The Sky's the Limit

 -  10/2/10

Consistency in talent practices across a global organization is hard to get off the ground, but aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin saw its capability soar as a result.

Consistency in talent practices across a global organization is hard to get off the ground, but aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin saw its capability soar as a result.

Lockheed Martin leaders were hesitant to give up their high potentials or high performers because they were not sure of the players they were getting as replacements for those whom they were letting go on to new assignments in other businesses.

Implementing a high-potential talent management program across a workforce numbering in the hundreds of thousands makes consistency a real challenge. But U.S.-based aerospace, defense, security and advanced technology company Lockheed Martin, which employs some 140,000 people, saw this task as essential to having a robust talent pipeline, appropriately differentiating development of high-potential employees and ensuring it had adequate bench strength across the enterprise. Although Lockheed Martin already had talent planning processes in place, for the most part they were applied inconsistently. Its senior HR leaders recognized that it was vital that everyone speak the same language and follow a common process to ensure it had strong bench strength for future leadership positions; hence the task began.

The Mission
In 2008, this task was assigned to Lockheed Martin’s corporate talent management team. Specifically, they were to design a consistent high-potential talent management framework that included common language, process and application for use across the enterprise. Sitting at corporate headquarters probably made that group the least qualified to work on such a task, so its first step was to get the field talent planners engaged as part of the task team.

Talent planners are the HR professionals working with leaders in their respective businesses within Lockheed Martin to identify high-potential talent. They know what the current processes are in their businesses, and what their organization can take on as far as potential process changes, so it was vital to have them involved from the beginning. For three days, Lockheed Martin had 10 people in a conference room with one objective in mind: develop a common high-potential talent identification framework that was user-friendly, simple to implement and, at the same time, could meet what the corporation requires be completed for its annual talent planning cycle. To do this, the following questions were posed:

  • Based on the corporate talent planning requirements, what is each business unit currently doing?
  • What is working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
Answering these questions showed that the various businesses were identifying high-potential talent with many commonalities and many more differences. Most importantly, it enabled the team to come up with the items that would work the best for the enterprise.

Locked on Target

What resulted first was common terminology. For example, the process was named “high-potential talent identification” as opposed to a variety of names that were being used previously by different businesses within Lockheed Martin. Next, the group developed a three-part process for identifying high-potential talent:
1. Assess employees’ high-potential status by using an enterprisewide performance and potential matrix.
2. Identify employees’ ultimate potential, for which specific talent pools were designated. These are pools specific to the critical talent and leadership positions within Lockheed Martin, such as executive vice president, company president and program manager.
3. Identify individuals’ readiness levels for these specific positions. At Lockheed Martin, these readiness levels were predefined as ready now; ready in six months to two years; and ready in two to five years.


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