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Executive Talent Management

By Chris Hardy

Critical in today’s challenging market…


Executive talent management is a key driver of business effectiveness. In fact, according to Chris Hardy, Partner, EMA Partners South Africa, it is the CEO’s key responsibility.

When faced with difficult business conditions, many companies are forced into survival mode. Taking a defensive stance, they choose to cut costs by reducing staff. It is understandable that in challenging economic conditions an organisation’s leadership may view executive talent management as a luxury, or a costly distraction.

It is precisely because of this type of cost-cutting reaction, however, that organisations need to realise that by focusing solely on financial aspects, including the costs of human resources, businesses become distracted from their central objective: to profitably satisfy customers. In fact, this goal can only be achieved with trained and motivated employees, who in turn, are led by a talented, skilled, driven and influential senior management team.

Ensuring that an effective management team is in place is a primary responsibility of an organisation’s Chief Executive Officer. Choosing the appropriate resource for any particular role requires the application of rigorous and uncompromising selection; this expertise is not always within a CEO’s skill set. A CEO who is appointed from within the company will need to review the functions and performance of his/her senior management team. Are they in the right position, and are they performing to the required level?

A change at the top presents an obvious opportunity to review a company’s executive talent. But it is not the only time this exercise should be undertaken. Regular, ongoing talent reviews of personnel contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of an organisation. The person best placed to guide the process is the Head of Human Resources, who can help the CEO interpret the results and suggest corrective actions.

Possible actions include training and development interventions, moving an underperformer from one position into another role, or ultimately, letting someone go. Should a vacancy arise as a result of a review, and a replacement cannot be identified from within the company, a suitable individual will need to be recruited externally. As the hiring executive, the CEO can partner with Human Resources to select a suitable resource that can bring the best available talent to the organisation.

Executive talent review needs to be tied to the achievement of the company’s long-term goals. This ensures that the CEO who acts decisively on Human Resources’ recommendations will have a greater chance of implementing an effective strategic plan that will ensure a smooth transition, and strong leadership going forward.

It is recognised that effective management of talent has far-reaching consequences for an organisation. In a recent the Global HR Survey1, when asked how various talent management strategies impact their business, most respondents agreed with these statements as follows:

  • 73% – companies with integrated talent management strategies and processes have better financial performance than those that do not.
  • 66% – Companies that have linked learning management to other core talent functions have stronger revenue growth.
  • 56% – Succession planning, when extended to the entire workforce, positively impacts sales growth.
  • 52% – Increasing the focus on measuring workforce performance is critical to identifying and retaining high performers.

We can conclude that CEOs who maintain a focus on effective talent management will find their organisations better prepared for today’s challenges and the inevitable but unknown opportunities of the future.