RSS icon

Top Stories

The Sky\'s the Limit

Consistency in talent practices across a global organization is hard to get off the ground, but aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin saw its capability soar as a result.

October 3, 2010
Related Topics: Strategy and Management
Consistency in talent practices across a global organization is hard to get off the ground, but aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin saw its capability soar as a result.

Lockheed Martin leaders were hesitant to give up their high potentials or high performers because they were not sure of the players they were getting as replacements for those whom they were letting go on to new assignments in other businesses.

Implementing a high-potential talent management program across a workforce numbering in the hundreds of thousands makes consistency a real challenge. But U.S.-based aerospace, defense, security and advanced technology company Lockheed Martin, which employs some 140,000 people, saw this task as essential to having a robust talent pipeline, appropriately differentiating development of high-potential employees and ensuring it had adequate bench strength across the enterprise. Although Lockheed Martin already had talent planning processes in place, for the most part they were applied inconsistently. Its senior HR leaders recognized that it was vital that everyone speak the same language and follow a common process to ensure it had strong bench strength for future leadership positions; hence the task began.

The Mission
In 2008, this task was assigned to Lockheed Martin’s corporate talent management team. Specifically, they were to design a consistent high-potential talent management framework that included common language, process and application for use across the enterprise. Sitting at corporate headquarters probably made that group the least qualified to work on such a task, so its first step was to get the field talent planners engaged as part of the task team.

Talent planners are the HR professionals working with leaders in their respective businesses within Lockheed Martin to identify high-potential talent. They know what the current processes are in their businesses, and what their organization can take on as far as potential process changes, so it was vital to have them involved from the beginning. For three days, Lockheed Martin had 10 people in a conference room with one objective in mind: develop a common high-potential talent identification framework that was user-friendly, simple to implement and, at the same time, could meet what the corporation requires be completed for its annual talent planning cycle. To do this, the following questions were posed:
  • Based on the corporate talent planning requirements, what is each business unit currently doing?
  • What is working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
Answering these questions showed that the various businesses were identifying high-potential talent with many commonalities and many more differences. Most importantly, it enabled the team to come up with the items that would work the best for the enterprise.

Locked on Target

What resulted first was common terminology. For example, the process was named “high-potential talent identification” as opposed to a variety of names that were being used previously by different businesses within Lockheed Martin. Next, the group developed a three-part process for identifying high-potential talent:
1. Assess employees’ high-potential status by using an enterprisewide performance and potential matrix.
2. Identify employees’ ultimate potential, for which specific talent pools were designated. These are pools specific to the critical talent and leadership positions within Lockheed Martin, such as executive vice president, company president and program manager.
3. Identify individuals’ readiness levels for these specific positions. At Lockheed Martin, these readiness levels were predefined as ready now; ready in six months to two years; and ready in two to five years.

The application of this process was something else that needed commonality across the corporation, so the group had to determine how these steps would be applied. It was proposed that, at a minimum, all director-level leaders and below would be required to assess their employees using this process. Business units had the flexibility to go deeper than that if they chose to, but that was the minimum requirement to meet. In addition, the team recommended that talent interchange meetings be required at the senior leadership level in all business units across the corporation at least twice a year. This would ensure that high-potential talent assessments were being calibrated and that high-potential individuals were discussed during these interchanges.

Lift Off
The next step was to proceed with implementation across the corporation. Lockheed Martin’s annual talent planning cycle kicks off early each year, so at the beginning of 2009, this new framework was introduced to company leaders. As part of the kickoff, educational materials that detailed the new high-potential talent identification framework were issued.

This new process was well-received by company leaders, but getting everyone to adopt the new terminology was a challenge. Some of the new language replaced verbiage that had been in place for many years. Repetition and gentle correction proved to be the best way to combat this challenge. Reminding leaders of the new terminology and continually repeating the new language eventually caused it to become common to them.

In addition to educating the company population, the other key to successful implementation was getting support from senior leaders in Lockheed Martin’s businesses to promote the positive aspects of the new framework. For example, when conducting all-employee meetings, leaders would include information about the new talent management framework and the importance of having a consistent cross-business process to identify the company’s future talent. This helped drive the message and ingrain it in the culture.

The credit for companywide acceptance of this process and the ease of implementation goes to the collaborative way in which the framework was developed. If the business unit field talent planners had not been included, it would not have been as well-received. Because these are the HR professionals who have the ears of the leaders in the businesses, many changes to the way in which high potentials were identified came directly from the feedback and ideas of business leaders. This had direct impact on the ease with which they adopted it.

Direct Hit
This new high-potential talent identification process had many benefits for Lockheed Martin. The biggest change and most visible improvement has been the comparison of talent from different business units.

Prior to instituting a common language, process and application, Lockheed Martin often saw disagreement among senior leaders regarding whether someone was or was not a truly high-potential employee. Now, with common language and processes with which to identify this talent, there is an apples-to-apples comparison of the talent, and leaders are speaking the same language.

Therefore, they mean the same thing when they identify an employee as “a consistent star who will be ready in two to five years for a vice president role.” Lockheed Martin now has much greater confidence in selecting for development employees identified as high potential. Previously, employees who would get nominated and participate in high-potential talent development programs were not necessarily true high potentials who would excel in or benefit from those programs. Today, the participants are much more likely to be those who will get the most out of this differentiated development.

This feeds into the second benefit, which is that Lockheed Martin’s senior leaders have a greater willingness to share talent across the corporation.
Previously, leaders were hesitant to give up their high potentials or high performers because they were not sure of the players they were getting as replacements for those whom they were letting go on to new assignments in other businesses. Now, with the common framework and use of talent interchange meetings, there is greater and more consistent dialogue across all businesses regarding high-potential talent, so leaders have more confidence in the talent they receive from other businesses, hence greater willingness to share and move talent around. This benefits the corporation overall and employees specifically.

The implementation of the consistent framework also has contributed to a much more robust succession planning process. Now senior leaders have much better knowledge of high-potential talent across the enterprise and have a greater amount of confidence in talent assessment across the corporation. Therefore, they are more likely to have a cross-section of successors identified in their succession plans. Additionally, this process can enable a broader and deeper level of high-potential talent identification — facilitating advance planning of career development for new hires.

The advantages to taking the time to apply a consistent method of identifying high-potential talent have been many, and that sentiment is felt among Lockheed Martin’s HR and leadership populations. As the Lockheed Martin team has realized, completing this task has made its high-potential development process consistent overall. It is steady, marked by regularity and agreement, and, in turn, has opened up additional opportunities to deepen, broaden and strengthen the company’s talent planning and development processes.
Comments powered by Disqus

Hr Jobs