The ability for companies to move quickly is more important than ever before. Change is constant. Uncertainty is a reality. Complexity is on the increase, and the need for agility is rising as a core organizational competency. We’re living in a new business environment being shaped by shifting talent patterns, increased competition, shorter business maturity cycles and lower barriers to entry, just to name a few. These are the elements shaping today’s and tomorrow’s business ecosystem and your organizational talent capability. Your organization’s ability to shape an adaptive talent strategy and proactively develop response capability will allow you to harness these influencers and gain the upper-hand.
An adaptive talent strategy provides you with an architecture to meet the evolving needs of business and develop a value-oriented talent function. Complex? Actually, it’s simpler and more streamlined than what you may have today. Expensive? Developing an adaptive talent strategy is more cost-effective than not developing one. Will it mean we’ll have to change how we do things? Oh, yes! But, what doesn’t require change? The cost of “standing still” or not adapting may be less expensive in the short-run but over the long-term the cost of not adapting will cost you considerably more, and quite possible even the survival of your talent function or organization. And, more often than not, change is good. The hardest thing about dealing with change is getting over the initial shock that you need to change. Once your open to new ideas and new ways of thinking an entirely new set of possibilities emerges.
Adaptive talent strategies are based on alignment and clarity around the organization’s strategic business directives. They succeed when there is active dialogue between the business units, finance and talent acquisition leaders during the strategic business planning process. In too many instances, recruiting becomes a just-behind process. If the talent acquisition leader is not part of the business planning discussion then the organization is already at a disadvantage and successful implementation of the business strategy is compromised. Now, granted, its up to the talent acquisition leader to ask the right questions and then develop an effective plan to ensure support and success. The key here is involving talent acquisition early enough in the conversation to shift from reactive tactics to value-oriented strategy development and implementation. When the talent acquisition leader has sufficient information early enough in the planning process they’re able to effectively allocate resources, structure their team, make investment decisions, and guide the company’s strategic directives by providing critical insight into the availability of talent. This conversation becomes the pivotal point in developing an adaptive talent strategy. From here, the company can benefit from increased clarity.
Three other key components that shape developing an adaptive talent strategy -
Know the talent you have
Visibility into the company’s existing workforce should be easily accessible for the recruiting function. Knowing where the strengths, weaknesses and gaps exist informs external recruitment. When the talent acquisition leader has this information they can more effectively develop a recruitment strategy and direct resources by partnering with their organizational development peer to identify the key skills and competencies needed to support the organization. An internal talent management system can deliver a number of benefits. It brings efficiency to the talent planning process and facilitates the movement of talent throughout the organization to meet the needs of employees and businesses. If employees know they have opportunities to pursue elsewhere in the organization chances are your going to improve retention. External recruitment should always be informed by the internal gaps and talent plans to make smarter investments and decisions when pursuing new talent.
Develop a talent plan
Clarity around workforce structure guides how the organization shapes thinking about talent today and in the future? Which roles need to sit in a specific geographic location and where do you have flexibility to pursue the best talent regardless of location? Where can you infuse elasticity in your workforce through part-time, contingent and job share roles? When do you build and when do you “buy” talent? How do you broaden reach by identifying where work can be done outside the organization and engage collective collaboration to generate ideas and drive innovation? What is your plan for knowledge transfer? How will you prepare for a maturing workforce with different needs? What does the supply and demand look like for the talent you need to support the strategic business directives? For which functional areas and roles do you have a recruiting core competency and where will you outsource recruitment to a third-party? These are just a few of the key questions that should be asked in developing a talent plan to guide recruitment. Without having clarity around these types of questions and the resulting impact on your organization, chances are you’ll experience significant talent pain points over time rather than operating as an adaptive, value-oriented talent function.
