Talent Management needs HELP

As we, all know there were two different schools of thought in Talent Management. Exclusive & Inclusive, where the earlier focused on selected few employees as Hi-Potentials and the later considered all employees instead of selecting few. As stated by Turner & Kalman, “Talent management is now talent management for all.” Then there is yet another approach called as hybrid model suggested by Pilbeam & Corbridge, which considers combinations of the above two approaches.   

Primarily there were two significant contributors to the process of Talent Management namely ‘Talent Identification’ (Assessments) & ‘Talent Development’. In fact, Church & Waclawski consider the assessment of employees as "holy grail" of talent management, more so when it is done with a high degree of precision. However, developing talent is the main issue for most of the HR Professionals. 

Surveys carried out by HBR, PWC, Deloitte, & Gartner usually come up with a list of management concerns that includes topics i.e.: Leadership Development, Leadership Pipeline and developing bench strength. Hence, it has become imperative to have a robust process for ‘Talent Management’ in any organization. 

In the past few years, we have witnessed enormous developments in the field of technology that has resulted in shaping employee behavior at work. Every day we see reports, articles focusing on HR issues such as Analytics, AI, Big-Data, BYOD, Machine Learning, Millenials, Overwhelming employees, Social Media, VUCA, Wearables, etc. As effective HR professionals, we have to be agile in developing and implementing our HR strategies that are congruent with these developments in the external environment. 

Josh Bersin has recently published a report "Nine Trends Reinventing the HR Software Market." [pdf](referred as ‘Bersin Report’ in the following text) According to the report, all these changes in the external environment has led to 'a shift in Business Focus: changing the way we manage people.' He says that today companies are more worried about employee engagement, teamwork, innovation, and collaboration.

Josh Bersin says that "The real focus is on reinventing how people work; creating team-based tools for goal alignment and coaching; putting in place systems to provide feedback and measure engagement; and rethinking the way we measure performance, manage careers, and enable individual learning."

He further says that, at present, following four areas (shown in the image) need immediate attention by HR Professionals for improving the effectiveness of their talent management strategies. [HELP - ‘Health & Wellness’, ‘Employee Engagement’, ‘Learning & Development,’ and ‘Performance Management’]

1. Health & Wellness: 

The issue of employee Health and wellness has considered first because as they say 'health is wealth'. We keep on saying that employees are our most important asset; however, it is equally important what we are doing for maintenance of this asset. It is becoming essential for HR professionals to help employees to take care of themselves for being productive and healthy at work.

As per Deloitte report employees are feeling overworked and overwhelmed, hence, wellness and emotional fitness are now becoming issues of employee engagement and performance. “It is not cash that fuels the journey to the future, but the emotional and intellectual energy of every employee.” - Hammel & Prahlad. Bookshops are flooded with books on topics i.e. mindfulness, work-life balance, and employee wellness. 

Chade-Meng Tan (Author: Search Inside Yourself) has developed a unique program on 'mindfulness' for Google with guidance from Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Laszlo Bock has highlighted it in his book 'Work Rules'. 

Many companies offer facilities such as gym, yoga, time management, work-life balance, dietary support, exercise, and a variety of other wellness services. In fact, they are now becoming an essential part of employment branding initiatives for attracting millennials and driving employee engagement. Even the companies marketing wellness products such as wearables, fitness gears, & Softwares are positioning their products as performance improvement tools. Following are examples of vendors providing these tools: Ceridian-LifeWorks, Fitbit, and Limeaid.

Needless to say, that such initiatives lead to improved employee performance, engagement, morale and ultimately result in developing company culture and boost the performance of the entire organization.

2. Employee Engagement:

Another important area for immediate attention of HR professionals is 'Employee Engagement'. Gallup Survey shows that only 32% of U.S. employees engaged in 2015. Gallup's extensive research shows that “employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization's financial success, such as productivity, profitability, and customer engagement.” In-fact, 85% companies ranked engagement as a top priority in Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report.   

Employee engagement is important from the perspective of business success as well as for developing an appropriate culture within an organization. It is equally important for controlling attrition and retaining leaders we have developed over the years. According to TinyPulse "Companies with high engagement are 40% more productive, 78% more profitable, and 5X more likely to achieve high performance."

