Ideal Outcomes

Senior Leaders As New World Talent Miners

For an organization to reach its potential, it must have the right people — talent is a key competitive differentiator. Executive involvement is essential in the creation of effective strategies and practices to recruit, onboard, develop and retain talent.

Here are some key actions executives can take to move their organizations in the right direction and monitor progress:

1. Ensure talent can deliver value for shareholders.

Talent is expensive. According to Paycor, labor costs can account for as much as 70% of total business costs. All the more reason for executives to embrace the concept of talent as an asset to grow and develop rather than a cost to be controlled. Expand your perspective on talent development — successful companies recognize that talent creation is a daily responsibility.

As an example, French automaker Renault rethought its talent development with the launch of a multibillion-dollar digital transformation strategy. The CIO and executive vice president of human resources partnered closely to ensure an integrated culture shift across the organization that placed “digital” front and center in employees’ minds and daily routines.

They focused on building employee digital skills, including agile methodology, and emphasized that managers had to learn how to be more collaborative. The company repositioned employee branding with a new motto, “Move the world forward,” and a thoughtful renewal of their core values to align with a digital culture. Finally, they defined ways to move from a traditionally structured organization where people focused on individual performance to one where they focused on collective performance.

Organizations that want their talent development initiatives to have a lasting impact can learn a great deal from Renault’s integrated strategic approach. It can be rare for IT and human resources to partner, but what better way is there to take advantage of technology than by aligning it with an overall culture and human capital strategy?

2. Monitor talent risk and increase management accountability.

Talent reviews are vital to effectively monitor talent risk and ensure management accountability. You can equate the concept of succession planning with building a high-performing football team. If the team only builds backup plans for the quarterback, they will be ill equipped to respond to injuries or other unexpected causes of talent gaps. Consider what your organization needs to do to win. What happens if a key player is out? See talent gaps for what they are: risks to organizational success.

This means having a different perspective on succession planning. It is not enough to identify readiness for the C-suite. There needs to be a succession plan for additional levels, at least down to the manager level. In flatter organizations, this may mean a succession plan for team leads. Also, consider succession planning for mission-critical roles — these will vary depending on your organization, but some examples include software engineers, customer service leads or account executives.

In addition, make sure your organization is evaluating and developing skill and competency-based strategies. What are the skills not only required today but also to meet long-term strategies? Such skills are typically needed cross-functionally — innovation, agility, analytics, collaboration and technology are examples. Know where your gaps are and the plans to close them.

Solid succession planning and talent reviews are not enough. When employees with potential are identified, the next step is to create plans to develop them. This is where manager accountability comes into play. Make sure your managers are talent leaders who develop their employees and prepare them for new opportunities. Such managers are worth their weight in gold and should be recognized and rewarded for creating return on your talent assets.

3. Rethink compensation.

A crucial role of executives is to guide the organization toward long-term, more strategic thinking. Unfortunately, pay does not often align with such desired behavior. Look for ways to balance between short- and long-term incentives. Incentives drive ownership thinking and commitment, and they should be tied to business goals to build teamwork and collaboration. Also, examine your organization’s approach to recognition and other intangible rewards and make sure they align with company values and strategies.

The competition cannot replicate your culture or the experience employees have when building their careers. Talent is an asset that requires regular executive involvement.

Questions Executives Should Ask:

  • How does our talent strategy support our values, business objectives and capital investments?
  • How does our talent strategy support key business initiative success (e.g., a new ERP, implementing lean or agile strategies, process improvements)?
  • What development was provided to key talent last year? How was this tracked and measured?
  • Are there talent committees that should have an executive champion?
  • How are shifts in market and labor demographics impacting our talent and, therefore, our ability to execute on strategy? What are our greatest risks?
  • What is our external hire versus internal promotion ratio? What is the success rate for each?
  • How do we measure the effectiveness of our onboarding processes?
  • How is our social media strategy integrated with our talent acquisition strategy?
  • How do we measure engagement in our organization? What trends are we seeing in our employee engagement? Who is accountable for improving engagement?
  • What is our undesirable turnover, including top performers, high potentials and critical or hard-to-fill roles?
  • What is our turnover in our diverse employee populations?

When the C-suite takes an active role in finding, recruiting, developing and retaining the best talent, employees are inspired and motivated to achieve and sustain peak performance.

Communicate often.

The uncertainty of being left in the dark breeds speculation and fear. Leaders need to deliver frequent updates openly and honestly. Employees need to buy into changing developments, and the only way to get them to do it is by letting them know what’s going on. Communication also should be a two-way street, with leaders giving employees who may be experiencing “reentry anxiety” ample opportunity to express their personal difficulties in the back-to-the-office environment. 

The return to the workplace is not one big happy party. Of course, colleagues will be delighted to get together in-person and engage in real — not virtual — water cooler chatter. But it’s not the way that it was and probably never will be. Leaders need to fully understand the complexities of the transition and take proactive steps to make it as smooth as possible.