Archive for the ‘Talent Management’ Category

Talent Management

As someone who always thought that a “stakeholder” was a person who held the stick whilst the vampire met their maker, I have held a long-standing aversion to “management-speak”. I guess it probably started when I was first told that it was “time to pick the low-hanging fruit” and it reached its height when a colleague suggested that we adjourn a meeting for a “bio break” (sadly, I kid you not!).

So when the term “Talent Management” first started to creep into the management lexicon a decade ago, my antennae were bristling. Surely this was just new jargon to cover a set of processes which any decent HR function had been following since they morphed from being the Personnel Department. However, if that was bad enough, the situation soon became far worse when software companies started jumping on the new bandwagon and convincing us that the only effective way to manage talent was through the purchase of a “System”. And thus were a range of incredibly expensive and complex “Talent Management Systems” inflicted on organisations across the Western World.

Why Has the TMS Failed to Deliver?

Sadly, the “TMS” is now being revealed for the dinosaur which I always believed it to be. I think there are two key reasons for this.

Firstly, the dreaded “Annual Performance Review” is a central plank of most TMS’s and the structure around which “talent development” plans are hung. The concept of Annual Appraisals is now being challenged across the whole HR sector. I would go further and suggest that not only has it failed totally to raise individual performance, it has probably done untold damage to both individuals and their organisations. Invariably, both parties enter an Appraisal poorly prepared and hoping it can be completed as quickly as possible. The result is a mediocre box-ticking exercise which leaves everyone unsatisfied and rarely if ever results in behavioural change. The fact that Michael Gove now appears to want to introduce this anachronism into the teaching profession fills me with dread.

What of course we really need is effective and continuous “Performance Management”, a much more informal and less rigid practice which enables people to develop their skills through a wide range of different processes of which manager feedback is just one small component. Unfortunately, most TMS’s are far too rigid to track employee progress in this way.

Secondly, the TMS fails to deal with the very rapid changes which are taking place in the way in which we learn. The TMS tends to point employees in the direction of formal training programmes which will supposedly assist in their “development”. However, recent surveys suggest that less than 20% of workplace learning is now acquired through formal (whether classroom-based or eLearning) programmes. People now learn socially, informally or collaboratively and there are far more flexible and effective ways of capturing and tracking this learning than via a rigid TMS.

Is Talent Management Still Important?

So I believe we need to forget about Talent Management Systems and revert to thinking about what Talent Management really means. If it’s about recruiting the very best people, providing them with the appropriate skills and opportunities to learn and retaining them in the business, then of course it is more important than ever. Globally, we face a huge skills crisis and the task of finding and retaining talented people has become critical for most organisations.
I don’t believe we will achieve that by investing in Talent Management Systems. Instead, we need to focus on the drivers which persuade Generation Y (who will soon make up the majority of the workforce) to join and stay in a business. That’s about values and culture, genuine engagement and empowerment and satisfying and rewarding work. Does anyone know of a TMS which is based around that concept? if not, then let’s start thinking outside of the box and adopt a different approach to the way we manage our talent.

Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills


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I am a great fan of curation and use Scoop.It on a regular basis to bring together and publish articles and blogs on key areas of interest. One of my curates is called “New Leadership” and a couple of weeks ago one of my Twitter followers asked me what I meant by that. It was a fair question and following the death of Margaret Thatcher, it was one which got me thinking about the way that our concept of leadership has changed over the last couple of decades.

Margaret Thatcher was always held up to be a great leader (at least by her supporters). “Strong” “Fights for what she believes”, “Clear Vision”, “Doesn’t have time for dissenters” were the sorts of phrases which were used to describe her. But leaving aside the politics, I never really bought into that concept of leadership. Even in the 80’s, I sensed that things were changing and that we were looking for very different characteristics in our future leaders.

I think that view has been borne out by events. Nowadays, we want leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence who are collaborative, who engage with and empower their people and who seek consensus rather than conflict. I somehow feel that Mrs Thatcher would have viewed such people as weak and “wet” but if you look at most of the most successful companies on the planet, then that style of leadership has become the norm rather than the exception.

So what has changed over the preceding years? Many things in my view. Firstly, we now operate in a genuine global market place. Our trading and political relationships have changed dramatically and we stand and fall by our ability to collaborate and work in partnership with countries and people whom we might previously thought of as being fortunate to do business with us.

Secondly, as organisations are re-structured to meet the changing needs of that global market, I would argue that there is less call for “leaders” and more need for leadership qualities to be displayed throughout an organisation. Listen to how many times, national team coaches talk about having “leaders throughout the team” to realise how far that concept has been taken. In my last role, I spent 8 years on the Executive Management Team of a global company and I cannot recall a single occasion when the CEO demanded that we follow a certain course of action. Did this mean he was weak? Far from it, he simply realised that he managed a team of highly experienced “leaders” and as such, the decisions we reached were far more effective because they had been reached following a robust and challenging debate. I somehow doubt that was a regular feature of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet meetings.

