What employers must do now to drive and sustain high performance

Kevin Martin

Perhaps the most significant gap with which executive leadership should concern itself, effectively managing talent shortages in critical areas needs much improvement. A 2014 joint i4cp/AMA study on critical human capital issues found that 83% of the nearly 1,400 organizations surveyed are wanting in this area, and all signs indicate it's going to get worse.

All organizations need to be prepared for attrition in two key groups — high performers and those soon eligible to retire — as well as talent shortages in specific disciplines and geographies. And most organizations simply do not have the internal bench strength of talent to achieve or sustain high market performance.

In its study, The Top 10 Critical Human Capital Issues: Enabling Sustained Growth through Talent Transparency, i4cp highlights specific issues organizations need to address to avoid derailment and provides actionable strategies to put them on the path to sustained success. These reflect the imperatives to develop deep bench strength in critical roles to minimize the loss and ensure the proliferation of organizational knowledge, and to ensure consistent, high-quality interactions and communications from a broader group of leaders to achieve desired results.

For high-performance organizations to sustain market performance, they must do three things:


    1. Build deeper and broader pools of highly targeted talent: Only 27% of top companies have competent successors ready to fill executive-level roles, and even fewer (18%) are prepared with successor candidates for mission-critical roles that extend beyond the executive level.
    1. Improve leadership development skills with a focus on better interactions and communications: Only 34% of top companies indicated they are effective at developing leaders, and they are getting worse at it. The influx of Millennials as well as the move to flatter, more matrixed organizational structures dictates the need for improved skills in areas such as coaching and the use of technology tools to collaborate effectively.
    1. Fully understand what supports the organization's strategy and culture, and then reward it: Only 34% of top companies are effective at measuring and rewarding results, while 25% are effective at doing the same with behaviours. The behaviours of executives and middle managers have a very high correlation with market performance.


Contrast this to the continuing struggle among lower-performing organizations that continue to be paralyzed by the inability to execute strategy. In large part, this is the result of three major impediments:

    1. The pervasive lack of alignment, among strategy, goals, supply and demand of workforce talent: An abysmal 12% of low performers indicate they are effective at strategy execution. Not surprisingly, only 8% of these lower performers are effective at internal communications.
    1. The general lack of organizational agility that results from a combination of insufficient and/or ineffective longer-term planning: Only 13% of low performers indicate they are effective at strategic workforce planning, a figure that did not improve the year before the study.
    1. Leaders who are unwilling or unable to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce and markets they serve: A mere 11% of low performers indicate effectiveness in leadership development.

No matter the state of your organization, these three tips will help you on your path to high performance:

    1. Never lose sight of what your organization needs to grow and sustain success in the longer term: Know what market opportunities your organization plans to capitalize on over the next few years. Then determine which roles, skills, and competencies are mission critical to achieve that objective and sustain high performance. This will dictate the workforce planning and preparation that needs to work in parallel.
    1. Build strong pipelines of talent that target critical roles, skills, and competencies: If your organization's definition of bench strength is constrained to the executive suite, you are not looking at your business strategically. Know which roles are mission critical, both now and in the future. These roles vary by business, but should not only include the C-suite but also extend into areas such as product development, customer service, and project management. Integrate this knowledge into all other talent management initiatives through recruitment, development, and succession.
    1. Ensure knowledge retention and sharing around those roles, skills, and competencies: Align programs, processes, and technology to encourage, capture, and use the information and insights that proliferate. While knowledge is powerful, you don't want key institutional and experiential knowledge to go unknown or to leave your organization without a purposeful plan to maintain and build on it.

Written by Kevin Martin from Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Reprinted with the permission of i4cp, the fastest growing and largest corporate network focused on the practices of high-performance organizations. www.i4cp.comElevate your management process with a relationship, productivity, and behaviour-modification tool that will drive positive change, develop core competencies, and achieve bottom-line results.Drake’s online Performance Management Solution focuses on aligning your company’s objectives with the behaviours of your top-performing employees.To learn more, visit us online at drakeintl.com or contact the Talent Management Solutions Team at:North America: 416 216-1067[email protected]


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