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Demystifying Talent Management

Unleash People’s Potential to Deliver Superior Results

By Kimberly Janson

Demystifying Talent Management

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938548-30-7 / 233 pages / $24.95
ePub ISBN: 978-1-938548-31-4 / $11.99
Kindle ASIN: B011SLXZRE / $11.99

ePDF ISBN: 978-1-938548-32-1 / $11.99

Author a highly experienced Chief Talent Management Officer

First book to take a 360° view of talent management to get managers, execs, HR, and employees to work together

Written in clear, simple language – no human resource management jargon

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The idea of unleashing people’s potential by giving them good input and stretching them to new levels can be very heady stuff. When you experience, as I have, the collective impact of everyone in an organization performing at the highest level and truly working TOGETHER, you are amazed at what can happen when the constraints that organizations put on their own people are removed. The results are extraordinary. — Kim Janson

Demystifying Talent Management offers practical advice for all managers, HR professionals, senior leaders, and other employees on how to work together to build a talented and motivated workforce. The book addresses performance, development, coaching, feedback, compensation, and other elements of people management. By taking a 360-degree point of view, the book reveals how each stakeholder views the elements of people management, what they need from each element, and what confusion and conflicts arise among the stakeholders, limiting people’s potential. Using simple, straightforward language, Kim Janson tells you how you can avoid the confusion and conflicts. You’ll learn:

  • What performance is needed and expected — how to focus on the right things and translate the company’s strategy into individual performance
  • What it means to measure and track progress, simply and clearly
  • What you can and should do to help an individual’s development
  • How to narrow your focus to improve a skill, knowledge, or experience
  • How to take both an individual’s profile and the direction of the organization into account in career development and succession planning
  • How to make compensation a true driver of results in whatever currency you want to use (cash, public accolades, feedback…)
  • How to tap into what fuels people’s fire and speak their language to make things work better and faster
  • How coaching and feedback are essential in bringing all the elements of talent management together

This book will guide you to a deeper understanding of the mechanics of talent management and development success so that all the stakeholders can come together in a win-win-win-win scenario.

About the Author

Kimberly JansonKim Janson is the CEO of Janson Associates, a firm dedicated to helping teams, individuals, leaders, executives and organizations be incredibly successful. Prior to establishing Janson Associates, Kim was the Chief Talent Management Officer at the H.J. Heinz Company. At Heinz she was responsible for leadership development, organizational effectiveness, learning, diversity, change management, performance management, succession and executive coaching.

Kim has extensive people management experience as a Senior Vice President at Bank of America, and as a senior leader at Hasbro, BancBoston Mortgage Corporation, and Bank of Boston. While at Hasbro she won the Society for Human Resources Innovative Practice Award for her diversity work and she was featured in HR Magazine on the leadership development program she built in partnership with Tuck Business School.

Kim is an executive coach in the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Bring it on!

Part I: Performance

Chapter 2: Performance expectations
Chapter 3: How am I doing?
Chapter 4: How did I do?

Part II: Development

Chapter 5: What do I need to work on?
Chapter 6: How do I move the needle short term?
Chapter 7: Longer term development

Part III: Making It All Work
Chapter 8 – Coaching and feedback
Chapter 9 – Compensation
Chapter 10 – Motivation and style




Almost everyone in your company sees a piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing and developing employees, but only a few see the whole puzzle. One of the challenges of talent management is that the people engaging in it view things based only on their point of view. This myopia can cause breakdowns in the process. People often shy away from talent management activities because they view them as separate from the important work of the business and trivialize them as “just another thing we have to do.” Or sometimes these activities just seem overwhelming. Further complicating matters, most people don’t understand how to do them well and, as a result, many are often fearful of these activities. Add company culture and dynamics to the mix and employees don’t trust talent management activities and often disengage. If they do engage, and these challenges are still present, they often engage only superficially. But with a robust and comprehensive understanding of talent management from all parties involved, a better end result should occur (if the right levels of skill and commitment are also present).

