Last week part one of this series introduced relatively rare talent management approaches aimed at improving workforce productivity, strategic execution, and successful innovation. This week the attention turns to improving workforce development, the business case for talent management, and using popular key business approaches within talent management. Please add additional approaches you are aware of using the comments section below.
Tools to Improve Development and Retention
- Proactive internal placement (Intra-placement) – often external talent must be recruited partially due to weak proactive internal movement. Most transfer and promotion methodologies are poorly designed and fail because employees are afraid of internal retaliation if they try to move without being asked to, or they’re afraid of moving into a risky role where the chance of failure could derail their career. The best approach for improving internal movement is intra-placement. Assigning one or more recruiters to proactively identify individuals that would benefit from a move and better benefit the company in a new role is key to strategic staffing. (Booz Allen, Cisco Systems, CACI, and Microsoft)
- Offer short-term projects for development – in tight economic times, most firms find it difficult to provide enough development opportunities for their key people. A low-cost option that has proven to be effective is providing a “free time project” website. This website displays the available short-term projects and it gives employees a chance to “bid” on them. These part-time “job rotations” increase the amount of work that gets done but it also allows employees to take ownership of their career development, to grow and learn in new areas, as well as to increase their visibility. If the projects are exciting enough, employees will “find the time” in their busy schedule to work on them. (Google and Whirlpool)
- A blocking strategy to limit poaching – most retention efforts focus on offering new benefits that are designed to keep key employees. However, the best retention approaches add a proactive element that limits an external recruiter’s ability to poach your employees. By attempting to identify what methods and approaches external recruiters are using to court your people, you can proactively counter by adjusting your employer experience. Simply offering a small reward to employees who take notes about the recruiters, approaches, and arguments used by external recruiters is a great way to inform your efforts. (FirstMerit bank)
- Measure employee treatment — retention rates improve dramatically when managers deliver on the promises they have made to employees. It is not enough simply to promise effective communications, honest feedback, challenge, and growth; there must also be a mechanism for ensuring that these promises are being met. If you want to avoid formal processes and surveys, one of the most effective approaches for ensuring that a group of managers are delivering on their retention promises is to involve a senior leader. The senior leader simply agrees to randomly stop employees working in their business unit and ask if they are actually receiving (to their satisfaction) what has been promised them. The randomness of a senior manager asking any employee about how well they are being treated will by itself force individual managers to ask the same question on a regular basis to each of their employees. (Ameritech)
Improving the Business Case for Talent Management
- Convert talent management impacts into revenue impacts – most current talent management metrics fail to excite senior executives who tend to be laser focused on business factors such as market share, revenue, and profit. Talent management efforts are often underfunded because the business cases are filled with HR terms like turnover, engagement, time to fill, etc. The best solution is quantify the secondary and tertiary impacts of talent management actions; in other words, identify how the action will influence key business metrics. The visibility of talent management will improve among senior managers when they see the tremendous dollar impact talent management can demonstrate. For example, reporting that your turnover rate is 14% to senior management will not get the same reaction as reporting that each percentage point of turnover costs the firm $1 million in operating cost.
- Quantify “unintended consequences” to minimize talent-management budget cuts – the cost savings of cutting talent management programs are often understated, and as a result these programs are cut frequently. When evaluating programs you must calculate and report the costs of any tangential or unintended consequences of cutting a program. I call such consequences “other pocket” costs because most accounting approaches do not link the false savings of program cuts (one pocket) with the cost increases that unintentionally occur in other areas of the business (the other pocket). For example, reducing safety training in a refinery can initially reduce costs, but eventually the lack of training will result in increased errors, increased accident rates, and eventually higher insurance rates. In many cases once the “other pocket costs” are reported, the total costs to the business may actually surpass the initial savings by many times.
Adapting Effective Business Tools Into Talent Management
- Alerts and smoke detectors – many in talent management are too busy fighting small fires to develop long-range plans. An alternative to long-range planning is modeling reoccurring problems to identify any precursors or red flags that may indicate that a serious problem will soon occur. The early identification of upcoming problems may allow talent management to proactively alert managers before a problem gets out of hand. This alert process may give the manager sufficient time to avoid or minimize the projected damage.
