People: From HR to Business Leader Ownership Re-Engage Business Leaders In Your Organization's Talent Development

Written by: Jessica Parisi and Susan Burnett

There is an interesting dance that has evolved between central talent organizations and line executives, and it’s an accountability dance that is common across companies and industries.

What We've Observed

A few examples below:

  1. The CLO of a multi-billion dollar software company is frustrated that leaders believe the central recruiting organization is responsible for attracting and selecting the best candidate pool, instead of seeing it as their own job to be talent magnets, constantly leveraging their networks to reach out to the best and the brightest.

  2. The SVP of Talent for a large construction and engineering company has line leaders who expect the HR team to run the succession process, identifying the high potential people for the firm.

  3. HR business partners write the performance evaluations for their executive leadership team because they are too busy.

  4. The C-suite launches a multi-million dollar leadership development initiative, yet none of the business leaders can consistently show up to guide the development and execution of this effort.

How did we get to a place where the C-suite delegates key selection, assessment, development and performance management decisions to someone else? How can this most critical driver of shareholder value be outsourced or delegated?

In 1987, Dave Packard addressed a group of Human Resource professionals and reminded them that when he and Bill Hewlett started HP, they did not have what was then called a Personnel department. He explained why. He and Bill believed it was the job of business leaders to hire, develop, reward and grow their people. He thought having a Personnel department would potentially confuse or diffuse that clear accountability. He said, “Engaging and developing our people is the number one job of managers. Their legacy is the strength of their people, which results in the strength of our business.”

Southwest Airlines’ co-founder and CEO from 1981 to 2008 Herb Kelleher obviously had astounding business sense. Brave enough to not be bothered or dissuaded by the tactics and “best practices” of other airlines, he went his own way, charting a new path of low-cost airfare. The results speak for themselves. When you read Nuts! or any of the many white papers or case studies on the company, it is apparent that Kelleher captured the hearts and minds of Southwest’s people. Yes, he created a wicked sense of purpose—connect people to what’s important in their lives through reliable, friendly and low-cost airfare—to galvanize all employees, but the real key to the company’s success lies in his deep belief that running Southwest was solely about people. The results have been tremendous.

In Conclusion

In the U.S. alone, companies spend over $14B annually on leadership development.1 Yet leadership development continues to be identified as a high priority need and a key gap every year in the Conference Board’s CEO research and in Bersin’s Human Capital reports. We believe it’s time for business leaders to take back the investment and development of their leaders – arguably the most valuable asset of their business. And we know that when you “Define Great, Assess Great, Experience Great and Execute Great,” you can move the mean on leadership performance and execution in your company. After all, it’s leaders at every level that develop and execute your strategies for success.

1 Leadership Development Factbook: Benchmarks and Trends in U.S. Leadership Development, Bersin by Deloitte, July 2012.

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