Oct 252011

Talent Management: Reduce, Reuse, Restructure

Talent Management: Christopher Moore and Ronald J. Kantor –  12/11/10, Via Talent Management – talentmgmt.com

Talent Management: Executing the tactics of evaluation, measurement and reporting produces the business intelligence talent managers need to generate strategy, predict success and reshape their processes.

The concept of organizational talent has changed the HR landscape. We’ve entered an era when a company’s leadership, from the C-suite to the front lines, must be able to make talent decisions about staffing, promotion and retention — critical decisions requiring ready access to objective business intelligence. With a growing focus on talent, enterprises are separating tactical HR roles from strategic human capital functions.
Extreme Focus
It’s a logical separation, taking routine but important transaction-based processes such as compensation and benefits and outsourcing them to transform traditional HR into a high-performing team that uses a variety of data to make rational, fact-based decisions. Talent leaders must now have a laser-like focus on core processes such as pre-evaluation, annual reviews and identifying high potentials as well as low performers who need to be repositioned or counseled out.
When one overlays these talent management processes and the strategies needed to execute them onto the traditional HR configuration, there’s just too much to do and too few resources with which to do it, making the separation of the transactional tactics necessary. Their removal provides room for clarity on talent strategies and, more importantly, opens a window of opportunity to gain performance insight into the talent we seek to manage.
The HR strategy is not the talent strategy. An HR strategy focuses on an organization’s overall need to procure the best talent at the most reasonable cost and develop it to advance and embrace a company’s core values and critical competencies. A talent strategy focuses on how a company can meet its strategic business objectives by getting the most out of the talent it has to work with and how it will identify gaps in its organizational structure and capabilities where additional talent must be developed, contracted or hired.
In poor economic times, a talent strategy could not be more critical, as employee productivity is strained and resource loads are limited as a result of downsizing and a hesitancy to hire new full-time employees. The ability to make good tactical decisions about talent is also important, and the basis for those decisions needs to be centered on recognizing needs, clearly defining them and then filling competency gaps as quickly as possible to avoid operational breakdowns due to stretched resources.

The talent management process requires managers to quickly gather data from disparate sources and bring reports to planning meetings, where they facilitate discussions with front-line managers and executives to rate and determine the fate of resources under their jurisdictions. These meetings rely on two processes: data aggregation based on individual performance and objective analysis of talent using nine-box grids or something similar.

This data collection process should rely on scientific methods and deliver empirical data, but it often does not. The timeliness of the data is sometimes questionable, and benchmarking across like resources from other company departments is usually nonexistent. The strategy to remedy this requires business intelligence derived from new tactics using well-conceived indices and technologies that rapidly aggregate and compare information in more flexible and meaningful ways.

Strategy Turns to Tactics
To attain an indices-based view of the talent pool, someone has to extract data from various sources — often housed in silos and scattered across the enterprise — and then transform the data via analysis and aggregation into something logical and consistent. In the absence of a strong relationship with the IT department and prioritized resources for talent reporting, this someone is likely to be the talent manager or a member of that individual’s team.

In the past, typical results from this exercise have been reams of paper stuffed into file folders that get used at talent planning sessions. At best, this produces a snapshot of one’s contribution, but it doesn’t provide the capability to query the information or review it from different perspectives. The entire effort is time consuming, inefficient and problematic. If the end goal is trend and predictive analytics that help identify problems and potential development opportunities, there must be a better way. And it must be as easy as possible so a non-IT resource can do it.

Who, other than a statistician, wants to mean-test employees in comparison to one another and perform multivariate analyses? It is as complicated as it sounds. Nevertheless, good analyses enable management to base talent development less on subjective sources of data, such as word of mouth, qualitative feedback, and colleagues, and more on empirical data sources.

Finding data sources to process is sometimes as difficult as analyzing them, but it’s a tactical necessity and imperative to produce an integrated view. The data sources talent leaders need typically fall into four categories: people, learning, corporate citizenship and business.

