Reimagine Your Talent Management Strategy – Agile HR in the Global Talent Era

March 14, 2013 Michael George

In our last HCM post, we talked about what it will take to reimagine HR to create a “talent organization,” built to engage and inspire the workforce in meaningful ways each and every day, across the employee lifecycle. Before we jump into the employee lifecycle, we first need to address a familiar topic: talent management strategy.

Today, the business landscape is changing faster than ever and with it, new demands are being placed on HR to respond with greater agility to drive new levels of organizational performance.  HR and IT leaders are being challenged to deploy technology solutions to ensure the workforce is able to quickly react to shifting priorities, while creating a collaborative, engaging employee experience.

However, to deploy HCM solutions that will truly meet the needs of the business, HR leaders must first build an agile talent management and HR technology strategy in order to begin transforming the way people work.  The key word is “agile.” If you haven’t listened to the recorded webinar, Building an Agile HR Strategy in 2013, it is worth hearing Heidi Spirgi and Neil Jensen discuss what HR and IT leaders need to do in 2013 to get the business involved in delivering meaningful outcomes, and how teams should be structured to achieve everything that’s possible with today’s technology.

The important thing here is not just creating a talent management, or HCM strategy, but creating an “agile” strategy.  The primary goal of an agile strategy is to quickly respond to the rapidly changing needs of the business with the right people, processes and technology.

What is interesting is that we asked two separate webinar audiences whether their organization had a talent management strategy, and an agile talent management strategy respectively.  When asked if their organization had a talent management strategy, 65% said yes, compared with only 16% who believed they had an agile strategy in place.

talent management stats

An historic look at how companies think about talent can provide some perspective on why now is the time for an agile strategy.

The Industrial Age was largely focused on manufacturing, where the employer/employee relationship could best be described as command and control, with a strong centralized authority.  The organizations’ workforce was seen as a cost, as the Industrial Revolution had brought about new thinking in terms of efficiency and productivity.  The business operation changed little over time, meaning the talent management strategy of the day was likely to focus on attracting and retaining workers who could produce at high levels, and at low cost.

The Knowledge Age introduced the idea of a service-oriented business where people became an asset of the organization.  Decision-making began to be decentralized as line mangers were given more authority to bring in the right kind of talent to build their own teams.  While business improved its ability to respond to market need, talent strategies focused on growing and developing existing talent to “leverage” people investments that had already been made.  The overriding HR philosophy became, “don’t let good people go,” even if the business demanded new or different skills to successfully respond to changing conditions.

Now, we are moving into a Global Talent Age, where winning organizations are not those that outspend, but rather those that outmaneuver their competitors.  With equal access to global talent and cloud, mobile, and social technologies, the cost and access barriers to finding and utilizing the best talent in the world have been removed, leaving agility as the difference-maker.  The new, agile talent management strategy is focused on delivering innovation, responsiveness and creativity. Organizations now create value through the collaboration and interaction between employees, customers, and partners.  To thrive now, HR must respond – in near real-time – to a constant rewiring of those connections by putting the right talent in the right place at the right time.

In each age, HR puts structures, governance, and roles in place to optimally balance what employees want and what the business needs.  Traditionally, these have been issues like job security (employees want) versus employee loyalty (businesses need), or production levels versus work/life balance.  Striking a proper balance on these issues has given us the now-common practices of offering employees health care benefits and a 40 hour work week.

This is important to understand because it is a shift in this relationship balance – giving more power to the workforce – that is adding to HR’s need to reimagine a more agile talent management strategy.  Meeting the ever-changing needs of the business is compounded by HR’s need to meet the ever-changing needs of the modern workforce. Today’s employees have better technology at home than they do a work, are always connected, deeply collaborative and show up to work with greater expectations from their employer than ever before.

In a recent HCI Webcast, The Future of Work – Crowdsourcing Your Talent (access the OnDemand replay), Mike Morris of CloudSpokes did an excellent job explaining how organizations can use an agile talent strategy to re-establish the employee/employer balance (or win-win) in this new Global Talent age.

Morris explains that an agile talent management strategy recognizes what today’s workers really want, and how that can serve what today’s employers really need.  For example, an employer in the Knowledge Age would frown on an employee who was constantly asking to do new and different work.  Today, that same employee might be a perfect fit for a rapidly growing organization with limited access to specialized skills.  The organization needs new skills, and the employee needs to feel he or she is doing interesting and challenging work.  Balance.  Some of the other examples from the webcast are listed below.

However, creating this kind of agile strategy takes an approach that recognizes that the primary goal should be to first meet the needs of the business, then the needs of the employees and then the needs of HR.  In addition it takes HR and business leaders who are open to reimagining what’s possible and fundamentally transforming the way people work.

Next up, we will Reimagine Talent Acquisition with new strategies for Talent Planning along with next-generation Talent Sourcing tools.

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