I was presenting on a panel recently and a tossed out what I thought was a throwaway line. “There’s no such thing as best practices, only practices that are best for you.” Not a deeply original thought, but apparently it resonated with the audience. It was basically the only thing I said the entire time that was mentioned in the Twitter stream. You never know which lines are going to strike a chord.
It’s an important concept, though, and I think the reason it resonated is that organizations are tired of trying to be someone else. And despite great intentions and the emulation of best practices, many organizations also struggle to link the characteristics they believe are “right” – skills around leadership and communication – to real business results. But by gathering the right data, and harnessing the power of technology to analyze that data and turn it into actual information, organizations can make great strides in understanding what “best” really looks like for them in their organization. These are the type of questions, along with many others, that I’ll be exploring in my webinar, Three Steps to Hard Dollar ROI from Talent Management, this coming Tuesday, October 21.
Best practices often look very tempting from the outside. Amazon can pay people to leave because it’s Amazon. Richard Branson can give unlimited vacation time because, well, he’s Richard Branson. For these companies and these leaders, these may indeed be best practices, and get them the return on investment they are looking for. But that doesn’t mean they will necessarily work for you. In some circumstances, “best” isn’t enough to achieve results. As our mothers told us, just because all the other kids are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
This is particularly important to keep in mind when it comes to “soft skills” and changing cultural norms and expectations. I’ve been a fan of assessments for a long time, having done research on them for nearly a decade. I think it’s a good thing that organizations are using them to quantify and uncover these skills and capabilities.
It’s important to remember that, in order to truly get the full value, assessments must be validated to ensure that they accurately measure what they claim to measure, and that you understand what that means for your business. As I’m fond of saying, it only matters that someone is a purple triangle if we know that purple triangles bring in more revenue. You have to know what “best” looks like for your organization, and map that back to all of your talent management processes.
Being the best is hard work, and it rarely comes from copying someone else. We all stand on the accomplishments of others when it comes to learning, and it’s important to look at what’s working for other people. But that won’t save you the hard work of really understanding what’s driving your business forward or optimizing your talent processes.