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Lynn Ware: Thought Leader

Bookends Book Club Thought Leader: Episode #2

In this Bookends Book Club episode, I have a chance to discuss talent management with Dr. Lynn Ware. Lynn is the author of two training programs that are published by Vital Learning:

  • Hiring Winning Talent
  • Retaining Winning Talent

Lynn is the CEO of Integral Talent Systems and she has over 20 years of helping companies in Silicon Valley develop and improve their talent management practices.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Lynn and discover some new insights on how you can approach talent management at your organization.

– Susan Stamm

Podcast Transcript

Use the table of contents below to navigate to parts of this interview that interest you or to revisit parts of the interview you really liked. Use the “follow along” time stamps to listen to that particular part of the podcast above.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

[00:44] Susan Stamm: Well, Lynn, you, as I said, have been a pioneer in this field of Talent Management. Prior to the time when it’s become the buzzword that we find today, what created your interest initially? And if you could, describe what has changed in this work since you originally began.

[01:01] Lynn Ware: The practice of Talent Management is helping clients to optimize their performance through people, which many functional managers don’t know how to do, because they’ve never studied the approach. So, our mission is to help apply these practices through the functional management teams to make sure they get the results they’re looking for.

There has been a lot more rapid change within the business environment in general, we have disruption, and we have a much more mobile workforce. And many of our clients with the full employment picture today are struggling to attract and retain the best talent in their respective industries.

So, in terms of what’s changed, I think that it’s increasing the demand that leaders and managers become more knowledgeable about how to attract and engage and motivate the people they have working in their organizations because employees have a lot more choices. In fact, I like to think about employees in today’s market as basically paid volunteers because the best and the brightest have many, many choices. They don’t have to work for you, basically, so they need to make a case for why they need to do that.

[02:19] Susan Stamm: So what would you say are the biggest mistakes organizations are making in hiring, especially given this time of full employment?

[02:28] Lynn Ware: Well, I think that there is not enough time spent on organizations articulating what their employment brand and value proposition are. And in addition, they’re not doing a good job hiring for the best job fit, as well as hiring for people that will stay within the organization. In fact, we call it “hiring for retention.” 

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I like to think about employees in today’s market as basically paid volunteers because the best and the brightest have many, many choices.


Chapter 2

[02:52] Susan Stamm: So you hear a lot about some of the things that organizations are doing to attract talent, some of the perks that are being offered today. Are these things really helping to retain employees or organizations missing more obvious indicators?

[03:08] Lynn Ware: Well, one of the initial research findings that we came up with when we started working in employee retention—which was now almost 20 years ago, we are experienced in this particular domain—was that the factors that employees consider when they’re joining an organization are different than the factors of why they stay once they’re there. So, while a pool table or pre-snacks may appeal to someone, and because the building looks great, and they might want to work there because it looks “cool” in terms of the workspace setting.

Once the person is within the organization, other kinds of workplace variables become more important to them, things like how they get along with their manager, things like whether or not the work they’re doing is really engaging to them intrinsically. Things like how the team works together, do they work collaboratively? Or is there a lot of conflict and strife amongst team members? So a lot of differences between attracting and retaining talent that the organization needs to think through.

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Chapter 3

[04:20] Susan Stamm: Do you think organizations are really aware of the fact that even though they’ve got this really cool vibe, that they’re missing out on the things that you just described? Are they aware of it and choosing not to address it? Or are they not sure how to address it? What do you think is going on?

[04:34] Lynn Ware: I don’t think that many organizations are aware of the difference between attracting and retaining talent, because those are two separate strategies.

[04:43] Susan Stamm: Well, if you had a crystal ball—wouldn’t we all like to have a crystal ball? And you were able to look out into say, let’s the next three years or so, what would you suggest that organization should be focusing on and why would you suggest it? 

[04:59] Lynn Ware: Well, regardless of what your opinion is of whether we’re going to stay a robust economy or have a downturn, the variables that we’re talking about today are still going to be really important over the next three year. Most of the leaders that we’ve talked to are very concerned about the dearth of skilled talent that’s out there. So, there may be people available, but whether or not they have the types of skills that the organization needs to actually deliver on their business plans, is another story.

So, we all know, for example, that many of the job roles are going to require much more, what we might call the STEM subjects are being more technical, scientific, data analytics, you know, those kinds of skills are going to be much more in demand, and the workforce is not keeping up with that. So, I think that the same issues of how you attract the target people you need, and how you keep them once they’re in your organization, are going to apply?

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Chapter 4

[05:59] Susan Stamm: Well, a while back, you authored two programs in talent management; they were called Hiring Winning Talent and Retaining Winning Talent. These are published by Vital Learning. And you know, these are pretty challenging topics. You mentioned they’re very different kinds of strategies a moment ago. But these programs, you wrote these so that they’re really designed for that front-line supervisor. Why is this the target audience for such challenging topical areas?

