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a strategic business partner of Profiles International

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Strata Performance Solutions

Helping companies find their Full Potential.

July 14th, 2011 by Robert Ringstrom

That’s a horse of a different color. The first time I heard that expression was as a young boy watching The Wizard of Oz. If you recall (and I have to believe that everyone has seen the movie) when Dorothy and her trio of friends were trying to get past the palace guard to see the Wizard, the guard declined until he learned that she was Dorothy; the one that had the kingdom in an uproar. Then he exclaimed, “Now THAT’s a horse of a different color!” and decided to let them in to see the wizard. He promptly swung the gates open and had them board a carriage being drawn by pink and blue horses!

Of course the innuendo is fun, but the inference of the guard who now understands better is important here. Ultimately given relevant information, the guard realizes perfectly well what needs to be done. And isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for when we trying to find our own direction? We don’t want to fail, yet sometimes decisions are hard to come by. Without critical information, we can swing in the breeze of indecisiveness until we stumble into success or fail in our ignorance. Just like the palace guard, we may choose the familiar yet unrewarding path that we feel ‘at least won’t make things worse’.

We don’t have to operate in such a blind fashion. Successful leaders plan with their workforce in mind. Their plan includes the use of well-chosen tools which allow them to focus on their goals and guide them down the path to achievement. Our team of experts follows a process which perhaps may help your organization identify flaws in your own plan:

1. Identify where you want your organization to go. When Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin man and Cowardly Lion set out to see the wizard; they had a strategy. When they happened to stray from it, they ran into witches and flying monkeys which ultimately scared them back on track to their ultimate goals. They could have avoided much of their trauma if they’d stuck to their intentions. Your plan should include knowing precisely what behavior leads to success, the roads that will get you there and how to pace your efforts. Your strategy should be a meaningful plan without distractions.

2. Understand your labor market. What does your potential labor force look like? You must keep a finger on the pulse of the economy, demographic trends, changes in regulations, and where—and why—are employee demographics in flux. You will need to know this to help you understand what it will take to fill your ranks and what your labor costs will be.

3. Look to future talent demands. Some positions may be relevant for a limited period of time and they will be phased out. Others you might expect to be part of your strategy for years to come. What can you expect will be the most difficult positions to fill? Or what will be your most important roles to fill in a given timeline? What employee groups will be most critical to your organization?

4. Assess your current staff. To plan well, it will be critical to know who fits into their position well and who may be better equipped in a different capacity. Not every great worker is necessarily a good manager; nor does a good manager always represent the best worker on the production line. Knowing who fits best and where; will help you plan. Focus on ability; not on personal relationships. Job placement decisions can be strengthened by addressing these simple criteria: How well does the person fit the job? Does the employee have the skills to perform? How long does talent stay at your company?

5. Identify your talent gaps; plan how to close them. With the information gathered with the assessments of your staff, Jim Sirbasku coaches the application of the (4) B’s: build your talent; bounce those who don’t fit into new jobs; buy new talent by recruiting it; and borrow labor on a temporary or contract basis. You don’t have to use all four tactics. Employing only some of them might be all that’s necessary.

6. Implement your strategy. Don’t forget step 2. Stick to your plan. You must have top-level support. Executives will need to focus on priorities in order to build momentum instead of trying to achieve everything at once. And you will have to track what happens by the numbers. This means that your decisions will be based on facts rather than gut feelings.

Know what color horses are needed to pull that carriage.

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