What is my future !

A classic case of how an assessment of three days at Alright

Corporation's development center confused Thomas Issac as the

company had called him a consistent performer, but, assessment

scores showed that he was after all not the best of best, despite

being given promotions and increments, which further demoralized

him and lead him to question about his future at Alright!

Acknowledgement : Human Capital

Contemporary Case Studies and Articles in Human Resource Management

Thomas Isaac has just come out of a development center programme at Alright Corporation. Aimed at building future leaders in the organization, "Aegis" has been conceptualized as a comprehensive process for leadership development. An integral part of Aegis is a development center process that does an assessment of an individual's competence vis-à-vis relevant job/position competencies followed by a series of development initiatives to prepare the person for next level of job.

It all happened for Thomas three months back. He was very happy after the meeting with President HR of Alright Corporation. He has been invited specially along with 10 other employees who had completed 5 years in the organization. Thomas had little clue about what the President had to say. He was all praise for Thomas and mentioned that he is a consistent High Performer in the organization and will take special efforts for his growth. President also mentioned that he will be invited to join the Aegis programme soon.

Thomas joined Alright Corporation five years back as a management trainee from a premier institute of management. He had consistent academic performance and was in the top 15 percentile at the highly competitive management school. Thomas continued with his excellence at Alright in the past five years was always in the top 10 percentile of performers. Gettinga consistent 5 (highest rating) for the past five years.

He also had an impeccable career growth with Alright as well. On confirmation after the management trainee programme he was made an Assistant Manager. In the next year itself he got promoted as a Manager. This was a rare event as the minimum growth period from Assistant Manager to Manager was 2 years. Thomas also increased his salary by almost 60 % in the two years. Although for a talent like him, market was ready to pay much more, he choose not to move from

Alright as he was liking the job he was doing and the organization was taking care of him as well. In the job market there are a lot of opportunities for a sales manager with impeccable background and performance. However, certain aspects of support from Alright were great for Thomas's career. When he joined, he was assigned to a senior mentor, Simon who headed Sales for Europe. Simon was available for him to bounce off ideas and even hand hold him in tough situations. There were also rumors that it was this mentor who helped him get a quick promotion. Rumors apart, the mentor carried considerable respect in the organization and even Thomas's immediate managers respected him a lot. To his luck the managers whom Thomas reported were also non nonsense individuals who valued his dedication to work and performance. He was also recommended by them to some of the best training programmes that Alright could offer. He was awarded the best management trainee and also on becoming a Manager was given a team of three new assistant managers to manage his territory. The new managers under Thomas were also from similar background also valued him. Although Thomas was temperamental with them, there were also occasions where they complained to managers of Thomas about very high expectations he set for them and his micromanaging work style. However, many of it was ignored and things all worked fine with the results showing his territory was one of the best and his team got the best of performance bonus. He repeated the same success next year as well though two of his team members moved to another territory stating personal reasons. He did not feel the pinch as there were many in the new batch of assistant managers who were keen to work with Thomas. With the fifth year coming, Thomas already had another territory manager working under him. Considering Thomas's performance, the organization was already considering to promote him as a senior manager. The placement of a new territory manager under him was part of a planned move to transition his responsibilities and moves him up the ladder as a regional manager. This was a great move as Thomas already started smelling his promotion as a senior manager. At Alright, it was mandatory that people who are getting fast tracked will be part of Aegis leadership development programme. The objective was to support develop competencies for managing leadership positions and also develop a strong team that can take up future leadership roles.

 The leadership development model consisted of the following processes.

Thomas was not much aware of what a development center process is when he got an email invitation from the Group Headquarters. From some sources he got to know that it has something to do with group discussion and case study assessments which he had

done very well in his management institute. He also saw it as a nice opportunity to travel to Singapore as the event was scheduled to happen there. He also tried to talk to Simon; however he was on a business tour and was not available.

When the development center happened, Thomas was surprised to see that many of the people who were along with him in a batch of 8 people where from very different background. Four were from operations, Two from Finance, One from consulting, and only another one person from Sales. The people who were from operations and finance were almost 10 years older to him as well. The development center was well structured with individual presentations, group discussions, and an in-try exercise. He felt he was the

most confident of all and almost dominated in most of the discussions. Some case studies he even felt were trivial and not up to his knowledge level. There were a group of senior executives from the company who were assessors in the development centers. They

observed him carefully and even were asking questions in individual exercises. The group was informed that the competency model had nine competencies and an individual who is supposed to be a high potential according to the model should exhibit benchmark level

in atleast 5 out of 9 competencies.

After all the assessment, Thomas was called for discussing the development center results and action planning for improvement. He was surprised to know that out of 9 competencies he was at benchmark level on four and in five of them he is just below benchmark.This also makes him not a hi-flier as per the framework. He falls under the category of high performer but medium potential. The assessor who was giving him feedback gave lengthy reasons on why he has got particular scores. Thomas did well in communication, analytical skills, persuasion, and decision making. However, many softer aspects like coordination, leading

and motivating, supportiveness, innovation, and organizing he was on the border line. The assessor mentioned about how he did not support other in the group discussions, was fixed in his thinking, and even did not have patience to come to logical conclusion in

certain negotiations because of poor leadership. The evidence shown was also pointing to same as well. He tried to explain his point on why he was doing things in certain way because his way was the right way compared to others in the team, the cases which were

given were simple and he thought it was not worth too much of assessment, and sometimes felt that unless he took enough time during discussions, the point he was trying to reach might not be concluded etc. However, there were no room to change the results and he has

to take it as it was arrived through a "scientific" process. After the discussions although no announced he could see that two among the eight were given an opportunity to meet the CEO and also he heard rumors that they were informed that they will get a chance for

a one level job promotion and also training in one of the elite leadership programme of Harvard Business School. Dejection started growing in Thomas's mind.

He never felt average in Alright till now. However, he could not fathom the thought that from this point he is not the best of the best. He might not get the opportunities he always cared for his career growth. This report will also go to his SBU head and HR. How will he be able to face them? All the five years of consistent record is getting questioned here. Will he be just another employee in Alright? No longer the star performer whom everybody looked upto? Development center report will be discussed and even his team might get to know about this. How will he face them? Thomas was advised to take a 360 degree feedback

on certain competencies and also have a coach who is exceptional in team management. He was also advised to talk to his HR for getting nominated for a programme in building team skills. He also wanted to prove his competence to assessors given another chance. However, they said it might happen after a few years for him when he might be assessed for General

Managerial competencies.

Thomas was thinking – "I always dictated terms here. This is going to be really bad. May be I do not have a future here now. How can three days decide my career? Am I not the best in sales?"