Finally, I think that people’s expectations have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. The global skills shortage, means that companies can no longer pay lip service to the hackneyed saying “Our people are our most important resource”. Talent retention and development at all levels are now a critical component of any decent strategic plan and this generation of workers will not accept the old, directional styles of leadership. They expect to be consulted and involved in decision-making and empowered to take genuine responsibility – not just simply given a job of work to do. Moreover, if they don’t get what they want, they simply leave. Loyalty is no longer a given.

It will be interesting to see how far these changes in leadership style evolve. I read a blog a couple of weeks ago entitled “Are CEO’s Defunct?” and there are certainly some companies who are experimenting with “leaderless” groups and teams. Indeed, our own business operates as a partnership with each partner “leading” where appropriate.

Whilst I don’t think that CEOs need to be quaking in their shoes yet, we have clearly come a long way in the last 30 years. One of the great quotes from the late Brian Clough was “I am a great believer in group discussions. We talk about it for 20 minutes and we then decide I was right”. Not any more Brian, not any more!

Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills

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Roger Francis, MindLeaders services and HR director, explains why well organised performance reviews integrated with our talent management solution mean a lot to MindLeaders.

I picked up on another sad statistic the other day. A recent survey of over 4000 workers revealed that one-third have never received a regular Performance Review

So, millions of workers in the UK are neither receiving regular  feedback on their performance  nor being advised as to what is expected of them.  How on earth can we expect to compete effectively in the global economy if so many people are in that situation?

At Mindleaders, Performance Reviews are part of our DNA and we have just started on our annual round of  discussions. Within the next few weeks, every single person will have held an in-depth review with their line manager to discuss their performance in 2011. They will then agree a set of Business Goals (which will be closely aligned to the overall needs of the business) and will put together an individual development plan designed to help them achieve the business and any other personal goals.

All of this information is recorded within our own Talent Management system (we like to practice what we preach) and progress is tracked and reviewed on a regular basis. It’s not a one-off box-ticking exercise – it’s a living, breathing tool that is now part of our culture and is valued throughout the business.

Of course, effective Performance Management doesn’t just happen by chance.  Meetings need to be carefully planned and thought through beforehand and both managers  and their people need time and space to talk through issues and agree plans for the future.  10 minute discussions at the end of a long day simply won’t work.

So does all the effort and planning  have any measurable impact on the business? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”. Every year we carry out a staff survey and once again, the results this year were excellent. However there was one particular statistic that stood out for me. 96% of our people say that they fully understand what is expected of them. That figure has improved significantly since we introduced our Talent Management system and I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a direct link between the two.  It also compares with another recent survey which showed that only 54% of employees understood what was being asked of them.

Our own results would therefore appear to be way above the norm and leaving aside all the many other benefits of a Talent Management system, if we can be assured that nearly every single person in our business understands exactly they need to do and how to do it, then our business is in a great place.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, MindLeaders ThirdForce Services and HR Director.

I have a theory that if you were to line up 50 HR Managers and ask them to define “Talent Management” or “TM”, you would get 100 different answers (people in HR love to provide options!). The problem is compounded when you add an “S” to produce “TMS”. Does the “S” stand for “Strategy”, “System”, “Software” or “Solution”?

So let’s try and cut through all the acronyms  and management speak and get to the heart of what Talent Management is all about. Recruitment companies might tell you that it is simply a case of  getting the right people into the organisation, whereas some software companies will proclaim it is all about “Performance Appraisals”. Of course, Talent Management goes far deeper than that. It is about the way we track our people’s life cycles within the company, how we help them to develop their skills and expertise, improve their personal performance and ultimately, that of the organisation.

Sadly there are many companies who jumped on the TM bandwagon and bought into expensive systems without first having a “Strategy” in place. The result? The Talent Management “System” that they purchased  failed to meet their expectations and failed to deliver any real benefits.

I believe that going forward, there are two fundamental features which must be an essential component of any Talent Management Solution. Firstly, learning must be at the heart of the system and not just an add-on.  TM shouldn’t just be a tool for the HR Department, it should be a process that gives every employee in the organisation immediate 24 hour access to a wide range of learning resources. If the Talent Management System is only dragged out for annual performance reviews, it will almost certainly fail to deliver.

Secondly, the system must incorporate the capacity to track and deliver “Social Learning”. There is a growing consensus that formal learning will only be one part of a future that is also about on-the-job coaching, mentoring and social collaboration. Tools and platforms that support this approach will therefore become an essential  component of any viable Talent Management System.

AtMindLeaders ThirdForce, I believe (as a HR professional, not a salesperson!) that we have learned from the mistakes of our competitors and built a Talent Management System that will not simply address current needs , but will meet the future requirements of a rapidly changing learning environment. Have a peek yourselves and see if you agree.

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