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Talent Management Programs Should Take Years


It is typical to roll out programs like performance management, succession planning, or recognition over a period of months. Even with that time frame leaders may ask why it takes so long. However, the hard-learned lesson from seasoned HR leaders is that it takes years to fully roll out a program.

The reason it takes years is that many programs only run on a yearly cycle. Managers need to go through the cycle three or four times to get good at it. It is also the case that it may take years for the outcomes of the program to be visible. It can take a long time to see what aspects of the program are working, which ones are not, and make adjustments.

Look at performance management. John Doerr, an advocate for the OKR approach to performance management stresses that OKR won’t work in the first year. It probably won’t be all that great for the next couple of years either. It simply takes many cycles for managers to master this approach. If you don’t commit to working on a new performance management system for several years, then don’t bother.

Consider succession planning. The goal is to identify successors, however with many succession planning programs when it comes time to fill a vacant role it turns out the planned successor is not right for one reason or another. In other words, all the time spent on succession planning was not useful since the output, a good successor, wasn’t there when it was needed. Your succession planning rollout should not be over after a few months, that rollout should include close monitoring for several years to check if it is working as intended.

This phenomenon of a relatively quick roll-out followed by years to master the new system and check it is working is very common. How long does it take from introducing a recognition program to ensuring it is deeply embedded in the culture? How will you know if the high-potential program has the right design until you have seen where those high-potentials ended up after a few years? HR is simply a domain where changes can take a long time to play out.

As such when HR plans to launch a new program, it should build in a substantial amount of follow-up after the initial launch into the plan. It needs to avoid any sense within HR or leadership that the program is “done” after the official launch. Goals, budget, and attention should be set aside for this follow-up. The fun part of HR is indeed launching new programs, but seasoned HR leaders have come to appreciate that to make any real difference you need to have a long-term planning horizon.


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