As the U.S. economy moves from

As the U.S. economy moves from recession to recovery, businesses are obsessively focused on risk management, cost containment, supply chain sustainability, resource efficiency, and maintaining their competitive edge. Yet a company’s success-or lack thereof-in any or all of these areas will be moot unless it recognizes and deals with its vulnerabilities related to retention and succession Business results will be predicated by an organization’s approach to executive talent management. Bill Conaty, who spent four decades in human resources leadership roles at General Electric (GE), effectively synthesized this agenda. He stated that gaining a decided advantage over the competition starts with attracting the right talent to the organization He added that companies must also invest in executive talent development, assessment, and retention because they’re just as critical to business performance. The market leaders in any industry recognize that attracting and developing the best executive talent is a continual, institutional priority, no matter what the economic environment, Conaty said. He pointed out that development needs-even for people at the most senior level-are not fatal flows for a corporation or an individual unless they go unaddressed. Claudio Fernández-Ardoz of Egon Zehnder International says that despite today’s high unemployment numbers, companies still need to focus on attracting superior executives because demographics already indicate that the number of managers in the right age bracket for leadership roles will drop hy 30 percent in just six years “Companies need to beef up their ability to attract great leaders, “Fernández-Ardoz contends. While over the long run companies should focus on becoming more attractive by developing the type of culture, environment and team that outstanding executives want to join, they also need to immediately focus on winning the coming fight for executive talent one leader at a time. And that’s not just about money. Companies can attract superior talent by demonstrating active support for the candidate’s interests, describing the role realistically, and involving the hiring manager (not just HR) in closing the deal, he adds. Further, by er listing the involvement of Clevel executives while recruiting for top positions and ensuring that compensation for a new recruit is fair to current employees, companies can more effectively integrate new leaders. When it comes to assessing executive talent, Sumner Redstone, majority owner and chairman of the board of his family controlled National Amusements, Inc., and majority owner of CBS Corp. and Viacom, told me recently during an exclusive interview that it all comes down to his “Three C’s.” “7 insist that anyone ‘ hire, particularly an executive, bring what I call the Three C’s ‘That’s competence, commitment, and the most important one, character, Redstone said. “Without character, I’m not interested in their competence or commitment.” The final piece of building, rebuilding, or maintaining a company’s prized management advantage over the competition is retaining the best executives. Former Medtronic CEO Bill George offers his own advice. To keep your top business leaders onboard, George says you have to challenge them. “Put them in tough jobs. Make them responsible for something. Promote young people; flatten the organization; and give people opportunities to lead right now and they’ll stay with you and be true to you.” Exceptional companies, he believes, must reward business leaders for their performance and not simply reward their decision to stay with the company. Questions 1. Which functions of human resources management are described in this case? Which are missing? In what ways, if any, are the missing functions relevant to building competitive advantage, too? 2. The writer and people interviewed talk about competitive advantage coming from the qualities of a company’s top executives. To what extent do these principles apply to middle managers, supervisors, and nonmanagement employees? 3. Imagine that you are an HR manager in a company that has been struggling to stay profitable during the past two years. Your company’s executives have been focused mainly on cutting costs and landing orders. Write a paragraph making the case for why your company’s executives should also be concerned about developing talent at this time. Keep in mind that they may not see any money being available for hiring new people or training current employees.

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