From the CEO’s and Senior Leader’s POV

Many CEOs and senior leaders view talent management in terms of cost, and they’re mostly concerned with its return on investment. For them, it’s all about business results, the bottom line. It’s particularly true if they’re in a publicly traded company. They have a fiduciary responsibility to deliver superior business results. So, with this as their perspective, their focus is usually: how does talent management add value? Key questions they’ll ask are: Do we really need to do it? What’s the least amount of time and attention we can afford it and still make it worth our effort? These are great questions, ones that other stakeholders should be asking as well.

I used to work with a CEO in a company that was cash rich at the time. He would say, “The cash you’re talking about using for talent management is sitting and earning 9 percent right now. It’s doing that without us doing anything. So, convince me that it’s worth pulling it out of that nearly sure thing to put into this project, and tell me how you’re going to return more than 9 percent on that investment.” That’s how CEOs think, and rightfully so. But is this how managers, HR folks, and employees think when trying to get senior leaders on board when it comes to investing in people? Including spending time on talent management practices and processes? Most managers, HR folks, and employees don’t think this way, nor do they present good business cases to substantiate their ideas. Therefore, most senior leaders aren’t feeling the love for talent management that they could be. I happen to agree very much with the CEO’s perspective. If you aren’t going to get a big return in the short or long term, don’t do it. (The fact that different people define long term differently adds to the challenge.) But, if you have the potential to get a big return (and have a great business case justifying this return), well then, not only should you do it but you should make sure you do it incredibly well.

A focus on people has always been necessary for success, but it’s never received more attention than it does today. There’s tremendous pressure coming from a variety of sources – external regulatory agencies, the competitive marketplace, the demands of a global economy, the speed of technology and information, a shrinking and aging workforce, company boards of directors – all of which makes a focus on talent essential. Increasing productivity, return-on-investment, shareholder value, and employee satisfaction and engagement are no longer an option but necessary for success.

Therefore the majority of the senior leadership team’s focus should be on talent management. They should be running the business by enabling and developing great leaders. Someone I previously worked with at a consumer goods company put it well: “Judge your success as a leader by the success of your people. And don’t underestimate the importance of your role in preparing them for the future – including to one day take on your role.” For many senior leaders, though, talent management isn’t the focus. They often lack the knowledge they need to manage talent well. And for those who are insecure, developing their successors is a tough concept to deal with. They might not engage in the right talent management practices for personal reasons as well as lack of knowledge. For many senior leaders in most organizations there’s a significant need for improvement.

From the Manager’s POV

Some managers view talent management as an important part of their jobs, but many managers are unskilled at it. This is a harsh and unflattering statement but it’s true. Managers (and adults in general) want to be viewed as competent. They often reach the status of “manager” because they were at the top of their function delivering good functional results, so they were promoted. On Friday they were promoted and on Monday they come to work, they’re the manager, and they’re expected to continue to deliver good results. What happened over the weekend to make them an effective manager, a good leader? Did they go to a revival meeting in the woods, get clunked on the head, shout, “I believe,” and become enlightened? Of course not! However, when employees step into manager roles, they’re often given little direction and little time to learn the job, but they’re expected to be good managers from the get-go. This practice is common throughout the world. And super stupid.

Leading people is a discipline. The scenario above is equivalent to saying that on Friday you’re a marketing person and on Monday you need to be an industrial engineer. Or on Friday you speak Spanish and on Monday you need to speak Mandarin. We wouldn’t think of asking anyone to do these things. Yet the lack of respect often shown to new managers – by those responsible for their promotions who don’t seem to realize the significant difference between doing the work and leading others who are doing the work – shows up in the low talent management skill set seen in managers throughout the world.

When faced with talent management activities, managers often don’t do them or do them at a superficial level, all the while experiencing a high level of anxiety. You might occasionally have a manager who takes it upon himself or herself to read, go to training, and get a mentor in order to be a better manager. But they’re the rare exceptions. Managers try to juggle a host of activities. And as the talent management activities come down the pike, they are pressured to quickly execute them and get them off their desk rather than to intelligently and thoughtfully utilize them to improve the business. It’s no surprise then that time and time again managers are rated poorly in surveys by their employees.

