Executive Development Blog

Time to Refine Your Approach to Talent Management?

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Mar 16, 2017 11:14:54 AM

Read the scenario below.  If it sounds familiar, it may be time to refine your organization’s approach to talent management.  If that’s the case, we can help.

Jill Smith is an HR professional at a quickly growing shoe company, Sandalias. The founders started the company 10 years ago, and after several years of incubation and hard work, their market is expanding quickly. While some sales are online, most sales come from brick-and-mortar stores. Innovative design, great marketing, and an excellent customer experience have gotten the company to this point.

talent-2.jpgOn a recent Monday morning, Smith received a call from the head of marketing. Some social media attention the company received prompted a competitor to poach Sandalias’ best marketer. The head of marketing needs a replacement ASAP. Smith makes a note to talk to recruiting and heads to the break room for some coffee.

While in the break room, she runs into Steve Palmer, vice president of manufacturing. Palmer tells Smith that he is worried because his two best managers are nearing retirement age, and he doesn’t feel comfortable with any of their direct reports ability to replace them.

Returning to her desk, Smith catches up on her emails. She finds a message from a district manager that says (in all caps) that her region needs three new managers pronto. Smith cringes at the message. Sandalias will be opening five new stores this year, and only two assistant managers are ready to assume a manager role, and lately, managers recruited from outside Sandalias haven’t worked out too well. Smith has raised the idea of a more systematic approach to talent management in the past, but the founders thought they knew who the players were in the company, and managers were wary that new, more centralized programs would constrict their decision making. Smith needs a better way to make the connection between the success of the company and the need for talent.

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Topics: talent management, talent development

It Has Arrived! ideas@work Volume 12 Now Available.

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Jan 10, 2017 11:16:07 AM

UNC's ideas@work journal has been developed specifically for business leaders who have an interest in talent management. Each volume of the journal contains a number of talent development white papers that highlight experiences and insights gathered from partners, our fellow organizations, and the UNC Executive Development team. Volume 12 of our UNC Executive Development talent management journal is now available. 

ideas cover V 12.jpgideas@work - Volume 12 combines four of our most recent white papers as well as excerpts from a webinar with an industry leader. Here is a brief overview of each article:

  • Unlocking the Potential of Big Data: 10 Implications for Leaders
    Chris Hitch helps unlock the promise of big data analytics and details a 90-day action plan to help business leaders accelerate their strategic priorities by applying big data analytics.

  • Preparing Business Leaders for Digital Disruption
    Kip Kelly and Kimberly Schaufenbuel join forces to explore how digital disruption is forcing many companies to rethink their business models, and how as these companies adjust in response to digital disruption, they will need to think differently about talent management.
  • 7 Steps to Creating a Lasting Learning Culture
    In his paper, Horace McCormick examines the reality that employees at all levels and from all generations want and expect dynamic, self-directed, and continuous learning opportunities from their employers, and he offers 7 steps towards creating this learning culture.

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Topics: leadership, talent management, talent development, leadership development, learning and development

Wanted: Those Who Understand Big Data

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Jul 21, 2016 11:47:39 AM

The demand for big data talent is growing rapidly. Many organizations are planning to increase their staff in big data and analytics in the upcoming year and estimated that big data staffing would increase significantly in the next few years.

 HelpWanted.jpgA recent McKinsey study supports these findings. The authors predict that there will be a severe shortage of those who can analyze and interpret big data, predicting that by 2018, the United States could face a shortage of up to 190,000 workers with deep analytical skills and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the ability to use the big data analytics to make effective decisions. (Manyika et al, 2011.) This includes the ability to integrate findings from big data with knowledge derived from other techniques which offer different strengths and biases, such as focus groups and targeted surveys.

The increasing demand for big data analysts who can crunch and communicate the numbers and the lack of managers and business leaders who can interpret the data means there is a growing talent shortage in the field. A survey conducted by The Big Data London group (in Raywood, 2012) found that 78 percent of respondents said there was a big data talent shortage, and 70 percent believed there was a knowledge gap between big data workers and those commissioning the projects (e.g., managers and CIOs). Another survey by NewVantage Partners (2012) found that 60 percent of respondents reported finding it very difficult to find and hire big data professionals, and 50 percent of respondents said it was very difficult to find and hire business leaders and managers who could identify and optimize business applications in big data.

This impending talent shortage will create a significant challenge for HR and talent management professionals responsible for recruiting, developing, and retaining a critical skill set that will soon be in high-demand. To help their organizations realize the full potential of big data, HR and talent management professionals must understand the fundamentals of big data, why it matters, and what skills their organizations will need to analyze and interpret the large amounts of data they collect.

