Lessons from life – should talent managers use the carrot or the stick?

Carrot and stick
Source: Teachunderground.blogspot

I noticed a teacher walk past my 8 year old boy at school yesterday.   The teacher said “tuck your shirt in” and walked on.  My boy, the one who almost never does things he is told unless incentivised or given a choice, simply tucked his shirt in!  The wonder of this behaviour took a while to sink in….  Why did that instruction work and our requests don’t?  What would happen if my son hadn’t done as he was told?  Well the school rule is clear – if a pupil has to be told twice to do something by a teacher with no result the pupil is given a “warning”.  There is a weekly distribution of mini chocolate bars to all pupils except those who have been given a “warning”.  What are the consequences when he ignores our instructions?  We ask more crossly?  We give up in disgust?  We despair?  And you can probably guess how well that works!

So how can we apply this thinking in our day to day lives in HR?  We all know it is really hard to get people to do the things you need them to do.  Especially if there is a power issue, a lack of respect, different values and agendas, no clear control – the list is endless.  HR normally have some of all of these going on!   So if there is something important – like spotting and investing in leadership talent for the company as a whole – what is your carrot to your line managers?  And what is your stick?

The talent management carrot

Your carrot could be ideas along the lines of:
• You could assign more of your training budget to those departments who identify and nurture more potential?
• You could give an award to the managers nominated as being “developer of the year”
• You could acknowledge the best managers at a high profile meeting
• Or something else they would consider good…….?

The talent management stick

Your stick could be:
• You could remove development resource and support from those departments not playing the talent management game?
• You could only offer high potentials to those departments fully participating?
• You could downgrade the resource you assign to those departments not participating at this strategic level?
• Or take something else away they value

I would love to hear any ideas you have that could work as carrot or stick in HR.  Please do comment below.

The key to both carrots and sticks is that they have to be connected with things valued and wanted by the people concerned.  There has to be a degree of pain involved for them in their non-compliance.   And you have to be strong, fair and consistent in holding this position – and only then can you make the demand of a manager or a department and walk by with the certainty that it will be done.

Elva Ainsworth


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