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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Keeping experience in the organisation

As highlighted on Friday's post

I was reading an article in the FT on how oil groups are scrambling around to retain experience within their organisation. Usually I put a link in to the article but as the FT is still subscription based tere doesn't seem much point.

It highlights work being undertaken at Chevron where it highlights that currently there aren't enough engineers to meet the needs of current work and a shortfall of 10- 15% by 2010.

It highlights that in the Energy industry - but I have from other conversations no doubt that it may affect other industries - that 50% of engineers there average age is 51 will be retiring around 2015. There will be some shortening of the knowledge gap by the influx of 5% of new entrants by 2010.

Firms are going to have to have a look at ways that they can retain these retiring engineers and more pertinently their experience - some firms are hiring them as consultants but other managers are looking at ways to retain these staff though phased retirement or offering flexible working hours or days.

We may be talking today about the credit crunch but as I have highlighted in other posts we ignore the retirement crunch at our peril.

Interestingly Herzbergs motivation theory has proved its efficacy in one quote in the article.

'Pay is not enough.. that alone is not going to get people to stay - employees want challenging jobs and a company that's culture is a large company with a small company feel.

My view is that companies need to be more innovative to distinguish itself from it's other competitors through rapid mentoring or by asking people to undertake work that will stretch them - not to breaking point but will rapidly develop their skills.

If you are an organisation with alumni are they utilised to help mentor people with some of the tricks of the trade. Or even more pertinently are you targeting other firms alumni who might be willing to sell their experience to you on a part time basis. However, the article does not highlight the probable need to ensure that they keep up to date and increase their experience levels with relevant knowledge.

Will your organisation have to look at other disciplines to fill in the jobs that need to be done.

It maybe that you will have to look to disaggregate your work using the new communications technolgy to let certain aspects of your work handled outside your organisation and then reviewed by yourselves as part of quality control. This is being done as most Lawyers know through Lovells innovation of using the 'Mexican Wave' to handle Prudential's property portfolio and this is probably spreading through other industries.

I have had a beleif for a long time that the manager of the future whilst being a strategist also needs to act as a coach of growth and learning - what Hansen calls a T shaped manager.

I conclude with a quote from Ross Dawson who says

' Almost all economic growth will come from talent. As the economy shifts to the intangible, everything that has value – knowledge, ideas, innovation, content, expertise, effective strategic positioning – comes from talented people.'

The Japanese have senseis but also for their top masters they are designated as living national treasures - so who are your people in your organisation who match that moniker.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some up coming thoughts

It's a bit slow on the blogging front as my wife is in hospital and in between work and visiting her has left me little time to post this week. However beeen reading some interesting articles from Ross Dawson and Sheila McNulty on talent within organisations throughout the generations that I may be able to post over the weekend.

Also been doing some work on wikis that I may post on and it will be interesting to see if the web 2.0 rhetoric matches the reality of wikis within the enterprise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I collaborate, e-collaborate, we collaborate

Just from my browsing of other web sites - spotted a useful download courtesy of the International Institute for Communication and Development and a hat tip to Lucie Lamoureux for spotting it and making it available.

The download is available by clicking on the title of this post.

It is a collection of articles based on the experiences of non governmental organisations and howe they have used technology to encourage collaboration. They are using tools i have heard of such as delicious but also some tools like Moodle that I haven't.

If you do download, this please remember to give a hat tip to the person who found it first. Just remember that altruism as I have posted before is often reciprocated.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The War for Talent - an update (long post)

In 1997 McKinseys undertook a study and released the findings called ‘The War for Talent’ Well, ten years later they have revisited the subject and I thought that it might be useful to summarise some of the findings. As in 1997 most of them are ‘unprepared for the challenge of finding, motivating and retaining capable workers as they were a decade ago.’

The problem hasn’t gone away, in fact it has got worse because of demographics and a question mark of the talent in some of the BRIC countries and other emerging markets. In addition globalisation and the rise of the knowledge worker have forced this issue up the managerial agenda.

A recent survey by McKinseys highlighted that for 50% of global business leaders this was likely to be the single most managerial preoccupation for the remainder of this decade.