People:This relates to demographics, education, experience, personal preferences, character, salary history, performance ratings and 360-degree and upward feedback.

Learning: This relates to pre-evaluation composed of aptitude — potential — and achievement — demonstrated competence and accomplishments; coursework; test results; developmental programs completed or in progress; skill and systems training knowledge; management training programs completed or in progress; and action learning plans and projects.

Corporate citizenship:This relates to participation in social media efforts; creation of knowledge capital; volume, or how much is produced or commented upon; take up, or how much others use a knowledge contribution; ratings such as value, relevance and usefulness; business impact; blog entries and comments; mentoring and coaching; leadership activities and even outside charitable activities.

Business: This relates to results for performance goals; monthly, if not weekly, tracking of business outcomes such as cash volume, transaction volume, reduction in defects, increase in leads, increase in closes and increase in quality ratings; aggregate performance for direct reports; performance ratings; and business performance based on outcomes. Along with these is the overriding question: Did he or she meet or exceed expected performance numbers for the week, month, quarter or year?

Establishing a Support System
With data sources identified and accessible, talent managers are one step closer to an indices-based talent measurement decision support system. Then it’s easier to see common threads that run through the sources binding the data into meaningful information, and it’s easier to make decisions.

Most organizations have a plethora of reporting tools that allow talent leaders to pull data from various sources and build parameter-driven reports. By linking these tools to sources and integrating them around strategic objectives focused on individual or team performance, talent managers can build personal or departmental reports that act as talent review dashboards.

Reports can be set up to provide a high-level numeric rating, but also can be structured to facilitate the ability of talent managers, and those who make decisions about promotion, fast-tracking, and counseling out or up, to drill into data when they have questions and want a better sense of the facts and a basis for results and ratings. The goal is to be more objective and less prone to political or personal influences when making critical or urgent talent management decisions.

Having this goal makes the use of strategic talent indices such as individual performance, discipline, leadership potential, teamwork and mobility critical. The creation of indices pulls and aggregates data from sources of people, learning, corporate citizenship and business data and weights them according to strategic importance.

The Mechanics
Weighting composite elements allows managers to give more credence to sources like business data, rather than factors drawn from people data such as peer feedback or demonstrations of corporate citizenship. Defining indices is not easy work, but it provides the basis for conceptualizing and implementing a well-conceived talent strategy that is far more reliable than the typical talent management discussion.

Performance data is derived from the systems we use every day on the job. Rolling up the tactical elements into strategic indicators allows for a more empirical ranking as well as a fact-based comparison of resources when key talent decisions need to be made.

Indices capture the complex nature of an organization’s strategy, its goals and objectives, and how well it meets them across time. The underlying factors within the index reflect the subtle differences across different projects, programs and organizational priorities in a way that more accurately represents how individuals, teams and organizational segments perform. Because indices are aggregate numeric ratings based on composite elements, their use is not limited to the individual resource level. Rather, indices provide a snapshot of a company’s most important strategic initiatives and provide barometers of success as they continue to roll up from individuals across departments, divisions and at the enterprise level.

The roll up of strategic indicators to even higher-level corporate health indicators, and the drill down of the same into performance data, speaks to leadership at various hierarchical levels within a company. The C-suite gets a high-level summary. The heads of different units can see how their own organization is performing and benchmark that with other units of similar size and scope. Front-line managers can see how their efforts fit in with the rest of their company’s critical initiatives, too. The beauty of an index-driven analytical strategy as the basis for talent management decision making is that it scales up or down. Given the right level of access, leadership can drill down into findings that typically would be unavailable, or even worse, obscured behind a table in a high-level presentation slide deck or spreadsheet.

The types of insight an indices-based view of performance offers executives helps them determine if their strategies are working. Executing the tactics of evaluation, measurement and reporting produces the business intelligence talent managers need to predict the success of any given resource. What gets measured will help to provide the information needed to continuously improve operations, achieving efficiencies and effective processes that are more critical than ever in today’s economic environment.




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talent management, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC