Zurich: Lunch & Learn

28 Sep 2012

Taking Talent Management to a New Level

Elliot Nelson

If HR could be compared to the Nobel Prizes, then Elliott Nelson would certainly be a winner. A Talent Management and Learning Consultant, plus an executive coach with corporate experience in international blue-chip companies at senior management and board level. His presentation at the IHRC Lunch and Learn was also an award-winning performance due to his inspiring and thought-provoking presentation on Talent Management to a New Level.

Elliott began the presentation by posing the question; “What does Next Level Talent Management look like?” Starting from an industry-wide perspective, he showed highlights from recent research into Talent Management best practice within the business. According to the DDI Global Leadership Forecast (2011), surveying 2,600 organisations across 74 countries; senior management involvement featured in 88% of organisations with effective Talent Management systems, closely followed by Competencies as a Foundation at 87%. Other key elements were Manager Accountability (60%) and Development Planning (48%).

Although the talent management process is important, Elliott emphasised that winning the hearts and minds of the managers in your organisation is key to successful execution. He supported this by showing a McKinsey analysis into the top 7 obstacles to good talent management: Senior managers not spending enough quality time on talent management scored highest at 59%, followed by organisational silos at 48% and lack of line managers commitment to developing capabilities and careers at 45%.

Elliott showed how the best practice drivers of success fall into 3 main categories:

With the talent management strategy and goals owned and led by business leaders from the CEO onwards, rather than being the primary focus of a Talent Management professionals.

Integrated with business strategy, with leaders knowing the gaps in critical capabilities, targeting investment towards ROI and basing this on an agreed simple model of what good leadership looks like.

Actually knowing top talent, measuring performance using business-based metrics and having a strong brand internally and externally for their employees.

Based on these categories, Elliott introduced us to 4 levels of Talent Management and led the audience through a self-assessment ranging from the basics to Aspirational. He then cited Shell and Unilever as best practice examples, where Talent Management is closely linked to business strategy and also embedded throughout the organisation. However, other companies may face challenges, especially if their business strategy is not clear (or understood) and their business leaders lack commitment and effectiveness at Talent Management.

Over the past 20 years, businesses of all kinds have become “commoditised”. Products and services can be replicated and almost any business can be “global”. Elliott suggested that Talent Management could be the remaining source of competitive advantage, with companies differentiated by HOW they put it into practice, and having a unique strategy for Talent. He gave best practice examples, including; GE’s “Best School of Management” and NIBR relocating to Cambridge MA to access BioTech Talent.

Elliott continued with HR role in Strategy formulation, suggesting that linking HR and Talent to business strategy could be part of the winning formula driving successful business performance. Consequently, HR should move towards being a full partner in developing and implementing business strategy whenever possible. Measures would include; identifying talent gaps as part of the business strategy, managing the risks and targetting investment to bring the greatest ROI. He even recommended how we could segment the workforce according to effect on performance and revenues (The New HR Analytics, Jac Fitz-Enz). We could also apply strategic workforce planning and target mobility to identify and even bring in people now for the skills we would need in 2 years’ time.

Elliott ensured the presentation was both far-sighted yet pragmatic by emphasising the need for Talent Management linked to Strategy, Values and a simple leadership model. Related processes should be also be aligned. He encourage the audience to comment, with several remarking on the difficulties when Talent Acquisition, Performance Management Career and Leadership Development don’t tally and the confusion this can cause.

Elliott also cited Lawler et al, saying that 91% of HR leaders don’t always believe their human capital practices effectively connect with performance of the organisation. He gave recommendations for Business ROI from Talent Management, showing how HR could use business metrics like revenue growith, EBIT and market share as a way of addressing this. Plus companies could use their competency frameworks in engagement surveys as a way of showing the relationship between internal organisational performance and key behaviours, which in turn could impact on business results.

He emphasised the need for all of us to keep our eye on emerging and future trends. Elliott emphasised the growing importance of analytical skills for the business and HR. For instance, Google hire 1/3 of HR staff globally for their analytical skills to constantly test ideas and practices, and therefore ROI . Other keys to success include Branding, with Nestlé given as an example of how this is should be compared to a consumer brand, with; a clear Employee Value Proposition aligned externally and internally, personal fit with experience as part of hiring decisions.

Companies also need to invest in technology solutions to make identifying talent quicker and easier. Plus mobile devices and social media becoming the dominant platform for management communication and interaction. This could significant implications for talent is sourced, defined and also managed, with companies needing to be “found”, tablets as the new classroom, real-time input becoming quicker and continual evaluation from multi-rater feedback the norm.

Elliott continued his overview of future trends by using population growth projections to indicate where both customer growth and talent may be located; highlighting the BRIC countries specifically. He also emphasised that Talent Management should enable key skills to acquire and develop Innovation Leadership, giving best practice examples, including bottom up channels of communication and idea generation reaching the CEO, diverse teams with complimentary skills and enabling innovation through coaching and feedback.

Elliott finished the presentation by emphasising the need for a Talent mindset and what this really means in practice, advising IHRC members on the important tactical steps to focus on whilst taking Talent Management to a new level.

To find out more, Elliott can be contacted via email to elliott.nelson@talentxs.com or www.linkedin.com/pub/elliott-nelson/0/343/392.
Text by Hilary Frazer
Photos by James Macsay