The talent management panel at The HR Technology Conference was all about diversity. Not diversity in terms of workforce, but the diversity in terms of approaches in deploying talent processes and technologies that different companies take in pursuit of their goals. With Jason Averbook hosting, we had Walmart (2+ million employees), Motorola Solutions (called themselves an 84 year old startup), Merck (single global system in 84 countries) and ETS Lindgren (900 employees). At one end of the table, we had 2.2 million employees and the other end we had 900. We had SAP globally, and we had Rypple/Work.com.
Here are some highlights (not direct quotes in most cases):
Theme #1: Ongoing feedback. When even Walmart says they need to deploy ongoing feedback for a workforce that is 2.2 million strong, this is something to watch. Generally when we think of retail, we’re thinking about a population with a full set of competencies from some very senior talent to some fairly low paid employees. Saying that real time feedback is important for the entire population is a big deal, where many of us would traditionally just focus on the top tier of talent. ETS Lindgren said much the same and have experienced a huge jump in positive feedback. They have shown that social can really assist in the engagement equation, but realize that the constructive feedback still happens either in private messaging or in the manager conversations.
Theme #2: Focus on what matters. Having just said that you spread the wealth in Theme #1, there did seem to be a consistent theme around making sure that the roles that really drive revenues in your organization are the ones you focus on disproportionately. There was a discussion about “peanut butter spread” and it seemed there was mass agreement where you provide some global focus, but your time is really spent managing the interactions with the employees that will impact your bottom line most directly. I also want to do a theme 2.5 here. Merck had an important call-out I think. They are starting with a revamp of their job structure. For any deployment be it TM, HCM or Social, if your foundation sucks, you are not going anywhere. You can roll things out, and you might get adoption, but you won’t have great measurement. Merck had this to say, “If someone allowed the choice of getting the basics right or deploying collaboration tools, I’d say to look at the foundation.” More on measurement later.
Theme #3: Things still need to get easier. Walmart had a nice example with talent reviews. They used to walk into a room of executives with volumes of huge binders. Instead of that, they give everyone an iPad with the employee data preloaded. This makes the discussion more dynamic and flexible. At the same time, you can have significantly more data at your disposal compared to the volumes of binders. This is an example where it’s working, but there are still areas where data minim does not work. Motorola asked the question, “If I want a restaurant recommendation, I ask my friends on Facebook and get immediate answers. If I need a best practice, there should be an app for that too.”
Theme #4: Flexibility. This one goes hand in hand with ongoing feedback. One of the companies stated that they will go without formal reviews and formal ratings. WHAT?!?!?! Not having reviews and ratings is an experiment that some have tried in smaller organizations, but I’ll be excited to see how it works in a socially based larger organization. This theme is also about the social thread that would not stop coming up in this panel. Most everyone seemed to have a social strategy that included not only conversations, but also some ideas of recognition.
Theme #5: Data and analytics. We talked a bit about Merck in Theme #2. I also liked the blended TM/Social/Analytics theme that ETS Lindgren brought up: We want to know who is having conversations and about what at any given time. If we can figure out what our talent is talking about, how to connect others, and measure the impact of quality interactions on our bottom lines, then we can also figure out how to invest in growing those specific conversations. (tie in to Theme #1).
Theme #6: Sponsorship. Motorola had this to say, “Our CEO has 2 jobs. Managing the bottom line, and managing talent.” ETS Lindgren had this to say, “Our Rypple tool came from the CEO. We wanted to do something different.” Either way you cut it, they had great sponsorship to ignite and create change. It doesn’t always have to be the CEO, but if you don’t have top level sponsorship at all, you’re sunk.