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Topics: leadership, talent management, talent development, data

Who's Afraid of Workforce Strategy?

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Mar 1, 2016 12:07:02 PM

Who's Afraid of Workforce Strategy? UNC white paperMany large organizations built workforces of thousands of employees only to discover, after some form of disruptive change, that many of the skills and mindsets of their workforces were incompatible with the demands of evolving markets. These organizations may have masterful business strategies, but they are stuck with workforces that cannot execute. The gap between the quality of business strategy and the capability of the workforce is an important predictor for successful execution of strategy and achievement of financial targets. Today, more than ever, disruptive forces affect labor, quickly render workforce skills obsolete, and diminish the value of your most important asset. CEOs ask, “Why are we struggling to execute on the business plan year after year, and why didn’t we see this coming?” If your company’s approach to managing the workforce in the world of fast-changing labor and market realities increasingly feels like walking a high-wire without a net, it’s time to take a serious look at a more impactful and decisive workforce management method.

The beauty of workforce strategy is its focus on developing the capability and culture required to quickly adapt the workforce. This agility is based on the needs of a business strategy that anticipates shifts in the market. This adaptability includes the workforce size, cost, skills, and qualities needed to execute the strategy, often under multiple future scenarios. In contrast, workforce planning focuses more on shorter-term labor forecasting and availability projections and, generally, does not take into account the various scenarios that could disrupt the workforce’s ability to execute the long-term business strategy.

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Topics: HR, talent management, talent development, strategy

Ready, Aim, Coach: Coaching's Role in Leadership Development

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Jan 15, 2015 9:59:35 AM

How to Coach Managers to Deal with Problem Employee Behaviors

Problem employees are the bane of everyone’s existence. They cause productivity to plummet and damage morale. Because few people enjoy conflict, managers often go to extremes to avoid addressing the problem behavior.

coaching“Unfortunately, by the time it is addressed, the damage has already been done and the clean-up can take months,” reports Melodie Howard, program director for UNC Executive Development. “Coaching managers how to handle problem employee behavior can significantly reduce workplace stress and the costs associated with problem employee behavior.” 

Howard recommends that HR follow these steps to coach managers on how to deal effectively with problem employee behaviors:

Step 1: Help the Manager Identify the Problem Behavior

Ask probing questions about the problem behavior so the manager can articulate what the behavior is. Ask the manager if the behavior has happened before.  Find out what he or she would like to see happen in terms of correcting the problem.  These questions are essential in the employee development process.

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Topics: executive development, talent management, leadership development

Accelerating Diversity for a Better Bottom Line

Posted by Kip Kelly on Dec 9, 2014 10:43:00 AM

Below is an excerpt from a recent white paper written by Horace McCormick, a program director here at UNC Executive Development.  The paper explores the value of diversity and offers tips to help organizations leverage diversity to boost the bottom line.


Organizations rich in ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation diversity are more innovative, creative, and demonstrate better decision making and problem solving, all of which leads to an improved bottom line (Philips, 2014). Josh Greenberg from The Multicultural Advantage website also notes that diversity boosts an organization’s adaptability because it helps employees generate a better variety of solutions to problems and allocation of resources than more homogeneous workforces. Diversity also helps employers more effectively offer a broader range of services because they retain employees with a deeper set of skills and experiences (like language and cultural understanding) that can give their organizations a competitive advantage by providing more effective services on a global basis (Greenberg, n.d.). Diverse organizations also foster a variety of viewpoints, and when CEOs and leaders really take heed, can generate better ideas that lead to improved creativity and innovation (Blanchard, 2014).

There have been a number of studies that demonstrate the benefits of workforce diversity. A 2012 study by business professors Cristian Deszo from the University of Maryland and David Ross from Columbia University found that having women at the top management levels led to an increase of $42 million in firm value. The study also examined “innovation intensity” and found that organizations which promoted innovation intensity experienced more financial gains when women were part of the top leadership team (Philips, 2014).

Diversity white paper from UNC Executive Development

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Topics: leadership, Gen Y, UNC, talent management, talent development, high-potential talent, leadership development, multigenerational workforces, learning and development, diversity

Beyond Smiley Sheets: Measuring the ROI of Learning and Development

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Nov 13, 2014 9:55:37 AM

Here's a summary of one of our white papers by Keri Bennington and Tony Laffoley:

Measure the ROI of Learning and Development

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development found that evaluation of learning and development (L&D) programs was a top priority in organizations. Despite this finding, calculating return on investment (ROI) on L&D programs is seldom done, and too often, it rarely involves going beyond asking for feedback (e.g., “smiley sheets”) from participants immediately after the event.