In addition to an internal talent management system, a CRM tools is a key component to building an effective suite of recruiting technology solutions. The CRM serves a number of critical needs. It supports the recruitment function’s ability to manage communications, build relationships, integrate state-of-the art sourcing capability and provide visibility into the readiness of your talent pipeline. This last benefit, visibility into the readiness of your talent pipeline, is key to supporting an adaptive talent strategy. You’ll be able to provide better guidance to the business partners and make smarter decisions around how and where you allocate resources to external recruitment. The Reports screenshot to the right, courtesy of Avature, provides an example of the benefits gained when you have visibility into your talent pipeline. You know the readiness of talent and the depth of your pool by type of talent needed.
This will begin to provide you with an idea of what shapes an adaptive talent strategy. The benefit to the organization is enhanced support of the strategic business directives by improving alignment, opening up an active dialogue early enough in the planning process, and anticipating the types of talent needed. The benefit to the talent function is improved clarity around strategic business directives, the ability to be more planful in developing and implementing a supporting strategy, and the ability to deliver greater value to the organization. The ROI can be significant. You’ll realize the benefits of reduced third-party recruitment fees, reduced time-to-hire, increased recruiter productivity, reduced marketing / job posting costs, and increased efficiency in the movement of internal talent. The remaining elements - employment brand and networks, metrics, and internal communication will be covered soon. You might also want to take a look at the model on the home page to get a visual image of the framework for an adaptive talent strategy.
With the new year upon us there’s no shortage of predictions for 2009. But, predicting the future is a tricky game, especially in times of increased uncertainty – and that’s the one thing 2009 promises to bring us! Your company has most likely completed a plan for the coming year and is also taking a broader view to consider a longer time horizon, ensuring the company is well positioned for 2010 and beyond. The “and” here is very important because, as economic and business cycles go, how a company will weather through a downturn is only half the story. Being prepared to fire-up momentum coming out of a downturn is as important as how the downturn is managed, and a direct result of the decisions made.
So, how has this flowed down into the talent function in your company and how is it influencing the way you’re thinking about 2009 and the future? What does your strategy look like to successfully navigate what the year brings and what the future holds? The absence of strategy in itself is a strategy – just one that lacks deliberate intention and attention. A well-defined strategy that reflects a longer time horizon and includes contingency options to shift and recalibrate as things evolve will support a stronger and more competitive positioning.
Here are a few questions you can reflect on to ride the wave of uncertainty, align your talent function with the strategic business plan and insert agility into your talent function to embrace the future and prepare your company and yourself for success.
Strategy or Economy: What’s having the greatest effect on the company’s business? Is there a good business strategy in place that’s simply feeling the impact of the wide-spread economic downturn or is there something else going on as well? This is important to know because it will have a very different effect on business over the long-term, staffing momentum, and potentially your company and employment brand. Also, how will the natural business cycle of your company weather the uncertainty and what will that mean to talent planning?
Business and Talent: Are you meeting regularly with business and financial leaders in your company? Is there a clear understanding of which segments of the business are being impacted and what the short and long-term outlook is for each of these in terms of investment decisions and/or recovery? What are the differences in growth and contraction across key businesses and what role does talent planning play in the short and long-term for each? Given the outlook and big picture, how will this influence the talent your targeting, your active pipelines and ramp-up time to meet business objectives?
