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Leadership Pipeline: Building and Growing Your People

Originally posted: March 16, 2011 on TrishMcFarlane.com

Today I am live blogging from the Human Resource Executive Forum.  If you are an executive in human resources, this is truly an event that needs to make your radar each year as you plan your travel budget.  I have attended the last two years and continue to be impressed with the quality of the discussions and how the event is morphing and emerging as a unique way to interact with CHRO’s from some of the largest global organizations.

This morning, we’re kicking off with a discussion about building leadership pipeline in your organization.  The panel is moderated by Kevin Cashman, Sr. Partner at Korn Ferry International.  Panelists include:

One of the ideas that came up early on in the discussion was how to be an effective HR executive within your organization. Lucien Alziari brought up a great point.  “It’s hard to be neutral on talent.”  The challenge as an HR professional is to find an organization to work with where talent is truly the focus.

Hallmarks of talent focused organizations:

  • An activist CEO.  What this means is that you need to be in a company that has a CEO that believes that talent is the key and they have to show that they live this philosophy.
  • A leadership team that is accountable for talent and leadership development.  You can easily see this play out if you’re interviewing and talking with operational leaders and talent comes up in the natural conversation.
  • A CFO that demonstrates their core belief that talent investment is good, not just a cost.

In terms of how each organization approaches creating and managing their talent pipeline, there were some areas of similarity but some unique aspects:

Kathleen Barclay shared how at Kroger they’re finding that you can have an amazing organization with a pipeline of strong employees, but if you do not have a strong CEO or if you don’t have a strong plan of how to replace the CEO with a strong leader, you will not succeed.  So they are focused on ensuring that there are leaders ready to step up quickly at the highest levels of the organization.

For Audrey Boone Tillman, the thing that has become most clear regarding talent is that it is UN-clear.  Aflac has a strong succession plan and they’ve had things come into fruition in a very predictible way.  This all changed with the recession when higher level people decided to stay and those talented people “on the bench” started to feel more threatened.  Aflac has learned to be flexible in their talent pipeline because of the challenges the economy creates.  Audrey says that good HR professionals with a holistic approach would be benefited by preaching these approaches to leadership.

David Binkley encouraged  us to be implicit in the talent pipeline process.  Be honest when it comes to talent pipeline and when or if the system is broken, you must have a talent intervention.  You need a continuous flow of talent and if you see that is not happening, you must change it immediately.  That is the basic fact of how to course correct.

According to Cashman, in the end, it’s not about creating a talent pipeline, but showing up as a (HR) leader in your company. The opportunity to hear from CHRO’s on how HR professionals can upscale our skills, how we can work more effectively with CEOs and CFOs, and how to course correct when economic or other factors impede was extremely valuable.  Thank you to HP for sponsoring this panel and to each of the panelists for sharing insight on how we can lead.

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