Beyond Smiley Sheets 

Calculating the effectiveness of L&D programs can be a challenge, particularly when the programs involve the development of softer skills such as improved collaboration, decision making, innovativeness and the ability to think strategically—common learning objectives in many leadership development programs and a critical development area in many organizations. It can be difficult to assign a hard-dollar value to such skills, or to show a correlation between the learning initiative and acquisition of the targeted skills.

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Topics: talent management, talent development, learning and development

Leadership Agility: Using Improv to Build Critical Skills

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Oct 30, 2014 10:37:44 AM

Check out this summary of Kip Kelly's white paper, Leadership Agility: Using Improv to Build Critical Skills:

Improvisation Can Help Leaders Be Agile, Respond to Change

To paraphrase Isaac Asimov, the only constant in life—and in business—is change. It is constant, inevitable and rapidly increasing. Business leaders know that their organization’s success will depend on agile, adaptable and innovative leaders who can respond quickly, confidently and effectively to change, and who can inspire others to do the same.

Developing these unique capabilities often requires a different approach to leadership development and is prompting some senior executives to embrace less conventional approaches. This is where improvisation—the art of performing without a script—can help.

Improvisation can be funny—think Wayne Brady, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler—but that is not necessarily the goal. Improv is about working off the top of your head, being mindful and reacting to those around you, and being entirely in the moment. It is also about honesty. It teaches people how to react, adapt and communicate openly and honestly with each other, skills that readily translate into the workplace.

Improvisation may be unscripted, but that doesn’t mean that it is without rules. These rules serve as guidelines for participants, and while seemingly simple on the surface, are more challenging in actual practice.

Tina Fey, writer, actor, and alumni of Chicago’s famed Second City and Saturday Night Live,outlined her rules for improv in her book, Bossypants. Her rules can be readily applied toward building better leaders in the workplace.

tina fey improv

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Topics: talent management, talent development, change management, leadership development

HR’s Role in Linking Personal, Employment, and Leadership Branding

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Oct 16, 2014 10:18:00 AM

Check out the summary of this white paper by Meena Dorr:

Although a cover letter and resume are still important in the hiring process, a new hurdle recently has been added to the mix. Thanks to the rise of social media, recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly checking out the candidate’s LinkedIn profile or other personal or professional social media site, or searching for job samples on YouTube or SlideShare. This new step in the process led to a renewed emphasis on the importance of personal branding and, conversely, because applicants can now find more information about a potential employer than ever before online, a renewed emphasis on the importance of employment and leadership branding. 

Personal branding helps candidates differentiate themselves in the hiring marketplace. An employment brand is the image an organization wants to project to the employment marketplace about what it is like to work there. A leadership brand conveys an executive’s identity and distinctiveness as a leader.  All three of these brands are linked, and the savvy talent management professional should understand and promote these linkages.


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Topics: talent management, branding

Leadership Development in a VUCA Environment

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Oct 9, 2014 10:45:00 AM

Check out the summary of a white paper, written by Kirk Lawrence:

In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman notes that the rate of change today is much different than in the past. “Whenever civilization has gone through one of these disruptive, dislocating technical revolutions—like Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press—the whole world has changed in profound ways,” he writes. “But there is something different about the flattening of the world that is going to be qualitatively different from other such profound changes: the speed and breadth with which it is taking hold….This flattening process is happening at warp speed and directly or indirectly touching a lot more people on the planet at once. The faster and broader this transition to a new era, the more likely is the potential of disruption.”

VUCA white paperThis flattening is creating a new environment that strategic business leaders are increasingly calling a “VUCA” environment. Coined in the late 1990’s, the military-derived acronym stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—terms strategic business leaders use to describe the chaotic, turbulent, and rapidly changing business environment that has become the “new normal.”

By all accounts, the chaotic “new normal” in business is real. The financial crisis of 2008-2009, for example, rendered many business models obsolete, as organizations throughout the world were plunged into turbulent environments similar to those faced by the military. At the same time, rapid changes marched forward as technological developments like social media exploded, the world’s population continued to simultaneously grow and age, and global disasters disrupted lives, economies, and businesses.

This new VUCA environment is taxing even the most able of leaders who may find their skills growing obsolete as quickly as their organizations change in this volatile, unpredictable landscape. Leadership agility and adaptability are now required skills if organizations are to succeed in this VUCA world.

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Topics: talent management, change management, leadership development