It’s treated like a covert operation, flawlessly planned and executed – as if it never really happened. Confidential folders holding its contents are protected under lock and key. Faint whispers are overheard by the water coolers. Employees wonder what secrets are being discussed. Leaders hope that employees won’t ask about it. It has become one of the great mysteries of the modern world: the talent planning meeting.
Why all the secrecy? Doesn’t it feel a little over the top? As leaders, we have an obligation to have honest, thoughtful, and robust talent planning meetings. It’s our opportunity to review our bench strength and discuss the leadership we have for the future. It allows us to take an enterprise view of our talent, create development strategies, and plan for succession. The success of our organization depends on these outcomes. But we often struggle with how to communicate this important work within our organizations. Poor or non-existent communication not only sets a negative tone culturally, it can be damaging and risky.
Here are 5 steps leaders can take to bring about more transparency with talent planning meetings:
1. Get aligned around philosophy and approach.
If you haven’t already, invest the time to talk about your philosophy for communicating talent planning processes, approach, and outcomes. Anticipate employee questions and possible reactions and decide how you will position messages to high potentials, solid talent, and those who may not have what it takes.
2. Deliver messages consistently.
Once you’re aligned on the approach, bring that united front into the organization. Stay on script and show your advocacy and support for the process through each interaction and message. Employees often look to leaders to see how aligned they really are.
3. Be clear about objectives and process.
This is often a missed step. Share the objectives of talent planning and the fact that the organization uses a deliberate and consistent process. Show how this piece of the puzzle fits into the broader talent management cycle.
4. Openly share criteria.
Communicating the criteria that is used, such as competencies and leadership requirements, will demonstrate rigor and objectivity. It will also show the organization what success looks like and what the expectations are for career development and succession for key roles.
5. Have open and candid conversations.
Engaging in really productive talent planning meetings can be like working a muscle (that you didn’t know you had). The same goes for communicating the outcomes. Preparing for various employee interactions and difficult conversations will increase your confidence and help you to effectively handle questions, concerns, and reactions.
So, communicate what you can and be honest about what you can’t. Your employees will appreciate it and you’ll be making an important leadership contribution to creating a culture of openness, professional maturity, and mutual respect.
Audra August is a Principal, Succession & Talent Planning with Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions. Audra works with organizations to build strong leadership capacity. Her areas of focus include succession management, team effectiveness, and organizational development. Audra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @AudraAugust on Twitter.