CIOs are consistently faced with competing initiatives for funding. Capital and operating budgets are cursorily approved at the beginning of each new fiscal year, contingent upon volume, reimbursement, return, and myriad components of a healthy bottom line. While IT has come to the table over the years to become part of a strategy that includes revenue producing outcomes and alternate revenue streams, it also one of the first areas where belts are tightened when the going gets tough.
Recent economic challenges don’t help the cause. The stock market has experienced a negative 17 percent swing over the past 52 weeks and top healthcare providers have witnessed greater than a 50 percent swing in stock price. As we prepare for a charged election year, the rhetoric in regards to the Affordable Care Act will only intensify. Whether you operate in a for-profit or not-for-profit environment, odds are you are already engaged in meaningful dialogue about what this means to your IT budget and portfolio.
Too often, we are asked to make concessions around operating expenses specific to talent management. Travel and training are ‘nice to have’ elements that can be added back if the bottom line improves and can easily be explained to your team, right? Not if you are committed to building a high-performing, high-potential team designed to see you through the toughest times and still be there on the other side to celebrate the sacrifice. This does not mean you refuse to acquiesce in reducing discretionary spending, but you need to be cautious in what you decide to trim as your greatest asset is your people.
Regardless of your budget, having a well thought-out talent management plan that is strategically aligned to the priorities of your business is key.
Robin Sarkar, PhD, CIO of Lakeland Health, presented at the 2015 CHIME Fall Forum regarding not only the necessity but difference between continuous true talent management and one-time annual performance appraisals. He stated, “The talent management process focuses on a 3- to 5-year horizon for the associate.” His fundamental belief that resounded with me and the large audience is the importance of “enabling a pathway for the associate to move from their current role to leverage potential for the future.” I was fortunate enough to be the moderator for Robin’s session and share ideas about his topic for which we have a shared passion. Following the Fall Forum, I headed home to enhance the program I had in place for my team. Here are some ideas for you to consider as well.
Have a Specific Talent Management Plan
In order for talent management to take root, it needs a structured format you and your team can follow. I developed my team’s current format to include the following core elements:
- Documentation. You may or may not have an annual evaluation process. Regardless, meaningful, ongoing documentation of an employee’s performance is a critical success factor. You want to capture their experience, education, training, strengths, development opportunities, and potential next role in the organization (even if it’s outside of IT).
- Consistent 1:1s. I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. It engages rich, mutually beneficial performance and professional development-focused dialogue, while aiding the performance evaluation process. My team uses a template outlining current assignments, challenges, accomplishments, and alignment with our strategic plan.
- Focused Learning Plan. We opted to read and take the Strengths Finder assessment as part of our 2016 plan. While this is not a new tool in the toolbox, I find it valuable whenever new teams come together and I have several members with new roles and responsibilities. I myself find that 2 or 3 of my 5 strengths change every few years based on the scope of my role in an organization. From our collective strengths, we will be pursuing a learning plan of communication and change, conflict and prioritization, and project management and negotiations.
- Competencies. These define clear standards and measures for individual and team performance. Plans are developed in accordance with both the objectives of the organization and the opportunity an associate has within their identified strengths. The capability development and workforce planning through specific competencies includes succession planning.
Consider Outside Sources for Supplemental Training
When you do have access to discretionary funding, you can tap into programs that give the option of outside leaders coming to you or those where you send your emerging leaders for additional development. I am a fan both as programs as, 1) those that come to you can be customized to meet the thematic needs of your team as a whole, and 2) those involving individual training elevate your superstars and give them a chance to return and share their learnings. I have utilized/attended all of the following programs and recommend them as key components of building a world-class IT team.
- The Table Group. I had The Table Group conduct workshops specific to Patrick Lencioni’s books, The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. We had recently brought together 2 diverse divisions of our company and alignment was a crucial component of our go-forward success. The sessions paved a path for us to remove politics from the decision-making process and focus on operations, strategy, and how to function as an executive team. It was a core component of developing a healthy team focused on shared outcomes that were profitable, measurable, and sustainable.
- Scarlett Leadership Institute. As an alumni of their Signature Executive Program, I have utilized their expertise time and again to host workshops for emerging leaders, retreats for managers, and executive education for directors and above. SLI focuses on, “Providing ethical leadership education that produces positive behavioral change.” Their CEO, Mary Fink, takes the time to learn the organization and the team, developing programs to meet them where they are and implement tenants that carry over to all levels of the organization. I have had the honor to be a student, and later a partner, in designing and delivering content to teams I have been a part of and led. Learnings from SLI are staples in a talent management plan.
- Healthcare CIO Boot Camp. Sponsored by CHIME, Boot Camp, “Is an intensive education program taught by a faculty of healthcare CIO thought leaders.” Boot Camp was nothing short of an epiphany as it was highly personal in its approach to presenting tough, real world scenarios with powerful group discussions. Many of the attendees from my class are still connected. I also met colleagues who have become close friends. These are the friends I call when I don’t have all the answers or need a different perspective as they live the in the same world and appreciate the complexity. They are also first to say congratulations and share success for the same reasons. It is an experience where you gain what you invest. It continues to pay dividends.
Talent management is not complicated, yet it does require a focused level of dedication. As a leader, you need to provide the framework and roadmap for your team. They will look to you for guidance, reinforcement, and course correction.
Regardless of your budgetary position, make it a point to stand firm on talent management for yourself and your team. By maintaining a commitment to talent management, two themes will emerge. In times of prosperity, there will be more to share amongst the whole, and in times of scarcity, associates will be willing to moderate, knowing it leads to a foreseeable investment in their future. Although 2016 may prove to be a year of uncertain financial outcomes, talent management remains a tried and true investment that produces a lifetime of returns.
Looking to build a solid talent management plan? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well as lessons learned.