Saturday 21 June 2014

Reflections on Talent

On Thursday I attended the IBM Smarter Workforce Conference where I had been invited to sit on a Discussion Panel to consider "How to attract and retain out future talent".  My fellow panel members were Rachel Ashby (Global Head of Recruitment at EC Harris) and Karen Ward (Programme Director at the Corporate Research Forum).  The session was chaired by Clodagh O'Reilly (Talent Consulting Leader, Europe, IBM, Smarter Workforce).

We managed to cover a heck of a lot in 45 minutes and some thought provoking questions were posed by Clodagh and the audience.

Here are my initial reflections from our discussion.

Take time to engage in Horizon Scanning.  In BIS I developed and delivered Horizon Scanning Workshops for our Deputy Directors and key Professions.

The process allows organisations to consider;
  • what they are currently good at, 
  • the current and future changes in the world of work and the requirements of their customers, 
  • a consideration of what the organisation will look like in 10 (or more) years time,
  • what the organisation needs to do now to prepare for the future challenges (Skills, structure, procedures etc.).
It's a really useful starting point.  I often find that, as organisations strive to deliver more with less, that their focus is on the short and medium term requirements.  It's essential to look to the future to develop, retain and recruit talent.

Get a real understanding of the leadership view of talent within the organisation.  Sometime leaders consider that the most talented individuals are those who display the qualities and behaviours that they value most in themselves.  This will not create a balanced leadership team or talent pipeline.  The leaders need to consider whether there are skills and behaviours present in the organisation which are essential for the future but undervalued.  Horizon Scanning can really help here.

What groups or people within the organisation can you learn from.  Take some time to observe and find out what's going on.  For example, in BIS, we recruited a number of graduate interns.  Without prompting, the found each other in the organisation and came together as a group to share insights about their jobs.  They approached HR with the offer to revise and reinvigorate the Induction Pack from their experience and perspective. This type of behaviour was both encouraging and refreshing.  This group were immediately engaged and curious to find out more about the organisation and how they could contribute ideas and improve the workplace.  It's important to recognise that they were on short contracts of 6 or 12 months which did not dampen their enthusiasm or commitment.  Stories like this need to be shared to demonstrate the value of this type of behaviour.

When identifying a sub group of people who are to be placed on a high potential programme - be honest.  Don't ask them to keep their membership secret - your workforce aren't daft. People will work out what is happening and it will impact on how they feel about their worth in the organisation.  They could feel ignored, undervalued and disenchanted.  This leads on to one of my bug bears that I have experienced in organisations. 

As Yazz once said "The only way is up".  In an organsational context I fundamentally disagree.  Within a hierarchy there is often an assumption that people must continue to strive to progress to the next level.  This is unrealistic - the number of roles at senior levels are fewer as the pyramid reaches its peak.  People need to have honest, adult to adult conversations about their expectations of their career and not struggle on to progress without taking time to reflect on their personal aspirations, talents and strengths.  People also need to share stories about the value of a stimulating and varied career at a particular level in the hierarchy.  The idea that someone could request 'a broad and challenging career at Level X in the hierarchy' with gusto and commitment needs to be embedded and appreciated.  This can be achieved through demonstrating value through the provision of opportunities to gather new skills and experience different environments (e.g. through managed secondments).

From Descriptive to Predictive Analytics - HR need to be bolder to consider how they use and extend their information and data.  HR generally has a great deal of descriptive information which can be used effectively to understand the current position and consider future requirements based upon models of turnover and demographics.  Imagine a world where data from across the organsation (surveys, finance and customer feedback) could be combined and analysed to make accurate predictions about the workforce and discover the key drivers of performance and behaviours.  Read this article for more information.

It truly is an exciting time to be working in HR and Business Psychology. I'll blog further on these themes in due course.



PS The photo shows Clive Woodward giving the keynote address from the event.  If I find a photo of me on the panel I'll add it to the blog.


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