Are You Protecting Your Most Important Assets?

Are You Protecting Your Most Important Assets?

Conventional wisdom (and the politically correct CEO) says that people are our most valued asset. Unlike inventories, property, plant and equipment, though, people walk out of our workplace at the end of each day. In addition, our best people are actively recruited by our competitors (think how frequently, not if your top talent is being actively recruited). How can we protect our investment in our people? Should we treat all our employees in the same manner, or should our most talented contributors receive special treatment? Is this an HR-only issue?

If you are unsure how to think about these questions, I recommend taking an approach that I learned from an IT Security Risk Analyst. Not long ago I attended a Financial Executives International (FEI) meeting where one of the speakers was Richard Clarke, CEO of Good Harbor Security Risk Management. Mr. Clarke is a renowned consultant and speaker who was part of a team of advisors to President Obama regarding the NSA data breach.

In his presentation, Mr. Clarke discussed the NSA breach as well as Target Corporation’s stolen credit card information breach. He described the events that led to the data breaches, and prescribed an approach and methodology that can help us avoid the same fate. Here are the basic steps he suggested:

1. Identify your “Crown Jewels”
2. Determine your Worst Case Scenario
3. Develop a Breach Plan
4. Create a Long Term Protection Plan

For data protection purposes, the four steps focused on the most sensitive and important data of an organization. From a talent perspective, the four steps apply to top talent.

Bill Gates used to say that there were a handful of people at Microsoft who “made” the company, and if they left there would be no Microsoft. Step one, identify your Crown Jewels, is all about identifying those people who are essential to your continued success. Who are these people in your company?

The next step is the scariest. In his presentation to the FEI, Richard Clarke said he watched the Congressional hearing where Target’s CEO was asked to explain what happened and how their data breach occurred. The chagrined CEO told Congress that he never imagined the breach would take place. This step is about doing just that – imagine what will happen if your top talent leaves, or worse, goes into competition and takes your best people and customers.

As frightening as the worst case scenario can be, developing a breach plan can help you get back to sleep at night. This step is all about damage control following data breaches. For a talent plan, though, it is more about what we can do to try to keep our talent, as well as planning for how to replace them if they do leave. A combination of engagement, recognition and rewards to retain, and cross training and succession planning to replace may be in order.

Step four, the long range plan, is the comprehensive talent management strategy you have in place to identify, attract, hire, develop and retain your top talent. Does your company have a comprehensive talent strategy? If so, is it working – do you have the talent in place and in the pipeline to help you reach your strategic goals? If the answer to these questions is anything but a resounding YES, then what is stopping you? Time, focus, budget?

Richard Clarke pointed out that the Target data breach was estimated to cost the company over $3 billion in lost revenues, recovery expenses and lawsuit settlements. Yet, prior to the breach, he believes it is likely that the company (most companies) would have scoffed at the idea of investing, say, $100M to upgrade their IT security protocols in order to prevent such a breach. If only they could go back in time to make that decision.


For help protecting your most valued asset, please contact us.

Originally published on February 24, 2014


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Six Traits of Destination Employers

Six Traits of Destination Employers

Many employers are struggling to find people who can help them reach their goals. In a survey of HR leaders by Ranstad Sourceright, 73% of HR leaders feel a “war for talent” is still a relevant description of today’s talent market. Innovative approaches to attracting talent are popping up and will benefit many employers, especially early adopters. Solutions range from software that helps identify better candidates on the internet to quality of life improvements, including wellness programs and work-from-home arrangements.

While these approaches may prove helpful, some feel a bit reactive. Employers can take steps today that will help ensure long term success with attracting and retaining top talent. In a SlideShare called The Talent Gamble by Executives Online, the authors describe six steps to take to become a Destination Employer, or Talent Magnet.

  1. Understand the investment top talent makes for you. It’s the blood, sweat and tears they put into succeeding for you. They’re not just commodities.
  2. Treat talent as customers. They’re discerning as your most important customers. They don’t accept mediocrity and won’t tolerate it. Instead, they thrive on partnership and authenticity.
  3. Demonstrate high quality of leadership. Employees want leaders who are respected and allow them to develop, and will lead from the back.
  4. Understand that culture trumps strategy. Planning is guessing if you don’t have your culture right.
  5. Demonstrate how you grow people. They know if you don’t provide opportunity to grow your competition will.
  6. Reward comprehensively. After a point financial rewards won’t appeal. What really matters is the fulfillment they get, that they feel they belong and are central to your company’s future.

Taking these steps will require change for most employers – massive change for some. But the payoff will be worth it. According to Employers Online, talented people view working for Destination Employers as the pinnacle of their careers. So for employers, developing a culture that attracts and rewards top performers can make the difference between long-term organizational success and an agonizing path to irrelevance.

Call me for more on how to turn your company into a destination employer.



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The Talent Magnet Quiz

The Talent Magnet Quiz

By all measures, talent is becoming more difficult to attract. Competition for top talent is increasing and talented individuals are becoming more selective and discerning. In order to attract and retain top talent, organizations can benefit by becoming an employer of choice.

What goes into becoming an employer of choice? How attractive is your company to talented individuals? Here is a quiz to help determine how attractive your organization may be.

1.    Is your company growing and profitable?
2.    Is your company a market leader?
3.    Does your company have a positive reputation on Glassdoor? In talent communities?
4.    Has your company won awards for being a great place to work?
5.    Does your company support the community through giving back?
6.    Does your company have a well-defined and publicized mission, vision and value statement?
7.    Does your company have a record of promoting from within?
8.    Does your compensation plan include competitive salaries plus bonus opportunities that reward performance?
9.    Is your benefits plan competitive?
10.    Do you have well defined and followed policies and procedures for the following: Hiring? Onboarding? Performance management? Training and development? Succession planning?
11.    Do you provide mentors and coaches?
12.    Do you conduct exit interviews for individuals leaving the company? Do you track turnover?
13.    Do you have examples of talented individuals who have excelled in your company?
14.    Does your company have a well-defined talent strategy?
15.    Is your talent strategy embedded in your overall strategy?
16.    Do you market your employment brand internally and externally?
17.    Do you have a high performance culture?
18.    Do you understand what motivates your people?
19.    Do you have a positive corporate culture?
20.    Does your senior management team lead your talent attraction efforts?

Few companies have the right answers to all these questions. Even if a company does, there is no guarantee that company will easily attract all the top talent it seeks. Similarly, scoring poorly on the quiz does not preclude a company from attracting top talent. However, the more of these questions you can answer positively, the better you can understand your strengths and challenges in attracting top talent. Armed with that understanding, you can plot your course toward becoming or maintaining an employer of choice status. By definition, that will make attracting and retaining top talent easier.


For help evaluating and improving your talent attraction, management and retention practices, contact Randy Samsel at . There is no cost for an initial consultation.



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