This is article is part of The Excellence Files series --a forum where contributing Stevens faculty and staff members share practical insights and reflections to reinforce the mindset of “excellence in all we do” and to focus, engage, and align employees with our mission, values, and strategic priorities.
Talent Management: It's Everyone's Responsibility
by Warren Petty
Vice President For Human Resources
I have often heard the following refrains from managers, “I don’t envy you” or “I don’t want your job” which usually follows an uncomfortable dialogue over the best course of action regarding an employee relations matter. I get it. Spending most of one’s time helping people stay motivated and engaged can be draining and feel like a distraction from what’s really important. Most managers would prefer to spend the majority of their efforts managing budgets, running projects, conducting research, achieving targets, launching new initiatives, or achieving some other tangible result. Few are comfortable having conversations with their staff about their strengths and how to leverage them, and their areas of development and how to build on them. Yet, it’s the quality of the talent we have in each unit that drives the results we seek.
The sentiments echoed above by managers reveal that there is a common misnomer that talent management is primarily a Human Resources (HR) function and, as such, best left to the professionals in HR. As a result, managers tend to neglect or delegate this critical and fundamental responsibility. After all, managers make the hiring and firing decisions, assess performance, and provide the feedback and coaching needed to foster talent development. Thus, the manager has the most direct impact on the people with the potential to deliver organizational results. The manager is key in creating the environment that makes people feel fulfilled and engaged at work. Ultimately, managers are the most influential factor in winning the hearts and minds of employees.
“Managers at all levels must not only be responsible for managing budgets, numbers and projects but must also own the development of the talent assigned to them.”
At Stevens, propelling and sustaining our ambitious goal to become a premier technological research and student-centric university requires a fundamental shift in how managers conceive of their roles. Each person tasked with leading a team must make talent management a central part of his or her job. Managers at all levels must not only be responsible for managing budgets, numbers and projects but must also own the development of the talent assigned to them. Leading people cannot be seen as less important than the non-people oriented initiatives and deliverables.
Managers should take the time to understand each team member’s career interests, mobility and strengths and how to best keep them engaged and focused on achieving the goals of the organization. Innovative companies that thrive and grow, drive accountability for talent to their direct managers and ensure that managers are cognizant of the link between talent development and organizational success.
Much is expected of line managers, who represent the vital link between the organization’s strategic priorities and the implementation of those intentions to actions on the ground. Consequently, managers must see themselves as responsible for motivating and inspiring their team to accomplish the goals and objectives of their respective unit. HR can provide support, training, and guidance but the day-to-day interactions that ensure an employee's success begin and end with the manager. HR can take the lead in developing systems that foster and promote high performance but, managers must carry them out and take ultimate responsibility for the quality of the employee’s day-to-day experience. Does the employee feel guided and valued or demotivated and disengaged? Are the lines of communication open or is it just a one-way channel from manager to worker? It is commonly known that workers don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. Accordingly, managers who meet regularly with employees to provide feedback about their performance, learning opportunities, and future trajectory with the organization can play an important role in helping retain talent and drive organizational success.
Strengthening the capability of managers will be a major focus for the Division of Human Resources in the coming months. Later, this spring, all Steven faculty and staff will have 24/7 access to a full suite of self-paced, on-line instructional videos through Lynda.com. Courses will include:
- Management Fundamentals
- Performance Review Fundamentals
- Rewarding Employees
- Managing Employee Performance Problems
- Delivering Employee Feedback
- Embracing Change
- Onboarding New Hires
- Motivating and Engaging Employees
- Coaching and Developing Employees
- Conflict Resolution Fundamentals
- Having Difficult Conversations
- Transitioning from Manager to Leader
- David Ulrich, "HR is not about HR," December 17, 2017, [online]. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hr-dave-ulrich/
- 2. Ron Ashkenas, "You Can’t Delegate Talent Management to the HR Department," Harvard Business Review, September 23, 2016.