It is often said that people join companies but leave managers. While conflicts with managers can sometimes be personality-based, more often it is because the manager either does not follow or does not adequately use their organization’s talent management tools to establish goals with their employees, fairly and constructively evaluate performance and provide development opportunities. Asking your potential boss about talent management during the interview process will allow you to answer two important questions:
- Does the company have a robust talent management process?
- How well does the manager use the tools and value the talent management process?
The answers to these questions will give you important clues about the attention that will be paid to helping you understand what is expected of you, coaching you to success, and developing you for advancement – all most likely critical elements in your future job satisfaction.
Here are some things you would hope to see in your new company:
- A goal-setting process in which the manager and employee work together to set individual goals that support departmental and organizational goals. That way, you know what is important, how to focus your efforts and what is expected of you.
- A performance review process where the manager assesses your performance at least annually (more often is better!) using objective criteria that you will fully understand. That way you will know how to achieve good performance and how well you are doing. Are managers and leaders held accountable to provide fair and constructive performance reviews to their employees? How is good performance rewarded and poor performance addressed? You will want to see an objective and well-defined process that your potential manager is comfortable using.
- Ongoing communications about the organization’s goals, progress being made and how individual activities support those goals. Knowing how your work contributes to the larger organization is highly motivating.
- A competency model or career path (note: it might be called something different) where the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience required for jobs to which you aspire in the future are clearly defined. That way, you will know what you have to do to progress in your career.
- Employee development, such as internal or external training programs, on the job training, stretch assignments, mentoring programs or other things aimed at helping employees grow and advance in their current jobs and future roles. What lateral and promotional roles exist that you may be able to take on as your experience grows? Does the organization have a well-defined process for applying for these roles? What is the manager’s track record for helping employees advance in their careers?
- Pay for performance. How is compensation managed? Can high performers receive bonuses and salary increases? Is there a defined process by which raises are determined? Can the manager explain it?
An organization’s talent management programs can give you important insight into how they value and treat their employees. While smaller organizations may not have all the formal talent management processes described above, a good manager will be familiar with the concepts. Good managers should know how to objectively evaluate performance, coach the employees in their care to do their best without micro-managing, and be invested in developing their employees for career advancement. By looking into these things before accepting a new job, you can help yourself make the right choice.
Sean Conrad works and blogs for Halogen Software. He's passionate about encouraging companies large and small to adopt talent management best practices that drive employee and company success.