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Simplicity, practicality reign in talent management


When it comes to developing a talent-management process for any organization, simplicity and practicality are the name of the game. That mantra holds true even in the firms that make up an ever-evolving and complex agri-food system.

Betty Jones-Bliss, associate director for Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business, recently had the opportunity to ask a few talent-related questions of Keith Halperin, senior client partner for Korn Ferry Hay Group out of Minneapolis. In this role, he designs and conducts programs to enhance the leadership skills of managers and executives worldwide. Halperin also previously served as the human resource planning and development manager for Honeywell’s corporate offices. He is a featured facilitator at Purdue’s 2018 Managing Talent to Win program, April 3-5 on the university’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus.

Jones-Bliss: You have global experience in the area of managing talent. What would you identify as two or three of the major trends organizations are facing as they develop and prepare people for the challenges ahead?

Halperin: Often defined as a digital revolution, businesses are being disrupted faster than before due to technology. The implication for talent is the need for employees to be more agile and willing to take risks without having all of the facts.

The second is that global organizations are more and more diverse in their geographic locations, cultural roots of staff, multiple generations in the workforce and more. Diverse teams are making decisions about businesses that are often outside of their home countries. Leaders have to be able to get the best from a diverse workforce while having less face-to-face interaction.

Finally, is the constant need for innovation. How do leaders pull together teams of people who can solve wicked problems with new ideas? The need to innovate is being pushed down the organization. It’s no longer just in the hands of the strategy or research and development departments. Leaders need to develop people who are able to solve new dilemmas.

Jones-Bliss: It seems the process for and view of managing performance has been under scrutiny the past several years, with some large companies changing processes and then changing back again. What are some of your thoughts around performance reviews?

Halperin: The search for the perfect performance management system is not a new thing. It has been studied and adapted for the 30 years I have been in the business. Ratings, no ratings, a 3-point scale, a 5-point scale, a 7-point scale, separating the rating discussion from the development discussion, having two performance appraisal conversations a year, five conversations, and on and on. I think they key issue is that humans are uncomfortable evaluating others and giving feedback. It is easier to avoid having any evaluative conversation. Most leaders are “player coaches” who get busy and never seem to find the time to coach. They retreat to doing vs. leading. Unfortunately, there is no system that will fix the human issue.

Jones-Bliss: Best practices for developing talent is a high priority for most firms. We will be addressing this topic at during the April Managing Talent to Win program. Can you provide a few thoughts about how you will approach this important process?

Halperin: One of the key topics I will address is the importance of building a talent mindset. Mindset comes first and drives leaders to improve their skill set. Leaders need to understand the impact they make on others. Leaders who focus on their talent, look for coachable moments, and find ways to increase the contribution made by others produce significantly stronger business results and employee engagement. We will address how to identify and use these naturally occurring coachable moments to improve talent.

Also, any talent-development process needs to be simple and practical. It has to be something that can be naturally built into the standard routine of leaders. At the workshop, we will discuss why this is important, and how to go about developing the process.

A third topic we will discuss is conversations. Talent development is all about having powerful conversations, analyzing the situations and the needs, then knowing what type of conversation to have.

Managing Talent to Win

Managing Talent to Win is April 3-5 on Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus. Program participants will develop individualized plans to improve talent management, learn to identify and prepare the right people for critical positions, learn the process to develop plans for effectively leveraging strategic employee talent, develop relationship-building capabilities, and build leadership and management competencies. In addition to Halperin, program facilitators are Purdue faculty members Allan Gray, center director, and Michael Gunderson, associate center director. Learn more and register.

Participants are encouraged to attend with team members. Team rates are available by contacting Betty Jones-Bliss at 217-549-2883 or

Jennifer Stewart-Burton
Jennifer Stewart-Burton
January 29, 2018
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