Normally companies use Engagement Surveys as a tool to monitor the level of engagement and then take appropriate decisions based on the facts. I have already covered the topic of 'employee surveys' in detail earlier. Edward Lawler originally suggested the concept of pulse surveys in his book "Talent" (2008) which is now gaining traction in 2016. Laszlo Bock also mentions the use of survey called “Googlegeist” (which means “the spirit of Google”) for more than fifty thousand employees at Google. As suggested by many management authors, HR professionals may need to consider 'bottom up' approach instead of 'top down' to effectively address engagement issue.

The marketing department was using this tool for decades and now HR department has started using it for real-time engagement evaluation of their employees. Most of the organizations are using once-a-year 'climate' surveys accompanied by pulse surveys and feedback tools. Bersin report suggests that pulse surveys and always-on feedback tools are becoming critical to business success since they create opportunities for business process improvement. It further says that there are more than 120 vendors offering pulse survey tools, employee mood monitoring systems, culture and engagement assessments, and other forms of anonymous or confidential feedback systems.

We can use pulse surveys quarterly, monthly, or weekly. In the case of a major organizational change event, we can use these tools to collect real-time feedback from employees. Employees can use almost any device for accessing the surveys, anytime anywhere according to their convenience. Following are examples of few vendors providing these tools:  CultureAmp, Glint, Hyphen, Kanjoya, OfficeVibe, and TinyPulse.

As an HR Professionals, we cannot afford to ignore the employee engagement issue and tools that are now available to us. We have to develop appropriate culture and implement suitable strategies to address the employee engagement issue for improving the effectiveness of our talent management initiatives.

3. Learning & Development:

HR professionals rely heavily on Learning & Development to nurture & develop their talent pipeline. Bersin report states that arrival of new technology has significantly affected the way learning content consumed by employees to stay updated in the ever-evolving environment. Hence, it needs immediate attention from HR professionals for delivering agile learning tools for improving the effectiveness of our L&D strategies.

Many successful companies consider learning & development initiatives as a key investment that directly results in strategic success. In fact, a number of companies that think about learning & development as a "very high" priority, tripled in a year according to Deloitte University study.

There have been tremendous developments in the field of learning, from e-learning to blended learning, social learning, mobile learning, 70-20-10 learning, video-based learning, microlearning, embedded-learning, spaced learning etc.

There are many online learning platforms available such as Coursera, CrossKnowledge, EdX, iversity, Lynda, NovoEd, Skillsoft, Udacity, Udemy, and even Youtube. There is ample amount of content available these days; however, the real issue is how to consolidate, measure, curate and build a great integrated experience for our employees. Following are the examples of content aggregation and curation platforms: Degreed, EdCast, & Pathgather. These platforms simplify and help users to easily find, recommend, and arrange content in one place.

Bersin report says, "Today people learn in a more dynamic and self-directed way than ever before... People don’t have time and patience to sit in a class the way they did a few years ago." Now the intelligent learning systems can customize according to user needs, even recommend, and push learning content at the right time. It can also aggregate and curate small learning pieces together in a cohesive whole and help companies to author microlearning so it can be provided (spaced out) ‘on demand’.

Towards Maturity benchmarking research, underscore that 70% L&D Teams did not proactively understand how employees and their organizations learn. The importance of (UX) user experience has increased over the years because of its ease of use and compelling experience to the user. Successful L&D teams very well understand this fact and capitalize on it; however, others keep on focusing on the checklist of features based on their own priority (not the user). 

People prefer highly condensed learning content and microlearning for quickly closing skill and knowledge gaps. Using design thinking, we can embed these solutions into business processes. Employees can access the content on almost any device, anywhere and at any time according to their convenience. Using these tools employees can quickly find what they need, get a checklist or tool, and then go back to work. Examples: Axonify, Grovo, and Knolskape.