[06:26] Lynn Ware: Well, we found in our excellent interviewing service that we’ve been offering now again, for over 20 years, as well as in employee experience and employee engagement surveys, that the manager has the most impact on whether or not a person stays or leaves the organization. And some of the other factors that employees rated is very important to them for staying include things like skill development and career opportunities. The manager also has a lot of influence over whether or not the person gets a chance to learn new skills and develop and grows at work and whether or not that manager helps facilitate some career movement as well.

So, most variables that impact a person’s decision to stay are highly influenced by the manager. So that’s why we figured—maybe help them know what they need to do. Again, these are scientific research-backed models and approaches. And we give them very behaviorally-based skills that they can adapt and integrate into their leadership style.

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Chapter 5

[07:34] Susan Stamm: Excellent. Can you tell us just a little bit about a Hiring Winning Talent and how it might differ from other hiring programs that might be out there?

[07:42] Lynn Ware:  Yes, so in Hiring Winning Talent, the focus is to help managers know exactly what to do in selection and interviewing. And what’s different is that we are helping managers develop a process and skills for determining whether or not the job candidate can do the job and how they will do it. And very important today, especially with the whole idea of purpose-driven work, whether or not they will be interested and enjoy the work that they’re going to be doing in the job you’re interviewing them for.

So those are, again, some of the factors that will help retain the individual. If the person is successful at work, they are more likely to stay. And in addition, we also give them questions that they can ask about someone who could have a career with the organization versus just someone you would hire for a particular job. And this will impact the organization’s tenure numbers as well.

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Chapter 6

[08:46] Susan Stamm: That’s great. And so, you’re really looking at this as kind of the first step in the retention process as begins with the area of hiring. But then you’ve gone on to create a process for first-line supervisors and managers to really support the retention of people that work on their teams. Could you tell us just a little bit about that program?

[9:07] Lynn Ware: Yes. Oh, that’s a good way to look at it, that Hiring Winning Talent is the first step because one of the practices that we are promoting— in fact, the first practice in the Retaining Winning Talent program is targeted hiring, right? So if you don’t hire the right person, you’re going to have problems with the right management approach once they’re there anyway, right?

[09:33] Susan Stamm: Exactly.

[09:33] Lynn Ware: [These programs] kind of go lockstep, you need to know how to hire the right person that will be motivated by the work and the culture that you have in your organization. And then once you’re there, what are the practices that the manager can use to help them succeed, to help them learn and grow, to help recognize and have them feel good about their accomplishments at work? How to manage a team successfully so that people are working together most effectively. So those are some of the practices that the manager starts to understand that are under his or her control.

[10:11] Susan Stamm: Let’s come back to the idea we talked about a little earlier, a very low unemployment rate at this time. Why would Retaining Winning Talent be something that businesses should be focused on during a time like this?

[10:23] Lynn Ware: Well, as we mentioned earlier, employees have choices of where they can go. So, if the manager has the most impact, our point of view is that the organization needs to arm them to be really the most important part of the strategy for keeping people that are going to carry on and get the business results for the organization.

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Chapter 7

[10:47] Susan Stamm: So, both of the programs that you’ve designed are set up so that they can be run internally by organizations. Would you have any tips, Lynn, that you might share with professionals that could help to make these programs as effective as possible as they’re trying to support supervisors and managers in their organizations?

[11:08] Lynn Ware: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I think that any company that would benefit from these should have a leadership approach that makes employee tenure and engagement explicit, so is knowledgeable about how long they want people to stay, is working proactively on the value proposition to make sure that their best people are engaged and aligned and motivated with the business.

And as far as internal people go, who might facilitate this particular learning experience, retaining winning talent in particular, is more of a strategic planning session for retaining employees. So, it doesn’t have to be positioned kind of yet another training program, because the managers leave with very specific strategies they’re going to be using with their own team as a takeaway. And that’s something they come up with as a result of getting feedback on their own management practices and some awareness and a type of discovery that they get in the session. So, the marketing of the retaining winning talent approach should be on strategic planning sessions and business planning versus training.

[12:31] Susan Stamm: Well, Lynn, I appreciate all of your time today and your expertise and talking to us about this challenging area. And hopefully, folks who listened to our interview today will find some value in it. And if folks want to reach out to you directly for further advice, or to consult with you, Lynn, how would they do that?

[12:52] Lynn Ware:  Absolutely. Just through an email at [email protected], or a phone call, I’d be more than happy to discuss with anyone the implementation approach or their specific situation. So that would be the best way.

[13:12] Susan Stamm:  Excellent. And I did want to mention that Ware is W-A-R-E. Lynn, thank you so much again for joining us today and for sharing your expertise in this area of talent management. Thanks.

[13:24] Lynn Ware: Thank you.

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