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Business Officer Magazine

Top Takes on Talent Development

A performance model developed by the University System of Georgia serves as the basis for identifying and assessing internal staff members who may be qualified for the institution’s leadership development program. Comments from those who have participated in the effort show that institution and staff both stand to benefit from such deliberate grooming of talent from within.

By Tina Woodard and Wendy Ruona

Not long after the effects of the 2008 recession began to diminish, another challenge appeared on the radar screen of many colleges and universities: impending retirement of a significant number of chief business officers. At the University of Georgia System (USG), Atlanta, senior administrators recognized that the system lacked a cadre of leaders who were prepared to assume these critical positions at its 30 public colleges and universities. This became the impetus for a strategic program focused on the development and preparation of executive leadership within all parts of the system. (To read the full story, see "Tune Up Your Talent," in March 2015 Business Officer.)

A collaborative planning process resulted in a Talent Review Guide that outlines goals and expectations of supervisors and staff. A critical element is the CBO Job Performance Model, which serves as a basis for identifying potential candidates for career development.

Participants considered the CBO Job Performance Model, talent assessments, coaching, and individual development plan/career dialogues as the most useful components of the talent development process. Key talent at a state college reported,"The assessment provided a great deal of insights into my personality traits, specifically how they mapped to requirements for the position. Perhaps the most valuable single piece of information was the really extensive CBO job description that delineated specific skills and that really facilitated thinking and conversation about how my own particular personality and skill set map to the requirements for the role."

CBO performance. Concerning the job model, a program participant at a state university said,"We made extensive use of that job model. As I drafted a starting point for the individual development plan, I took specific characteristics called out in the job model and categorized them as strengths, development needs, and a third neutral category where I felt that competency was demonstrated but didn't really lend itself to being identified as a particular strength or weakness. Then, based on really thinking that through and having extensive conversations with the CBO, we looked at trying to define development goals, activities, tasks, and strategic plans to map back to characteristics called out in the job model."

Career dialogues. Leaders characterized these nonfinancial motivators as rare and helpful. One leader in the key talent pool reported that the face-to-face discussion was the first time she had engaged in such a conversation with her CBO. "Going through this," she said, "the biggest thing was being able to grab some of his time and sit down to focus on one thing and one thing only. By doing this, I think the greatest thing was being able to focus on the development plan, because it forced you to set aside that time to talk about it.

That gave him a chance to let me know what he appreciates about me, identify the areas where I can grow, and discuss how he can help me in those areas. It also provided the opportunity for me to explain what I appreciate about him. It helped us get on the same page and direction."

Implementation roadblocks. Key talent voiced concerns about the implementation of their individual development plans, in particular the time required versus the workload demands of their current positions. They attested that their departments are staffed leanly; therefore, they may not have time to invest in the plans as desired, or required, for effective development. "Bandwidth. That's the whole story," explained one leader. "It will be a matter of making development a priority, actually scheduling the time to make a commitment to development amongst day-to-day tasks." Undoubtedly, chief concerns included the frequent follow-up required to ensure sustainability of the new talent development.

In contrast to a few of the CBOs who wished to retain key talent at their institutions, selected participants unanimously expressed a desire for talent mobility within the USG. One stated, "I came from the corporate world and now I've worked in the university system for four years and have been very stagnant in my position. So it gets discouraging to not be able to learn something new, and sit in the same position for years and years. I feel like we're on [a better] track now, so maybe there will be a clearer plan on how this will help you gain knowledge to move up."

TINA WOODARD is assistant vice chancellor for organizational development, and WENDY RUONA is assistant professor, at the University System of Georgia, Atlanta.

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