Developing an Effective Talent Philosophy

By Randy Kloostra, WPF Learning Academy Coordinator

Ask most dealers what they view as their most important asset and nine times out of ten, they’ll tell you it’s their people.

That’s a smart observation but unfortunately, top dealer management all too often behaves as if people were one of the least important parts of their business. A key reason: Very little consensus at the top level of an organization as to what that actually means and even less agreement on what to do about it!

What’s missing from far too many businesses is a coherent, carefully thought-out talent philosophy.

A phrase like “talent philosophy” might sound like so much business school theory but it’s not. It’s what you get when the leaders in an organization come together to clearly define expectations for their people and for the managers who oversee others.

The talent philosophy for your dealership doesn’t have to be a complex, multi-page document. You can capture what’s important on a single sheet of paper. The important thing is the process of coming together as a team, sitting down and discussing your workforce, its needs and expectations and how you intend to manage and develop it.

Talent management expert Marc Effron of The Talent Strategy Group says there are five key elements that define a good talent philosophy:

  • Performance. How long is it OK for a person to be an average performer in your dealership? Is it OK or not OK to be an average performer? There can be varying viewpoints on that issue and the executive team needs to come to a unified consensus.

  • Behaviors. To what extent does a manager’s behavior impact their career progress and compensation? Will you tolerate a manager acting in a way that your organization has deemed inappropriate? Which behaviors are you going to focus on?

  • Differentiation. Companies have only limited funds to invest in training their people. A talent philosophy answers questions like, Are you willing to invest more in people who have high potential and less in lower potential employees? Do you think everyone at your dealership needs to go through the same training or will you invest more in people with high potential?

  • Transparency. How open and honest are you going to be with people about their careers and opportunities?

  • Accountability. How accountable will you require your managers to be? For example, do you hold managers accountable for talent-related performance indicators?

Make no mistake, putting together an effective talent philosophy is not easy. It will challenge you and your people with some tough questions and finding consensus answers can sometimes be painful and demanding.

But without a coherent talent philosophy that your entire team buys into, you risk seeing the really talented people in your dealership look elsewhere for their careers.

If you don’t feel an effective talent philosophy is in place at your dealership, now’s the time to do something about it!

The process begins with getting the leadership in a room and beginning the discussion. What are the standards and expectations that you want to see in your business?

Once you have agreement on that and have actually gotten your talent philosophy down on paper, an important next step is to do a reality check. It’s one thing to say that’s what you believe as an organization, but you also need to go out and validate it.

Does it express what you are already practicing? If not, you need to develop the action steps to start doing things differently.

As an example, are you going to incorporate new expectations related to managing and leading into performance plans?

Are you going to hold people more accountable if they are not practicing these steps? Are you going to change some of your HR processes and initiatives to reinforce your expectations? Will you do development work around these areas?

A philosophy looks good on paper, but if it’s not driving day-to-day activities, that’s all it is: just paper. Conduct a reality check, develop an action plan and then revisit it annually by testing for progress and evidence of adoption.

Don’t expect overnight improvements but if you’re serious about the process, improvements will come and the result will be that the people in your dealership truly will become its greatest asset.

Want to learn more about developing an effective talent philosophy? Contact Randy at PH: 616-540-3015; Email:


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