Is your organisation too lean?

Skills gap
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Throughout the highs and lows of the recession, businesses have had to batten down the hatches.

While it would be a tad dramatic to suggest that this period of time has been solely about survival, many businesses have been left with no option but to make lifestyle changes.

They have shed some weight and kept the weight off. They are at one with their new image. In the business world, that means they have embraced the concept known as “lean”.

Put simply, this concept views the outlay of resources for any goal, other than the creation of value for the end customer or money to the bottom line, to be wasteful and therefore a target for elimination.

Very often, the first areas to be purged in a lean organisation can be recruitment as well as the training and the budget associated with learning and development.

That should set alarm bells ringing for any progressive business, posing the question, “am I too lean?”

Very often, the first areas to be purged in a lean organisation can be recruitment as well as the training and the budget associated with learning and development.

But for this type of organisation, more so one that is too lean, losing too much body mass can result in a drop in performance and unforeseen expenditure in the longer term.

Unfortunately “lean” doesn’t tend to lend itself to succession planning. Nor does it tend to lend itself to talent retention. Lean can therefore be more expensive in the long term.  

Creating space and removing obstacles

While lean may have certain benefits, for example its focus on the bottom line, one of its dangers is the constraints it places on future development owing to the tightness of space and resource. 

On the most basic of levels, if you take a team leader off a production line, somebody inevitably needs to step-up to fill a gap.

A simple example can be seen by looking at an industry such as manufacturing, one I have significant experience in. In this sector, it isn’t in the DNA to pull people away from the day-to-day job role. The focus tends to be very much on the ‘today' element of the business. This can result in limited, if any, time and space for development of staff, and tends to be endemic, a problem at every level in the organisation. 

On the most basic of levels, if you take a team leader off a production line, somebody inevitably needs to step-up to fill a gap.

This analogy, in its simplest form, suggests that creating space to let others develop is an important stage in addressing a skills gaps within your organisation.

But if you then consider the loss if talent does leave - it is estimated to be equivalent to one and a half years’ salary - there is a compelling case for implementing procedures that allow for succession planning within your organisation. 

Retaining talent is of paramount importance, a key role is having the ability to identify it, let alone cultivate it and build your business’ future on it.

This is not only vital for future talent development, but also for engagement and, importantly, talent retention. But once you’ve spotted potential, what do you with it?

Plan for the future

One of the most significant roles in any organisation, is that which is focused towards nurturing and retaining talent. This is where attention to the detail can really make a difference.

I have previously referred to an organisation’s talent as being akin to muscle, or body strength, in so much as it has to be developed for success. It is about identifying talent and high performers – for which developing and deploying a pipeline process is key – and creating the space to allow this to reach fruition.

I work with a number of organisations who take an informed approach to talent management and succession planning. So what is it they do? Well, first of all they have developed a mind-set around creating space and allowing the opportunity for people to develop into top performers, whether at senior leader level or indeed any level in the organisation.  They have an unswerving obsession with performance and coaching potential.

The only way to ensure increasing levels of performance is to ensure that you attract, develop and retain top talent. 

It’s therefore important to have someone with the vision at the top of the organisation to influence the senior team around them and have the wherewithal to make them see that time out for strategic thinking and people development is worth doing.

One such company I work alongside runs a bespoke internal project that highlights the future leaders and management. They provide a very clear career path and it allows for performance and potential to be released.

Businesses should be encouraging their talented employees to deliver extraordinary performance by doing more of what they are good at, whilst of course managing any areas of weakness.

So thinking about your team, it’s not just the ‘today’ and keeping lean, it is about being futuristic in your outlook, keeping ahead of the game. Not just focusing on the here and the now.

The only way to ensure increasing levels of performance is to ensure that you attract, develop and retain top talent. A strategic focus on talent management is essential to ensure your business not only survives today but thrives tomorrow.

About Amanda Duggan

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