Smart organizations give freedom to employees to decide on their own development and career path. Employees can now choose their mode of learning. When given such an option we can improve their engagement and participation. We can easily keep track of their progress and feedback. As per Aberdeen, 'Best-in-class' companies are 76% more likely to adopt this approach for enhancing their L&D initiatives. Human interaction is still essential for learning and Bersin report agrees with the importance of interpersonal communication.

4. Performance Management:

From the talent management perspective, it is one of the most important tools for selecting employees for developing leadership pipeline. Laszlo Bock says, “Employees hate it. Managers hate it. Even HR departments hate it.” As per Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends, more than two-thirds of companies are redesigning their performance management practices. The Willis Towers Watson report (2016) state that 70% of companies had already or intends to make changes to performance management.

Recently many companies have revamped their traditional performance management (rank & yank) system for example GE, IBM, Adobe, Microsoft, etc. Hence, it is on the priority list of HR professionals to rethink about their performance management tools for improving their talent management efforts.

Edward Lawler (Talent) and Laszlo Bock (Work Rules) suggest that the performance management process must separate the 'rewards' and 'development' discussions. At Google, the Committee is responsible for performance appraisal and compensation instead of the line manager. Lazlo Bock also advocates for collecting peer feedback for enhancing the effectiveness of this process. There is another process initially implemented at Intel called ‘OKR' (objectives and key results) nowadays used at many tech companies.

Bersin Report says that performance improves when companies empower people; let them set their own goals. "In short, organizational performance typically improves when employees are paid well, given coaching and development, and are motivated to innovate."

Following are the features available in the new tools as per Bersin Report:

- They focus on frequent coaching & development,
- They have an agile approach.
- They were built around simple and periodic check-ins.
- They help in developing shared goals from bottom up and are more transparent.
- They have a simple tracking mechanism to measure progress.
- They foster regular development discussion and feedback.
- Instead of relying only on hierarchy, they manage performance by teams.
- Easy to create and manage teams and allow people to be part of multiple teams.
- We can easily make a development plan for each employee.
- Peer feedback can be easily included in the process.
- They have personality assessment tools and leadership tips.
- They are simple, easy to use like any mobile app.
- They can be integrated with other HR tools and have employee directories.
- They make performance management everyday work instead of year-end process.
- They provide more detail data than ever before that help in decision-making.
- They help in open and data-driven decision-making.
- They enhance the process by using data for crucial compensation decisions.

Following are the examples of vendors providing these tools:  BetterWorks, HighGround, Impraise, O.C. Tanner, and Reflektive.

“But the new perspective is unlikely to be a flash in the pan because; it is being driven by business needs, not imposed by HR.” - Cappelli and Tavis (HBR October-2016). They further say that it helps managers do a better job of coaching and allows subordinates to process and apply the advice more effectively.

Three business reasons suggested by Cappelli & Tavis to revamp appraisals:

- The return of people development – (To upgrade their talent management efforts)
- The need for agility – (To address developments in the external environment)
- The centrality of teamwork – (It is easy to foster teamwork)

Benefits of new tools:

- Adobe says that - regular conversations between managers and their employees are now occurring without HR’s prompting.
- Adobe also reports that its new system has reduced dismissals because struggling employees are monitored and coached much more closely.
- Deloitte found that frequent, informal check-ins have led to discussions that are more meaningful, deeper insights, and greater employee satisfaction.
- IBM says that supervisors can easily review all the discussion text when it is time to take actions such as award merit pay or consider promotions and job reassignments.


- We have to decide which tools are more suitable for our organization and then use them for delivering result and achieve our strategic objectives.
- Again copying 'best practices' successful in other organization may not be a wise option. We have to analyze pros & cons of each tool.
- It sounds cliché, however, important to mention to secure buy-in from Line Managers & support from Top management by involving them in the process.
- Communication is the key as stated by Tom Peters, “Communication is everyone's panacea for everything."
- We have to develop a solution that is congruent with communication culture, processes, beliefs, values, and norms prevailing within our organization.

“If the main purpose of HR-business strategy is to create a competitive advantage through people it implies that you have to change the way you manage those people.” - Paul Kerns

Please provide your valuable insights and suggestions in the comments. 


Unknown said…
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paul said…
thanks for sharing such info hope you share more in future

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