Build a strong achievement ethic throughout the business
Create exciting, challenging jobs in which people can excel.
Select and develop outstanding leaders.
Make talent management a critical corporate priority
Foster a talent management mindset.
Develop managers who can coach, mentor, empower and sponsor talent -- and deploy it to best advantage.
Develop the necessary skills to lead and manage talent.
Make managers accountable for managing talent.
Create the means to identify and select outstanding talent
Be clear about what talent is needed for the business.
More scarce than ability is the ability to recognize ability.
Be able to recognize it when it is demonstrated.
Be aggressive in securing the services of identified talent.
Engage talent fully -- manage it and continue to develop it.
Promote talented people early and often.
Today's high-performers need to be both valued and fully involved.
Give feedback, coach and mentor.
Confront -- and deal with -- retention issues.
Source: Based on graphic in Williams, 2005 at p. 97
Notwithstanding the fact that Continental operates in about 75% of the world's 200 or so countries, the foregoing best practices appear capable of overcoming any cross-cultural constraints to talent management because of their focus on identifying and grooming the leadership talent that will fuel the company's growth into the future. In this regard, Williams notes that, "The above four imperatives are the cornerstones of talent management. They are therefore fundamental to close-quarter leadership and especially the leader's responsibility for identifying and developing those who will lead the business tomorrow" (2005, p. 98). As to imperative one, "Create a winning environment within which to work," Williams suggests that Continental's leadership must:
1. Set the example and establish a strong achievement culture within the areas that they control, by defining and maintaining high standards.
2. Develop and share compelling, but realistic, visions of how they see tomorrow needs to be managed today (remembering that there's often a fine line between vision and hallucination!)
3. Create great jobs, which challenge, stretch and enable talented people to excel, finding ways in which to enrich or shape jobs and roles, around peoples' major talents, focusing on assignments which involve major savings, increased profit/market share levels, developing a new function or unit, global roles, or improving cross-cultural/cross-functional synergy, are all 'stretch' experiences that allow people to make a significant leadership impact upon the business (Williams, 2005, p. 98).
The relevant studies to date have found that among the primary key challenges that motivate talented include:
1. Early responsibility, supported by feedback and coaching; and,
2. Opportunities to make a significant contribution to the business, its transformation and its success;
3. Exercising leadership and influencing 'upwards', as well as down the line;
4. Sharing task synergy with other talented, exciting people who were also high achievers; and,
5. Work which was challenging and fun (Williams, 2005, p. 98).
The second best practices imperative, "Make talent management a corporate priority," can be achieved by ensuring Continental's leaders assume accountability for helping their subordinates grow by: (a) acquiring and using sound techniques of feedback, coaching and mentoring; and (b) developing and putting into practice the arts of empowering and sponsoring their people (Williams, 2005, p. 100). As to the third and fourth imperatives identified by Williams, "Create the means to identify and select outstanding talent" and "Engage talent fully -- manage it and continue to develop it," some individuals may possess truly unique talents that will make them particularly valuable in certain settings but which will contribute little in others. In this regard, Williams emphasizes that, "Talent comes in many forms -- some of which are not always immediately recognizable, or apparent" (p. 100). Certainly, it is a fairly straightforward matter to identify top performers at lower levels of the organization, with "employee a" producing 500 more widgets a week than any other employee, but talent as it affects an individual's ability to lead others to a common goal is a far more ephemeral quality, but one that requires special attention by leaders at all levels. In this regard, Williams emphasizes that, "Talent, especially leadership talent, once confirmed, is a critical asset to the business, to which value can be constantly and productively added. Coaching, therefore, is a more or less continuous process, based upon a good deal of informal -- but structured and focused -- feedback and dialogue" (p. 100).
An evaluation of this best practices model for effectiveness for the company suggests that many of these imperatives are already in place at Continental Airlines, even if they are not specifically codified in this fashion. Based on its proven track record, it is also reasonable to conclude that Continental has succeeded in recruiting, identifying and retaining top-quality leaders where other airlines have failed based on its commitment to using its human resource management process in a strategic fashion to help it achieve its organizational goals. In the final analysis, the research was consistent in showing that the time, effort and resources devoted to helping people grow in an organization pays major dividends and that those companies that remain focused on this commitment, even during periods of economic downturn, will reap major benefits over the long-term.
Berger, L., & Berger, D. (2003). The talent management handbook. New York: McGraw Hill.
Burke, R.J. & Cooper, C.L. (2005). Reinventing human resources management: Challenges and new directions. London: Routledge.
CO facts: A quarterly digest of states & facts. (2010, 2nd quarter). Continental Airlines. Retrieved from http://www.continental.com/web/en-U.S./content/company/profile/continental
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Flouris, T. & Walker, T.J. (2005). The financial performance of low-cost and full-service airlines in times of crisis. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 22(1), 3-4.
Hansen, F. (2006, February 27). Paperless route for recruiting. Workforce Management,…