Getting Transparent: Make Every Deal a Fair Deal

Guest post by Marc Effron:

Many companies still refuse to be transparent with their employees about their potential to advance. Those companies often say they’re concerned that if some employees are told they have high potential to advance, it will disengage employees who learn they’re not in that category. That’s true only if being a high potential is seen as the only “fair deal” at your company. We believe that it’s beneficial to be transparent with every employee about their potential, and that these conversations will be far easier if every deal is seen as a fair deal.

By “fair deal,” we mean the investment that you make in an employee based on their performance and potential to advance. While being assessed as a high potential leader brings you one type of investment, everyone should get the deal that reflects their expected contribution to the company.

How Fair is the Deal?

Before we differentiate, let’s ensure that every employee has a great baseline experience that includes working for an organization they can be proud of, having a quality manager and the opportunity to develop. That baseline ensures that everyone is working in an environment that supports their performance and engagement.

Above that baseline, every employee should get a deal that’s based on their current and likely future contribution. It should include their compensation and, more importantly, their fair share of the other development resources the company offers. This may include critical experiences, exposure to key leaders, internal and external development courses, highly visible projects and high potential programs, among other investments.

The different deals should clearly differentiate your investment in leaders, with higher performing and higher potential leaders receiving disproportionately more investment.

How disproportionate depends on your Talent Philosophy.

We find a simple way to determine the deal is to use our Talent Investment Grid (TIG). The Talent Investment Grid is a performance and potential grid that details how you plan to invest in leaders in each box. It’s a simple tool but it requires that you have either an executive Talent Philosophy or a very clear understanding of how your senior leaders want to differentiate people investments.

With that Talent Philosophy guidance in hand, gather a small number of senior HR leaders for a 90 minute, highly focused exercise to fill in your TIG. The process is as simple as:

Step 1: List all of the major development and reward elements that an employee might receive in a differentiated way. That includes the items listed above and any other performance-related benefit. This excludes any reward based on tenure and any benefits available to everyone.

Step 2: Identify how you want to allocate each element. Classify each element as Yes, No, Consider (i.e. expatriate assignments may be Yes for Hi Po’s and Consider for those in the center box) or Preferred Access.

Step 3: Get input from the important stakeholders in your organization and revise the grid accordingly. Your goal is a practical tool that helps managers better align the company’s investment with an individual’s performance and potential. A finished grid should look something like Figure 1 on the next page.

Talent Investment Grid Example:


Using the TIG to Support Transparency

After you’ve developed the TIG, educate managers about the tool and how to use it. They should understand that the TIG provides guidelines, not rules, but that similarly placed people should have relatively similar investments. Your high potential leader should have a meaningfully different investment than your average performing, well-placed leader. Ask managers to use the grid as a guide when considering assignments, experiences, projects, bonuses, etc.

This next step is optional but, if you want to be transparent, strongly recommended. Communicate the TIG to your employees. Transparency about the fair deal means that they should understand their deal and the other possible deals as well. This will lead to a few uncomfortable conversations but many more productive ones. Employees will know their deal and will understand what to do in order to get a different deal (increase their performance, demonstrate more potential, or both).

We understand that it’s not easy to decide how transparent to be with your company’s employees. We believe there are a few good reasons to not communicate potential ratings (they’re not accurate, there’s no differentiated investment associated with them) but many more reasons to share them (reaffirm to your best talent that they’re your best, create a culture of transparency, help managers to make smarter and more consistent talent decisions).

Transparency isn’t easy but, if we shift our mindset away from high potential being the only fair deal, it makes if far easier to be honest with everyone about where they stand.

Marc Effron, top 100 Influencer in HR and founder and President of the Talent Strategy Group and Talent Quarterly magazine. Marc helps the world’s largest and most successful companies improve the quality and depth of their talent. In his latest book8 STEPS TO HIGH PERFROMANCE: Focus on What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest), he separates the behaviors you can control from the traits you cannot so you can deliver your highest potential performance at maximum efficiency.

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