As a respected peer of mine, Dave Mitchell, says, “Tools and processes are only as good as the people implementing and facilitating them.” Dave is the CEO of The Leadership Difference, and he’s helped many organizations by educating their leaders on how to raise their game. He’s seen the fallout on the employee side when leaders don’t learn.

There’s a good book you should read called The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Steve Drotter, and Jim Noel. They expertly explain an important concept: As you rise in the organizational hierarchy, you need to change what you value, your skill set, and what you spend your time on in order to be effective at the next level. What often happens is that if new managers don’t have the skills needed to manage, they remain or go back to “doing” the work. They even take pride in themselves for “being in the trenches” or “not asking their team to do something they aren’t willing to do.” Well, that’s an admirable sentiment but a misplaced one. If a manager is doing the work of his or her employees, then the manager is just an overpaid individual contributor. It’s a shame. And it can be easily fixed with the right commitment, instruction, practice, and coaching.

From HR’s POV

You will often find that organizations follow one of two HR models. One is a generalist model in which the HR practitioners have a broad set of responsibilities – they do a little bit of everything. The other is a specialist model in which the HR practitioners are skilled in specific areas of human resource management – similar work is grouped and done by specialists. Both models provide challenges in terms of HR being a good partner to managers regarding talent management. The first and foremost challenge is lack of resources. Good talent management work takes time, money, and skilled people. In my twenty-plus years of working in corporations around the world, I’ve never seen an over-resourced HR function. I’ve seen a well-resourced HR function on a few occasions, but that was the exception. This reality often creates a “fire-fighting” approach to doing talent management work, focusing on taking care of short-term challenges rather than developing long-term solutions that will lead to superior business success.

Take generalists, for example. In a true generalist model, about 20 percent of an HR generalist’s time should be spent on training. How many generalists do you know who train or do some training-related activity one full day every week? As for HR specialists, a compensation specialist for example, they often don’t fully understand the end-to-end picture of the business, creating solutions to talent management challenges that are often not the best solutions for the business.

Add to this the fact that HR folks in general are often removed from knowing and understanding the intricacies of the business; the result is under-resourced HR folks who are isolated in their perspective. Ask them to implement or support the implementation of talent management activities (in large volumes) and you’ll find that most HR folks will emphasize the task aspect of the work – getting the forms filled out – rather than putting in the correct thought and effort needed to manage these activities in order to realize the best return for the business. The final challenge is the fact that most HR people report into the line of business they support. This is the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. How are these folks supposed to push hard on the business to do the tough but relevant and critical work regarding people if their promotions, pay, bonuses, etc. are being determined by these same people? So from HR’s point of view, talent management gets to be mostly about moving the workflow forward.

From the Employee’s POV

Employees view talent management activities typically in one of two ways based on past experience. If they have been part of a system with capable managers and HR partners, they view these activities in terms of the benefits they can get out of them. They appreciate the value of talent management when it’s done well (which means they’re getting the support they need to be the best they can be at what they do). If employees have struggled or have been negatively impacted by these activities in the past, they too often see it as a challenge or a waste of time. Most organizations don’t engage employees in the activities that would most benefit them. If managers or HR do engage employees, it’s often using a hit and run approach, where employees are asked for information but then nothing is done with it. Or every year or so a new talent management program is introduced that has little or no staying power, no hint as to why it’s important to the company’s strategy, and no clear benefit to the employees. It’s just the “flavor of the month.” Employees get suspicious of such activities and find it hard to be engaged . . .

