, am not mourning the end of 2010. It has been a challenging year for so many people and organizations, to ignore this fact would be completely ludicrous. It’s also been a time of profound changes and advances in workplace leadership and on the community building front. A reason to celebrate = growth and connectivity. Don’t let up – in 2011 the pace will be faster, people will be smarter and more connected, and workplace brand will be critical to retain valued employees. Workplace brands will be a collection of employees with strong personal brands, which will make the workplace a stronger place. So 2010, so long, farewell.

We’re on to 2011 already. Bring it. We are global and we are one. Thank you for listening and sharing. My very best to you and yours from all of us here at the Culture of Talent.