5 Pledges of Human Capital Developer

By Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood | January 6, 2020

Key Takeaways:

  • Good leaders leave an organization better than they found it by building leadership. The best leaders leave an organization better than they found it and in the hands of capable leaders prepared to further the mission of the business.
  • Building leadership for the future requires systemic, coordinated investments from the organization.
  • Through our 5 Pledges, leaders can become Human Capital Developers who are building both the current and future generation of leaders throughout the organization.

It has been our experience that developing human capabilities is incredibly tricky; however, nothing beats watching someone we’ve mentored, coached, or parented stand up on their own merits and grow into a more powerful role. This is the heart of what Human Capital Developers do.

Human Capital Developers invest time to ensure today’s talent will be succeeded by talent who is informed, capable and prepared to take the organization into the future. Human Capital Developers must stay rooted on the big picture of the organization while offering support to individuals looking to identify where they fit and how they can enhance their current skills to contribute in the future. Sound complicated? It can be, but if you build leaders who are able and willing to make the following five pledges to the people they lead, you’ll see results that benefit them, your company, customers, and investors.

1. Pledge to have a workforce plan with key positions & people for your organization that reflects your future strategy.

Action Item: Map the Workforce

Leaders need a workforce able to execute the business strategy. Once a strategy is in place, the next step in cultivating ideal conditions for growth is understanding both current and future roles in the company. Work can be divided into three types of jobs —critical jobs, support roles work, nonessential work—and each type requires the right type of worker.

Leaders can utilize the following three questions to match people to positions:

  • Which critical jobs will make the largest difference to your results in the next five to ten years? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  • How well positioned are you to staff those critical jobs with the right people? What percent of the key positions are staffed by people who are qualified for the future? What percent of those who are fully qualified are at risk of moving?
  • What percent of the key positions have qualified talent in place? What is your back-up ratio (the number of people qualified to move into key positions divided by key positions)?

As leaders match workers’ competencies with the business strategy, it becomes clear whom to put in which positions. Human Capital Developers must be aware that development comes in stages and allow for people to evolve into new arenas as it benefits both the future of the company and the interests of the workers.

2. Pledge to make an employee brand that underlines how present and future employees should expect to be treated when they do good work.

Action Item: Create firm and employee brand

Just as a company must understand what it can offer its customers, it must understand what it offers its employees. Talent and future talent must understand the priorities a company maintains in relation to their firm brand which evolves with customer expectations. An employee brand is a pledge to present and future employees about how they should expect to be treated when they do good work. With this in mind, potential talent is likely to self-select into companies whose values they prefer.

  • What do you promise current and future customers?  How do those promises show up as employee promises?
  • When employees do good work, what do they get in return?
  • How will your firm distinguish itself as a place to work for the most talented employees who have lots of choices about where they could work?
  • What will make you employees proud that they have chosen to work in your firm?

Human Capital Developers recognize that a firm’s customer and employee brand overlap.  The talent they attract based on that brand overlap contributes to the bottom line. They align to and make real that employee brand in the eyes of their employees and customers.

3. Pledge to help employees make sense of and navigate their career choices and opportunities so that they will have opportunities available to them if they meet certain milestones

Action Item: Help people manage their careers

Clarity in what an employee’s goals are and how those goals fit within an organization’s future is incredibly valuable to the organization and the individual. Open conversations between leaders and employees about what can be expected throughout a career allows for clear vision and understanding in steps necessary to move forward.

Focusing on how to contribute differently in a current or similar role, frees managers to have developmental conversations about future opportunities that are not tied to specific positions:

  • Do you want to contribute to the organization through your technical excellence?
  • Do you want to contribute through coordinating the work of others?
  • Do you want to contribute through leading strategy, defining structure, and establishing processes?
  • What skills do you need to strengthen to help facilitate success and the kind of impact you aspire to achieve?

When Human Capital Developers hold candid, forward-looking and helpful conversations with employees, employees take accountability for decisions about whether to stay where they are, opt to move forward, or make a more intense career change.

4. Pledge to next generation talent that you will give them opportunities to learn and grow so that they are prepared when their leadership opportunities arise.

Action Item: Find and Develop Next Generation Talent

Finding next generation talent is done by enlisting every person in the organization as a talent scout in finding talent that is ready to grow. Leaders who excel at developing next generation talent:

  • Coach and Mentor leaders with the skills to coach and mentor talent on their team and across the organization is an expression of confidence, impacts current results and future contribution, helps employees understand the organization’s dynamics, and can guide employees during critical points in their careers.
  • Delegate and Empower – leaders who delegate and empower others resist the temptation to step in and take over.  They set clear expectations with definitive outcomes, accountabilities, and resources to do the task. They ask questions instead of giving direction.  They share knowledge, authority, and incentives to make good decisions.
  • Share Incentives – leaders manage financial and non-financial incentives in ways that empower employees and differentiate performance.

5. Pledge to future employees to encourage collaboration more than competition, friendships more than rivalries, and connection more than isolation.

Action Item: Encourage Networks and Relationships

Leaders model attitudes which set the tone for collaboration, friendship and connections or competition, rivalry, and isolation. Leaders can do this by:

  • forming communities of practice that cross geographical or business unit boundaries
  • finding ways to use social networking spaces to help their people network within the company
  • connecting people on their team with coaches or mentors in other parts of the organization

Leaders who build talent know that to be effective, their teams need to see how their work impacts others.  They need to understand how all the parts of the organization work together to meet customer and investor expectations.  The bottom line is that strong networks lead to faster and more robust learning.

Great leaders are the ones that once they get a taste of helping someone else succeed, are absolutely ready for more. You can find more details about building leaders who are great Human Capital Developers by contacting us. You can read more about being a great Human Capital Developer in our book The Leadership Code.

Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped how people and organizations deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

About the author

Norm Smallwood is a partner and co-founder of The RBL Group. His research and consulting focuses on helping organizations increase business value by building organization, leadership, and people capabilities that measurably impact market value. He has written extensively about leadership and organization effectiveness in eight books and over a hundred articles. 

About the author
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