Praise for Demystifying Talent Management

Demystifying Talent Management is for anyone who wants to truly understand the powerful pieces to talent management and development. DTM will help you “unleash” and get the most from your people and in turn, drive hard for your business’ success. Kim is a truly valued global leadership development expert. She is innovative, thinks broadly, communicates with tremendous impact and is incredibly deep in her subject matter expertise of managing and developing people. This is worth your time for sure.
— MARSHALL GOLDSMITH, author or editor of 34 books including the global bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Kim is a very talented, very global executive who has been developing people around the world for the last 20 years. Her ability to simplify and her courage to communicate on any topic make her a great partner. This book opens the vault to Kim’s insight.
— SYD FINKELSTEIN, Steven Roth Professor of Management, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and author of Why Smart Executives Fail

Kim Janson takes the complex subjects of talent management and development and makes them simple, insightful, and replicable in Demystifying Talent Management. This book is a valuable resource for those that want to excel in managing and developing people.
— BILL JOHNSON, former Chairman, President, and CEO, H.J. Heinz Company

Having worked closely with Kim at Hasbro, especially in building the Tuck Executive Leadership Program with her, she remains my top choice as a leadership development partner. Her book does a great job of taking the often confusing genre of managing or developing people and distilling the key ideas that, if you use them, will help make you a powerful leader.
— ALAN HASSENFELD, Chairman of the Executive Committee and former CEO, Hasbro

As a CEO, I’ve read many books on developing people and managing better. Kim Janson’s Demystifing Talent Management rises to the top because of the comprehensiveness and connectedness of the message and the simplicity in which it is laid out. The book is powerful because it is a simple, straight-forward message for managers on what and how to do things for high impact.
— AL VERRECCHIA, former CEO and Chairman, Hasbro

Demystifying Talent Management is a tremendous resource for anyone aspiring to be excellent at managing and developing their most promising talent. Kim Janson’s observations and techniques are simple, insightful and replicable. Her practical experience developing the future leaders at major Fortune 500 companies is apparent in her compelling recommendations.
— DAVID BAILIN, Managing Director and Global Head of Managed Investments, Citi Private Bank

In her frank and straightforward manner, Kim shares the “inside scoop” of what it takes to be successful as a leader and as an employee. This book provides a clear roadmap of how talent management really works. The tools, quick assessments, and reflection questions throughout the book combined with examples, specific instructions, and stellar advice make this a book you will reference throughout your career. This book is a must read for anyone looking to attain superior business results.
— SUZANNE GLASER, Director, Executive Coaching and Community Values Liaison, Harvard Business School

Demystifying Talent Management is a must read for all leaders. Kim Janson provides a wealth of practical tips for aligning talent to the right roles and insightful, how-to strategies for managing and developing talent to help achieve greater business success!
— RICHARD CHANG, CEO, Richard Chang Associates, and author of The Passion Plan and Performance Scorecards

As a co-worker and now client, Kim has been powerful in helping me drive the talent agenda in my companies. I’m excited to have deep knowledge captured in book form to be able to more widely and more quickly accelerate this knowledge in my company.
— SONJA NARCISSE, Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, and Chief Human Resources Officer, Tronox

Getting talent management right is an imperative to succeed in the marketplace today. Kim Janson is an accomplished professional with an impressive track record of helping companies deliver practical, high-impact talent management programs and processes. In Demystifying Talent Management, she shares her insights and experiences. I recommend this book as a great resource to anyone looking to improve their talent management efforts.
— KEVIN WILDE, Chief Learning Officer and Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness, General Mills, and Executive Leadership Fellow, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Demystifying Talent Management is a gem. Kim’s straightforward, no-nonsense approach is refreshing. Very few can cut through the clutter and jargon like she can. Being an effective manager, particularly of top talent, is not easy. Kim provides simple, easy-to-use and intuitive tools and strategies to get the very best out of your people. If you want to build a high-performing team, this book is a must read.
— STEVE CLARK, former Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, H.J. Heinz Company

Over the last nearly 20 years of working with organizations of all sizes and industries, I have never been more impressed with an approach to talent management as I have been with the the systems that Kimberly Janson has installed. Practical, insightful, simple and yet immensely effective; Kimberly’s designs and her leadership have benefitted all levels of the organization. She is an impressive professional and I am so glad she has shared her work so others can experience her models.
— DAVE MITCHELL, Founder and President, The Leadership Difference