- Prioritize jobs and individuals – it’s pretty common for business leaders to prioritize customers, vendors, and products and to treat the high-priority ones differently. In direct contrast, most in talent management try to treat everyone the same. A superior approach is to prioritize individuals, jobs, managers, and business units when it comes to offering talent management services. By focusing your resources on those individuals, jobs and business units with the highest business impact, you can focus your limited resources where they have the highest ROI.
- Use a SWAT team for crisis situations — talent managers are often faced with unexpected crisis in areas that may not have the staff to handle it. A good approach is to develop a talent management fast-response team (i.e. SWAT team) that is made up of individuals who can come together quickly to handle unexpected major problems and emergencies. These individuals should be selected based on their ability to handle a broad range of complex problems under pressure and severe time constraints.
- Conduct competitive analysis — no business function can successfully operate in a vacuum. It’s not sufficient in a competitive world to continually improve. You must seek out a competitive advantage and maintain a lead over your talent competitors, something you cannot do if you do not know what they’re doing. The first step is to conduct a program by program competitive analysis and develop a process that responds to the talent management actions of major competitors. For example, when the chief competitor begins a large-scale recruiting effort that will likely target your employees, you must respond by ramping up your retention and blocking efforts in order to thwart its recruiting effort.
- Applying the CRM model – customer relationship p management has proven to be an effective tool for increasing customer satisfaction and sales. Because much of what talent management does relies heavily on strong relationships with managers, employees, and candidates, a few firms have a ready adopted the CRM model for managing relationships internally.
- Parallel benchmarking – talent management managers already know the value of benchmarking best practices within their function and industry. However, few have yet to realize the value of expanding their benchmarking to include other industries and functions. In many cases, successful business processes and practices from other industries or functions can be directly adopted for use within talent management. For example, the supply chain model from the business side was adapted and developed into the talent pipeline approach that is currently used in many recruiting functions (Southwest Airlines)
- Applying LEAN principles – lean principles are designed to dramatically reduce costs, to help eliminate steps, and to foster continuous improvement, while simultaneously maintaining or improving customer value. Although it originated in the manufacturing and supply chain functions, other business units and functions have successfully adopted the LEAN methodology. Talent management should learn directly from these functions how LEAN can both increase value and help reduce costs, streamline processes, and increase efficiency within talent management. (Manpower)
- Building agile management practices – in a fast-changing world, agility and rapid learning may be the top success factors. Once again other business functions have taken the lead in developing a set of agility principles and practices that can be successfully adopted by professionals in talent management. This agile approach allows talent management programs and processes to rapidly shift as the economy, customer needs, and resources fluctuate.
- Implement social media internally – most firms have already discovered the value of social media when it comes to engaging and servicing customers, but few are realizing the benefits of application inside the organization. Employees can inadvertently reveal corporate data and even secrets when using public facing tools, so many CIOs try to restrict access and offer up internal social networks and micro blogging tools as alternatives. Why developing internal communities that actually survive and thrive is very difficult, some early adopters have proven that it is possible. (Google and Cisco)
- Risk Analysis – an increasingly important function throughout the business is risk analysis. Attempting to identify and quantify the risks (probability and costs) associated with potential problems is something few in talent management have tried despite the fact that workforce issues pose extremely high risk to both the operations and financial sustainability of the business. The best practice involves recruiting someone from the risk analysis group to conduct talent-management risk analysis, as they are more credible with managers. Talent management can then advise managers about the probability and the potential cost of people management risks they face. A secondary approach involves conducting a “failure analysis” after each major process error or failure. (Zappos)
Talent management professionals work hard, and as a result, they often cannot set aside time to identify new and emerging talent management practices. As the discipline becomes more global and technology driven the process of identifying new practices will become even more difficult. I hope that my observations save you some benchmarking time and have given you a few new ideas and insights into the next practices in talent management.