When All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail


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Expert Perspective by Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board

 The July 16, 2010 article in India Times (Why does talent management have to be so complicated?) pitches a book by “HR guru” Marc Effron called “One Page Talent Management: Eliminating Complexity, Adding Value”.  Interestingly it takes the authors, Marc Effron and Miriam Ort, nearly 200 pages to explain just one.  

In the spirit of full confession, we admit that we haven’t read the book, but the article suggests that their approach will help companies “remove the needless complexity and get back to the basics.” 

Effron admits – and we agree – that a large portion of the complexity associated with talent management can be laid at the feet of HR consultants. And whether this resulted from an honest effort to create elegant and unique solutions, or just derived from an interest in ramping up billable hours, we too have seen overly complex and ridiculously burdensome talent management programs at some companies.  In fact, one company asked for our help to straighten out overly complicated plans that were designed by a main stream consulting firm who (without naming names) also recently announced plans to acquire Hewitt Associates (Effon’s alma mater).

Some of Effron’s suggestions, such as not weighting goals, make sense to us, but others are just off the “marc,” so to speak.  They are directionally correct perhaps, but perilously off base.  Here is an example.  Effron suggests that managers “don’t ask employees to set their own goals and don’t ask for self-assessments.”  Effron supports this recommendation by claiming that “Research shows that participative goal setting and assessment add complexity without providing any measurable benefit”.  To which we say “HUH?”

In our experience, subordinate perception of  accomplishments against goals often differ from that of supervisors. Self-appraisals are extremely effective in helping managers and supervisors understand employee perceptions and level set expectations.

As we shared on our blog A Teachable Moment “Self assessments are an important tool in performance evaluations.  First, they have been used with great success to reward individuals whose contributions might go unnoticed by managers and supervisors.  Second, they can assist managers with sometimes difficult performance discussions where the employee’s perception of his performance is not consistent with (and, in fact, greatly exceeds) the reality of his contribution.” 

(By the way, the article doesn’t mention where Effron found the “research” he uses to support his claim about self assessments. Perhaps the book includes a reference.)

The problem with many talent management “solutions” and perhaps also with this “OPTM” offering by Effron and Ort is that they are “canned” answers in search of a question.   

The most effective talent management solutions take into account a company’s business model, its culture, and the experience base of employees and managers.  A good consultant developing an effective solution will take the time to learn what each business unit and each individual is expected to deliver and design practical and realistic processes to help the business unit addressing their human capital issues.

Contact Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board at edie.kingston@grahall.com

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  • Well Edie, it's helpful that you blatantly state your ignorance of the book's content before you attempt to eviscerate it. Hopefully people stopped reading your "review" after that given your completely unprofessional and unethical process of evaluating a best-selling Harvard Business Publishing book. If you had bothered to read the book, you'd find hundreds of citations from the best academic research that back our conclusions (unlike your statements of personal experience -- worth less than the paper they're written on). Yes, actually there are great citations that back the point on self-assessments -- by Locke, Latham and other fathers of goal setting theory. You probably haven't read their books, but maybe you read "about" them in a newspaper article. Seriously, just truly pathetic work on your part. "Expert Perspective"??? I hope you don't share that expertise with any companies -- or any companies who want to succeed. Your apology can be addressed to my co-author and I at marc@talentstrategygroup.com .

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