Working with Kim is game changing. She applies laser focus to determine the dynamics of a situation and quickly diagnoses how to address things. A book from Kim on managing and developing people is a powerful read because she applies these skills, adds her direct style, and in the end you have a very clear, compelling how-to manual.
— RON GARROW, Chief Human Resources Officer, Mastercard

Experienced-based, storytelling approach used to humanize the tools and techniques to effectively LEAD and DEVELOP top talent.
— DAVE WOODWARD, Founder Woodward Leadership Ltd and former Executive Vice President, President, and CEO – Europe, H.J. Heinz Company

This book is fantastic! Kim’s thought leadership, expertise and extensive experience are reflected in the content of this book. She takes complex talent management concepts and makes them understandable and easy to execute. If you are a leader and follow Kim’s advice, you’ll build the talent required to fuel growth.
— JIM SHANLEY, President, The Shanley Group, and former Staffing, Learning, and Development Executive, Bank of America

Kim brings deep global experience, earned across many industries, to the critical but often under-leveraged skill of talent management. Her book draws on this practical experience, and is a clear, pragmatic blueprint for effectively coaching and developing people. Kim’s simple, direct, and insightful messages are excellent lessons, and reminders, to anyone trying to get the most out of people and drive for sustainable, long-term success.
— ART WINKLEBLACK, former Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, H.J. Heinz Company

There is oftentimes an air of mystic that swirls around conversations relating to talent and capability development in corporations. I have often wondered why this is. Picking the best talent for the Saturday football game or the next drama production seems at times to be so much easier than driving succession inside a large multinational corporation. Yet the results that both processes aim to address are the same, the best performance that is possible and, ultimately, success. Finding a way to have the real conversations relating to talent, authentic and at times challenging discussions, and in a way that breaks open the topic and targets clear, measurable, and above all sustainable progress lies at the heart of demystifying the subject. Kimberley Janson has cracked the code, a skill that she has honed, applied, and proven in a range of national and global corporations. To now have the opportunity to share in Kim’s practical and proven insights is a pleasure for leaders and students alike. For those that have grappled with this subject and are looking for the impetus to hone their own performance in this essential of all leadership area’s, or for those that seek to better understand how things really can and do drive results when the most effective of practices are understood and applied, Kim’s work is a must read. I know – I have been coached by, have benefitted from, and have seen Kim’s words translated into concrete actions and results!
— BRYCE DYER, Vice President Human Resources, GlaxoSmithKline

Kim is a straight shooter and her book is written the way she coaches – direct, practical, and humorous. As always, she creates accountability for your own success in using her advice.
— LOUISE KORVER, former Head of Leadership & Executive Development at Ingersoll Rand, Bank of America, EMC, and AT&T

As an HR professional for almost 30 years, I have had the opportunity to work as an HR business partner for outstanding leaders in very successful multinational companies. But every time I tried to get in place either a piece of activity or system linked to people, I received from them questions like: Why do I need it? Are we overcomplicating the work? How do these different systems work together? Finally, we have a book that can address all these questions in a very simple and clear language that even non-HR managers can understand. The scheme that Kimberly Janson has created to summarize the activities related to managing and developing people is impressive: clear, simple and effective. Read the book and get a complete picture of how to successfully develop people and business. You can get at glance all the activities a company has to put in place if its senior leaders want to be successful and want to bring their employees to their peak! That is what the book is about: helping people unleash their potential to achieve peak performance. I recommend it to HR managers who are looking for a simple way to explain to their business partners how all the different HR activities work together. I recommend it to senior managers who want to understand the total picture of the people-related system. I recommend it to people who want to learn how they can be more successful or how they can better motivate their people.
— VALENTINO D’ANTONIO, HR Director – Italy and Global Infant & Nutrition, H.J. Heinz Company