THE ANNUAL PEOPLE PLAN: A LEADERSHIP TOOL Talent Management: Why? Because it focuses on the most important asset – people – and can be the single most impactful factor for organizations in achieving their goals. Leadership must be able to develop its people to successfully achieve its goals.

Growing and successful organizations spend some leadership and management time on strategic planning: where they want to go, and how they plan to get there. They also spend a significant amount of time on their annual operating plan (AOP) or budget: how much will we need; where will we get it; how will we expend it. But few spend an equivalent amount of time on planning the best ways to manage and utilize their talent – even given that it is their talent that will be the key management factor to achieving the strategic objectives. My premise is that organizational leadership should emphasize an Annual People Plan (APP) as a necessary and equal adjunct to the AOP and to the business objectives.

Successful organization leadership practices stewardship: it is a biblical standard (I Cor. 4:2 ). That stewardship should also be evident in the managing of the organization’s talent: it is often the largest single expenditure in the annual financial plan and merits that level of attention. It is also true that talent can be the catalyst to maximize the leverage of other resources and plans most effectively and efficiently. Today’s workforce is asking of prospective employers, ‘what will you do to help me grow and develop professionally?’ It is an awesome responsibility to be encouraging and coaching employees to develop to their God – given potential. It requires leadership and support at the senior executive level. Leadership’s single most important responsibility may be ‘who do we let in the front door?’ The hiring process is key because the talent we hire will be the tipping factor in how well the organization achieves it goals. In addition, when we employ someone we as an organization have the responsibility for the professional – and related personal – growth and development of that person. It is ineffective to hire and then not to develop and nurture talent.

Performance management is already practiced by many organizations; it is, however, not talent management, though there is overlap. In the former we focus on job performance compared to job expectations over the past year; in the latter we look forward to identify the talent needed to achieve the organization’s goals and then build a plan to be certain we have that talent available and that we develop its potential.

The initial construction and implementation of an APP requires significant thought, work and energy. For most organizations it will be a major cultural change because its focus is new. Dealing with employee talent in a significant and new manner may be uncomfortable for many managers.

First, senior executive and human resource personnel must be the champions of the APP. They must believe in and be committed to the stewardship activity, participate in it and hold participants accountable for implementation and follow through. Depending on the size of the organization the APP may be led by only the CEO or by the CEO and one or two other executive managers. (Note that the CEO, too, must be a participant in the APP as it relates to his/her responsibilities and direct reports. In fact, because of the direct link between talent management and succession planning the board of directors – who are responsible for the CEO portion of any succession plan – should be strong encouragers of any talent management initiative).

The APP will have its best contribution to an organization’s growth and success if it becomes an integral part of the organization’s culture and DNA. That means continued support from senior executive management - the first 2 or 3 years are critical. It means integrity and involvement towards everyone touched by the process. It means using the APP results and plans whenever a new talent placement is considered. It should mean involvement by the board of the organization to assure proper talent at the senior level.

Many organizations recite the phrase, ‘our employees are our most important asset’; many do not know how to maximize the talent resident in those employees. The introduction of an Annual People Plan will be a significant beginning to grow the talent for the organization’s goals and to contribute to the personal and professional career growth of those employees.

All organizations want – need – leadership talent in place to face well the shifts in the world’s mission fields so that the mission effort can move forth successfully.