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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to fill the talent gap

I was reading last night - couldn't sleep too well about a recent article by Douglas Ready and Jay Conger in the Wall Street Journal about how global companies are finding it harder to fill critical jobs - either by struggling to find recruits or because as the demographic forces work against them and the other pressures haven't developed internally people to step up into these roles. Also I wanted to write a longer article as this is my 102nd blog posting since I started Knowledge and The Cardinal.

The article highlights that organisations aren't looking at these as a whole but as separate issues. They analysed about 40 companies and the conclusion was that companies need to have a unified plan to tackle these issues as a whole rather than individually. They hypothesise that the five problems that I'm going to write down are starting to converge and that "the perfect storm was brewing'

The saw the five problems as follows
  1. Emerging Markets

    As companies flock into the BRIC countries and other emerging markets the demand for talent is outstripping supply. Also companies external to the local market aren't always fully aware of the cultural sensitivities and what motivate someone in the local market may not in say India.

  2. Narrow Thinking

    Because a number of firms are still focused on the business unit and to maximise the opportunities of that unit rather than looking to generate new profits from harnessing mixed products that utilise a number of skills to deliver a new product or service to either existing or new customers. A lot of firms are based on maximising say their billable hour target rather than on their collaboration with other colleagues. Basically we don't have enough managers who look beyond the box.

  3. Demographics

    I have talked about this on a fairly regular basis in other posts but effectively the baby boom generation is leaving or will be leaving the work force with all their experiences over the next 15 years. The article says that 30 million managers will be going in the next 5 years. Also because of the delayering and the move towards the lean organisation - reduced the opportunities for people to develop. It is interesting to note (and there may be another reason for this such as staff retention as the ability to reach partner is curtailed) that for example law firms are creating some new tiers in their organisations be it Director or Senior Associate. This neatly brings me on to Point

  4. The Expectations Gap

    We know that Generation Y in our workplace does not see that working in one organisation is a lifetime contract - studies have shown that they expect to work in about 6 -8 locations in their working career. As the talent shortages bite home in the next few years expect to see more demand by employees for what they want from work and maybe to the chagrin of IT Departments wanting to use computers other than Dell (Apple Macs anyone)

  5. Revenge of the Clones - or as the writers call it Blind Spots

    When I was doing my masters under organisational behaviour one of my professors mentioned studies that stated that managers tend to hire promote and reward people who look, think and behave like them. This leaves people open to some major blind spots in attracting the talent that your organisation needs in the future.
As part of their study at these 40 global companies 97% of respondents said that their company had a formalised succession planning process for senior executives. However 97% said that their company didn't possess a free and flowing talent pipeline.

So what are their proposed solutions

  1. Make your talent plan match your business plan.

    If you know and can exploit the capabilities that let you as a company provide unique and profitable value to your customers then you should look to build those capabilities amongst the people that you employ. This is for everyone and needs extensive training and goes beyond the pony and trap show that most corporate inductions are.

  2. Talent Management is everyone's job

    It's not just HR's job the best firms had deep commitment and accountability amongst senior managers to develop the next managers. Managers need to recognise that they are coaches of growth and learning as well as making the numbers and making sure that their talent pipeline is as full and as flowing as it can be and committing to deliver on this.

  3. Support Matters

    I remember talking to one lawyer who had just been made a partner who said to me that the jump was like going from the 1st Division of English football to the Premier Division. The lawyer felt that although the promotion had been based on the ability to hit high billing hours nothing had been really prepared in taking on the challenges to face the new assignments. I'd always felt that people in that position as well as proper managerial training should be assigned a per partner mentor and then for the 1st year as a partner would help them as they stepped on to that ladder by providing coaching and feedback. Well this is what one of the proposed solutions is.

  4. Measure what matters

    Ask your HR department what metrics they are using and if they have one for talent development. for instance what is your retention of key employees and high potential ones (if you have identified these people in the first place). Also look at why you have to go outside your organisation to hire someone new - is it because you haven't developed your talent line internally - or is it to meet the needs of a new strategic direction.

    How many talent reviews do you hold and is it a real one or do you see it as a bureaucratic form to be filled in and filed away. Also are your managers appraised on how they ensure that peoples training and development aspirations are delivered on an annual basis. I've seen on more than a few questions training aspirations placed on a form and then re said at the next appraisal.
I thought that it was an interesting article as talent as well as knowledge sharing is I believe one of the biggest managerial challenges that faces us over the next 10 - 15 years. I think that professional services need to review the way that they develop their talent - and some are but one wonders how many are just talking the talk......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't you think though that you are asking the wrong people to encourage growth and learning and talent spotting within organisations. The managers and senior level executives are not going to encourage promotion and growth of the people who in a short space of time may threaten their very own positions in the company. They don't want someone being smarter than they are, or showing them up for being sedentary in their positions. They like the status quo and will not want to encourage entrepreneurship under their very noses. That is the major problem, especially within law firms today. THey close ranks and operate a closed shop regime within their own departments. The "know thy place" syndrome is alive and well even in the 21st Century