What Can Baseball Teach You About Talent Management?

By: Tom McKeown, special to Overdrive

In baseball, as in life, teamwork is essential to achieve a desired outcome. In baseball, you generally strive for a string of wins that will lead you to something greater, say, the World Series. When managing and developing your company’s talent, the same is true. Only instead of individual players, businesses will often use software applications to achieve their desired outcome–in this case, increased productivity and revenue. So what strategy can HR professionals glean from baseball? The double-play.

Like a double play, managing and developing your company’s talent requires a multi-pronged approach. Tinkers to Evers to Chance comprised the world-renowned double play combination for the Chicago Cubs in the first decade of the 1900s. Tinkers, the shortstop, would scoop up the hit ball, throw it to Evers, who would casually step on second base before the runner to get the first out. Evers would then pivot, throwing the ball to Chance at first base, ahead of the charging batter for the second out. Voilà! A seamless double play that inspired poems, and even the odd musical reference.

The Cubs used this three-pronged play to lead them to two World Series wins. In turn, your company needs three main players for performance management, career development and learning management. These “players”, while each crucial components on their own, when combined, form a powerful unified talent management workflow that is essential to ensure an employee’s success, and to adequately prepare and train them for their future within your organization.

Performance Management: Talent Management’s Expert Shortstop

Just as Tinkers completed the crucial first move in the double-play, performance management starts the play in your company’s talent management game plan. A performance management system enhances employee accountability and visibility among your company’s ranks. By automating and tracking the performance review process, this metaphorical HR shortstop provides guidance to your employees by letting them know what they need to accomplish on any given workday.

Of course, for a performance management system to be most effective, you’ll have to first set clear and executable goals. After all, a performance management system can’t track goals that don’t have metrics that can be tracked. Once you have your goals set, and your performance management system ready to go, you’ll have a clear window into employee productivity. You’ll be able to quickly identify top performers you should invest your time energy in so as to advance them to the next level.

With this first step in the talent management double-play, you’re ready to pass the “ball” onto your next player: career development.

Career Development: The Essential Second Baseman

Career development—or Evers in our baseball analogy—now steps in. This is where your company should invest in developing the future of the top performers you identified with your performance management solution. In fact, in a recent survey by the Hewitt Association, 89 percent of respondents reported that career development opportunities were one of the most important drivers of engagement and retention. Obviously, having a clear career path in place for employees is essential if you want to keep those talented employees you identified with your performance management solution.

Career development software helps keep employees engaged with your company. By offering features like succession planning to help you identify the positions you’ll likely need filled down the line, these solutions let employees know that their hard work will one day be rewarded, while gap analysis identifies how closely an employee will fit a future need, and identifies the areas where they need improvement. The result: you can groom an individual for a new assignment and gauge their progress before you advance them out of their current position and into one with greater responsibility.

Once performance management and career development have completed their part, you’re ready to go in for that final pass–in this analogy, that would be learning management.

Learning Management: The Anchor of Your Talent Management Suite

You’re almost there! The talent management double play is almost completed. Success is just around the corner. But first, you’ll need to implement one final feature of your talent management suite. Just like Chance in our baseball analogy, learning management rounds out your full talent management suite. After all, in order to perform well and develop to meet new challenges, employees also need to be equipped with the right knowledge.

A learning management system (LMS) does just that. It allows a company to plan, track and measure the effectiveness of training programs as well as employee accomplishments. And a learning management system that works well with its fellow players–just like Chance in our baseball analogy–is even more valuable. An integrated system incorporating performance management and career development with your LMS—allows your company to gauge long term performance benefits and helps identify which individuals are stepping up in their career and implementing the training provided to become leaders.

As such, learning management anchors your talent management double play. Just as Tinkers throws to Evers, and Evers throws to Chance, all three components–performance management, career development and learning management–should work together seamlessly to maximize your talent investment.

A Play Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

As with the individual players of a baseball team, each module of a talent management suite has value by itself. But to achieve their maximum potential, all three players must be used together if your company is to effectively assess employee performance, plan for their future and equip them with the proper training needed to become the leaders that will help your organization grow.

So the next time you venture out into that HR software marketplace, beware! Dream teams don’t just happen–whether in baseball or talent management–they’re the result of planning, practice and determination. HRsmart was developed specifically with this type of teamwork in mind. And while it might not win you a World Series, it will definitely help your company maximize the potential of one of its biggest investments–human capital.

The original version of this post appeared on .

About the author: Tom McKeown is a senior executive in the human capital software industry currently serving as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at HRsmart, a leading talent management software company. Prior to HRsmart Tom was President and Chief Operating Officer of Aquire Solutions, a workforce planning and analytics company based in Irving that was acquired by Peoplefluent in 2011.

Tom has written several articles as a Yahoo contributor and blogs regularly both at HRsmart and through his own site at www.tommckeown.net. He is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science.

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