Book Review: Optimizing Talent

By Marcie Levine

Optimizing Talent
Authors: Linda D. Sharkey PhD and Paul H. Eccher PhD

Optimizing Talent is an inventive and in-depth guide for companies to align business strategies with improving and managing talent.  Sharkey and Eccher’s extensive experience and research with various Fortune 500 companies teaches business leaders how to develop a plan of action to optimize talent.  The authors provide insightful tools and resources for any company who is seeking to pragmatically take action and attain results.

The system created by the authors is the Talent Optimization Framework (TOF), which provides a scrupulous scientific and systematic approach for leaders to improve and retain talent and sustain a competitive advantage.  Through extensive research with over 400 companies, the authors are able to provide detailed and insightful information that includes charts, graphs and tables so that this model can be used repeatedly.  “It should be the DNA of the company and be part of the strategic process that builds a talent optimization plan” (Sharkey and Eccher 2011).

The framework of the TOF is categorized as Key Enablers, The Talent Management System, and Results.  Within these categories, the TOF focuses on components such as Leadership and Culture (Key Enablers), Performance Management and HR Capability (Talent Management System), and The Best Talent and Lower Cost (Results), just to name a few.

To implement the TOF, a company must first identify what is not working with their talent management efforts by using survey questions for each aspect of the framework.   The authors provide six underlying causes of ineffective talent management, and bullet points on the highest and lower TOF items to assist in determining how to create an action plan.  Sharkey and Eccher continue to coach the reader on how to correlate the TOF scores with business performance and how to apply and manage the data collection process, and what to do with the data.

In addition, chapters are organized by individual components.  For example, Chapter 7 analyzes the component Performance Management.  Sharkey and Eccher challenge traditional forms of performance management systems and provide details on how to install a system that actually works.  In order to have meaningful conversations with employees so that they can be coached, businesses must use a system that avoids characteristics of what the authors call “performance management syndrome.”  There are five characteristics, one of which is to avoid using a system that focuses solely on compensation, and instead focus more on career aspirations. “One of the biggest reasons that employees leave is because they have no line of sight to their next career move” (Sharkey and Eccher 2011).

Optimizing Talent is sure to bring great value to any business leader and organization that is eager to move forward.  It provides a sustainable and an attainable methodology through extensive research of what does and does not work, and can be used over time.  By implementing this system, understanding the data, and creating a plan of action, any company can gain the competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive market.  A must have for any business leader!

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About the author

Marcie Levine

Marcie Levine

Prior to founding SurveyConnect, Marcie had more than twelve-years of experience in HR, both as a consultant and in several corporate positions. As an HR consultant, she worked on a variety of client assignments, including the design and implementation of surveys. She created SurveyConnect to streamline and simplify the process of survey creation and administration. Marcie has published articles about 360 feedback process in trade magazines, including the International Society for Performance Improvement, Selling Power, T+D Magazine, and Quirk’s Marketing Research Review.