Although some progress has been made, the article highlights that for too many organisations, ‘talent management is dismissed ‘as a short term tactical problem rather than an integral part of a long term business strategy’

One of the main reasons is that managers aren’t ‘rewarded’ for their efforts in developing this side of their business (just like knowledge management also) In a number of respects, as I have highlighted earlier, it is that sometimes talent management is seen as cultivating the ‘A’ players and not as DeLong et al in a HBR article in 2003 recommended, also looking to set up your B players.

(Interestingly De Long has a section in this months HBR on Leadership and Strategy covering how mentoring employees can also deliver success in developing talent - intriguingly he highlights that the same amount of time given to a B player as an A player goes just as far.) Once I have read the article, then I shall comment on it in more detail.

Top talent in a firm is not restricted to just you’re A players – you need to manage the vital many who can be alienated by an exclusive focus on high flyers. As McKinsey highlights it picks up on how the knowledge management use of internal networks can improve the effectiveness of top talent by being part of a vibrant internal network covering a range of skills and issues. As we have known since Hawthorne in the 1930’s, performance can suffer when social networks either constrict or are absent.

Interestingly HR professionals at multinational companies highlight that candidates for engineering and general management positions exhibit wide variations in suitability. Poor language skills esp in English, and doubts about the validity of educational qualifications were amongst two of the reasons most widely cited. Another concern is the lack of executives willing and able to work abroad but also talented local people with an international mind set but who can understand local ways and local consumers.

So what are the top 7 obstacles to good talent management by % of respondents?

  • Senior Managers don’t spend enough high quality of time on talent management 59%

  • Organisation is siloed and does not encourage constructive collaboration sharing of resources 48%

  • Line Managers are not sufficiently committed to development of people’s capabilities and careers. 45%
  • Line Managers are unwilling to differentiate their people as top, average and underperformers. 40%

  • CEO’s, senior leaders are not sufficiently involved in shaping talent management strategy. 39%

  • Senior Leaders do not align talent management strategy with business strategy. 37%
  • Line Managers do not address underperformance effectively even when chronic 37%

However I think that McKinsey’s biggest criticism is levelled at executives, the declining impact of HR departments leading to talented managers wanting to avoid working in this area of an enterprise; thus restricting the business knowledge in the HR team and that some HR managers are seen as administrators rather than aids in contemplating and producing proposals on this issue.

The biggest gap of 33% points between HR professional and line managers is ‘HR lacks capabilities to develop talent strategies aligned with business objectives. However the more interesting one to my mind is the 28% gap where HR is not held accountable for the success or failure of talent management initiatives.

Executives as mentioned earlier tend to have a short term view and ‘treat talent as a knee jerk manner hiring additional people ‘ say when a new product takes off.

Also from an accountancy view point investment in talent tends to be an expense rather than being capitalised – and therefore when say there is a downturn in the economy companies cut discretionary expenditure on training their people. As the article cites this can lead to a vicious spiral ‘a lack of talent blocks corporate growth, creating additional performance pressures that divert the attention and thinking of executives towards the short term’

So what does the article suggest as a remedy?

  • Develop a number of value propositions – currently a lot of companies do utilise a VP however it tends to be one only. Basically the writers recommend that as in marketing so the VP for different segments of the work force is different. As I have pointed out in earlier posts, the lifestyle choices of Gen Y is different from those of Generation X as well as different cultures and the article concludes that a one size fits all proposition won't work especially in global companies.

  • It also suggests bolstering HR and move it away from being an administrative backwater just developing and implementing standard processes i.e. recruitment, training and compensation. Some heads of HR are perceived as being distant from the shop floor and not knowing where the talent is.

I’m not sure that this is the best approach as I think that this is likely to be an abdication for senior management of one of their core roles. Larry Bossidy who worked at GE – feels that one of the core responsibilities of any manager is to develop the talent around them.

This needs to be a deep conviction amongst managers to avoid the lure of short term pressures and maybe look to spend 20 to 30% of their time developing the capabilities of their team and developing the leaders of the future. HR can help in developing this but at the end of the day managers need to commit to the future of their companies by developing the future.

However they could be supported by an HR team who were held accountable for helping devise and implement the success of talent management initiatives. Perhaps though companies need to consider whether as they do in Japan that a stint in the HR team should be part of a manager’s rotation so that both parties benefit from the input.

It’s a long post and one of my first of the New Year but I do believe that talent and knowledge management are two of the key managerial issues that will help organisations primarily survive but also as an engine of growth for their businesses.