Beyond the Brand: Is your company actively hiring or are they in a frosty freeze? What does the experience look like for job seekers? Attracting new talent and engaging prospective talent in your proprietary community should always be a priority. The experience that each job seeker has with you now will determine if they are open to hearing from your company in the future – so when you reach back out to a candidate in 6, 12 or 18 months – when everyone else is as well, will they take your call and prioritize their interest in your company. The ultimate cost here is the impact on your employment brand. How can you not only protect your brand but enhance it even further? Investing in developing a social media strategy is one way to further support your brand, if your not already doing it. And, even if you are already actively working social media into your strategy this is the time to further embrace it and build up visibility and sustainability. Does your structure support a sustainable social strategy? This is a low cost investment and one that needs time to take root. I’m a big believer in establishing a structure that supports a “community manager”, a term borrowed from the consumer world, to ensure a solid and sustainable solution is in place. I’ll write more about this in a future post but for now what should be considered is the time it takes to actively develop and nurture community. Full-cycle recruiters simply can’t sustain what’s needed to deliver the ROI. Reallocating work across the recruiting team could be one way to free someone up for 15 – 20 hours a week to begin, which should allow you to see a good ROI in 6 – 12 months. The opportunity here is, that in time, you can show the value of the investment and either continue with someone part-time or build a case for a full-time resource. Continuing to identify talent, build relationships and actively qualify talent, even if your not hiring today, will ensure your prepared for the future. I realize that there’s likely been a significant increase in the volume of resumes, referrals and phone calls flowing in but with the technology available today there’s every reason to perform as a high-touch staffing organization.
Backwards and Forwards: Look back at the past 10 years and ask yourself how much has changed in a relatively short period of time that affects how you, your team and the talent your trying to attract think and operate. Think about how many new tools and technologies are now a part of your daily toolkit that didn’t exist before. How have these influenced recruiting and talent management? How about the way we receive, manage and share information? Now look forward 10 years to 2019. Yes it feels like a long way off! But, it will be here faster than we can imagine. Remember life without Google, an iPod and corporate websites – not so long ago was it! So, what can you anticipate and be ready for and how will you and your team keep pace to attract the best candidates, provide them with the best experience, and provide your company with a progressive and highly effective recruiting strategy?
Learning for the Future: Its easy to be successful when times are good and much more challenging when they’re not. In the retail industry it was always desirable to have someone anniversary their own business results to enhance their learning, skills and business acumen. Was the business last year a result of excellent planning and execution or timing? When the business climate is challenging it may not be fun but its an excellent learning environment. What is your team learning and how can you operationalize and capture the learning? Granted its not that you want to go through this again but how will what your learning today influence how you operate in the future to deliver enhanced efficiency and results.
Nurture Active Dialogue: How is information being shared to keep everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction, staying focused and having fun. Facing tough and/or uncertain business over a period of time can certainly take its toll. Keeping information flowing and inviting an active dialogue across the recruiting team, and broader HR team, keeps everyone focused, ensures people are informed and demonstrates a commitment to transparency. Taking an approach that looks at both internal and external information and trends is key. Having a process in place to develop and share competitive, economic and market intelligence is important at any time but especially now. What has an effect on your industry, company and the type of talent you need to attract and retain? Knowing the interest and status of your internal talent community supports transparency and ensures that both resources and priorities are aligned. These are all things that will benefit your hiring today, protect the company’s existing talent, and positively impact how prepared you are for the build in momentum that will arrive.
Train for Endurance: As business turns around do you want to sprint or just quicken your pace? How adept is the staffing team at keeping pace with exploring new tools and techniques that will advance talent strategies and actions over the long-run? Technology and tools are changing so quickly that its become an endurance sport just to keep up with the changes, filter through what’s really important and identify what’s right for your company, as well as ease the adoption curve. Perhaps there’s someone on the staffing team that has a high affinity for technology – if not, there really should be. Can additional time be allocated to keeping a pulse on emerging technologies and educating the balance of team members so that when business does pick up your drinking from a straw rather than a fire hose?
Visibility and Review: Are you still on a path that supports your strategy? Is the path your on still relevant? Keep your goals visible and revisit them often so your always aware of what you’ve committed to doing differently to advance your strategy, and its clear what your still doing. It takes 21 consecutive instances of practicing something new to make it a habit. And, it only takes 5% of a familiar past experience to trigger habitual patterns that bring you back to where you were! Lasting change comes one action, one decision, one behavior at a time built up and strengthened through consistency.
With the new year comes a time to reflect and to then begin moving your ideas and plans to action.…a chance to begin anew. It also brings an opportunity for learning. Welcome the challenges that arise and embrace the future!