Human Resources: Overcoming Talent Management Challenges

By Nathan Denny and Scott Axelrod

Session Recap: How can business leaders overcome talent management challenges like providing positive feedback and making initiation periods as efficient as possible?


An executive heads a company that’s poised for growth — but he needs greater engagement and effectiveness from his team to seize some major opportunities coming down the pike. How can he create a collaborative, results-driven, talent-growing culture?

1.  Re-stated Issue

What the CEO really wants to accomplish:

  • Implement a leadership-style cultural transformation.
  • Achieve a team that’s higher performing and more independent, within a culture that recognizes and rewards growth.
  • Develop leaders to fill a mid-management talent gap

So, the re-stated issue: How do I transition from a loyalty culture to a performance culture?

2.  Why It’s Important

This is a second-generation, family-owned business of less than three dozen employees. This CEO wants it to be led from the executive level only, while developing project and development teams to engage staff in making decisions and solving problems. To close that “talent gap,” he expects to hire mid-level professionals.

3.  Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Do you have any training programs in place?
  • What types of leadership responsibilities have your employees held in the past?
  • How would your employees describe the current culture?
  • Is there a career path employees are aware of that could lead them to management?
  • Do you need more people like the ones you have, or more people to replace the ones you have?

4.  Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Provide your employees with words to choose from that describe how they define today’s culture — then do it again asking for what the employees would like the culture to be. THEN have management undergo the same exercise, and compare the results.
  • Implement internal Wikis for knowledge-sharing and training purposes.
  • Use SurveyMonkey to find out what employees think about your company’s values. What issues should be addressed? How do they feel about current management?

5.  Recommended Reading

6.  Action Plan

This CEO is walking away from today’s session with a ton of useful suggestions. His plan: To present these ideas to his management team and get their buy-in on next steps to take.


How can I present an employee with bad news regarding performance, attitude issues, or termination without lowering the morale of all the employees?

1.  Re-stated Issue

I want to communicate bad news in a way that’s as supportive as possible toward the person I’m talking to — avoiding punishment and focusing on growth.

2.  Why It’s Important

It’s a new company, and the CEO wants to create a culture of effective communication from an early stage.

3.  Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Are you delivering the bad news, or coaching someone else to deliver it?
  • Is there documentation on file to evaluate reviews?
  • Are there any legal issues related to the employees?

4.  Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Set expectations at the time of the hire, so employees have something to compare their performance against.
  • Regularly share your perceptions of how you see things. Ask employees what their perceptions are.
  • Be clear when breaking bad news that it isn’t personal but relates only to the performance issue at hand.
  • Never give bad news with the phrase, “this is difficult for me.”
  • Remember: Some people respond well to negative feedback.

5.  Action Plan

Again, the CEO received a wealth of suggestions that he’ll work on implementing immediately. Among his specific takeaways: setting expectations, and scheduling coaching sessions to create assessments that can be measured against later.


What’s a good process for onboarding newly hired talent effectively? What should their first two weeks look like?

1.  Suggestions (Solutions)

Since this issue was so closely related to the prior issue, and since it involved the same participants, the panel decided to forgo clarifying questions and proceed straight to suggestions and solutions.

  • Make sure each position has a clear and specific job description. What are you expecting your team members to do each day / week / month / quarter / year?
  • Enlist a mentor / go-to person who can help train each new hire.
  • Have each member of the team spend time with the new employee, describing what they do.
  • Try to find fun ways to introduce new employees in to your company’s culture.
  • Provide reading material and videos — give them two to three days to get the feel of their role and time to ask questions.
  • Share what your core values are.
  • Define the behaviors that are expected.

2.  Action Plan

This CEO wanted suggestions on how to create a better introductory period — and that’s what she got. Her next steps are to explore these ideas in greater detail and then work to implement them into her company’s cultural game plan.
Session date: Apr 24, 2012
Originally published: Apr 24, 2012

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