You promote or hire a talented executive and learn that the whole family shows up for the assignment.  Salary can be great, relocation expenses thorough, and the benefits package ideal.  Yet, none of these insure that a candidate will take, or be successful in, the promotion or relocation, because if the family system doesn't like the fit, trouble abounds.

David Kurton was excited by the recent conversation he and his boss had about new opportunities opening in Europe.  As David thought about the opportunity to work in a start-up operation in England, he had daydreams about long weekends he and his wife would enjoy in various European locations.  Though he was keenly aware that he already was working long days and some on the weekends, and he knew this new assignment would require more time and energy, he was optimistic that he would find balance.

As an identified star--demonstrating excellent performance and extraordinary potential--the company was eager to keep him in a learning mode.  Executives at several levels had been watching David and let it be known that he had great potential for senior leadership.  Here was his chance, and he was ready.

Knowing the energy around his performance, and understanding the importance of the opportunity put before him, David was completely stunned when his wife was not receptive to relocating.  They had two small children under the age of 4, had spent a great deal of time getting the babies settled in from the most recent move, and she was getting more involved in the local community and making contacts that seemed useful for her.  She pointed out that if the company thought so much of David's work, then they would understand the need to wait for another opportunity--one not so far from home, or one with an easier transition.  The tension this created was exacerbated by mutual feelings that they did not understand each other and that they were at odds with what was best for the family.

Smart organizations understand David's situation as a significant talent management dilemma.

Talent management practices focus on really big questions such as "Which of the current 24 year olds in the company could become CEO in 25 years?" and  "What is the alignment of our performance and potential bench strength with development experiences that insure that each assignment builds capability?"  Increasingly, an additional set of questions must be asked having to do with identifying and supporting the family as corporate and family needs change, as in David's case above.

McKinsey just released War for Talent II, a follow-up study on the landmark analysis presented in the 1990s.  No one who has been following the shifts in organizations is surprised to learn that the emerging talent void is more grave than anticipated.  The IBM HR Global Report clearly outlines that building and keeping talent is pressing heavily on the minds of thoughtful company leaders.

Salaries for talent management directors in global organizations are seeing steep increases.  Among the most noticeable trends is the need to provide support for the family, which may be among the most important characteristics of evolving talent management plans.

In the last five years, the growth in the appointment of a work-life balance staff in corporations is recognition of the importance of this topic. These programs typically include childcare and school support, elder care and aging parent support, family wellness programs, relocation services, and a variety of counseling and career planning services for everyone in the family.

Winning, keeping, and developing talent is mandatory for future business success.  A comprehensive approach that includes a myriad of support services for the family is essential.

Sidebar: Resources

Alliance for Work Life Progress

Couple-Teaming Workshop

Families and Work Institute

Bright Horizons