Finding ‘The X Factor’ in Talent Management

“Just what have you been doing in Wetherby for the past two weeks, Aunt Karen?” asked my niece at the weekend.

I replied “I’ve been working as an Observer at some Talent Centres…”  I immediately realised my mistake in that she’d struggle to relate to this description.  Inwardly I groaned at how often the concept of Talent Management consultancy is lost on anyone, for that matter.

“Oh, do you mean like Simon Cowell on the X Factor?”  

My first reaction was one of horror.  “Absolutely nothing like Simon Cowell!”  I spluttered.  I then paused… “Well, maybe, at least in some ways…”

I had to admit that, just like Simon Cowell et al, working in a team of three observers, watching candidates perform and then evaluating their performance was exactly what I’d been doing.  However, the important difference between our Talent Centres and The X Factor is that everyone wins (including employee and employer).

Our client commissioned us to help them get a sense of both the depth and breadth of talent within their organisation.  In fact, we were asked to help them know what effective performance looks like by updating their behavioural framework.  The benchmark set was a high one, seeking to measure behaviours expected in members of their top team.  Everyone participating was clear that it didn’t matter how far off this benchmark they might be.  For each ‘performer,’ this was about getting a sense of where they are now, where their strengths lie and how they can leverage these in current and future roles. It was also about understanding how wide the gap was in areas where they are under the benchmark, and focusing on ways they can develop on a continual basis.

The especially exciting thing for us and the organisation is what happens next.  We’re going to analyse all the data from the four Talent Centres and present back an overall picture of the bench-strength of the 48 colleagues who participated.  We’ll be looking to identify ‘spikes’ in individual and corporate leadership.  The client is going to get a clear picture of common areas where it might be good to focus development investment, as well as discovering some hidden talents.

This has been a significant investment of people’s time and of their budget, so the Board and the top team are keen to measure the return on this investment.  They are excited by the prospect that our initiative is providing the greatest certainty of a real, tangible business impact for the company.  We won’t know the full nature of this impact for some months to come, but reassessing the participants’ leadership abilities in early summer (after their action plans from the Talent Centres have been put into practice) will give a comparison by which to judge value for money.

And in the meantime?  Those who have gone through the Talent Centres can rejoice in the positive and developmental feedback.  Our clients too are rejoicing.  As on The X Factor, we’ve found some future stars who, with support and continued development, can now move from the leadership equivalent of singing in their bedroom to bigger and better stages on which to perform.

Read more about our Assessment Centres here.

Author: Karen West

How Disruptive Technology Makes Fireworks for HR and Talent

Today the UK commemorates the discovery of a plot on 5th November 1605 to destroy the Houses of Parliament.

Guy Fawkes’ historic movement for radical change was scandalous in its time when change was not as much a constant as it is now.  We’re continually referring to change as something that businesses have to adapt to on a day-to-day basis in occupational psychology.  But how often does something come along that seeks to completely revolutionise the way things are done?  What is the ‘gunpowder plot’ of Human Resources and Talent Management?

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant recent game-changers for HR and Talent Management is technology.  Originally coined in 1997 by Professor Christensen of Harvard Business School, the term disruptive technology has recently resurfaced and is more prevalent now than ever before.  Christensen defined it as “emerging technology that unexpectedly displaces an established one.”  Quite simply, disruptive technology is something that has exploded with growth and innovation.

Mobile technology is the most obvious example. There are now over 4.5 times more mobile devices than laptops and desktop computers globally. In fact, with advancements in phone capability, the term ‘mobile’ is almost synonymous with ‘internet.’ This means that your employees are far more likely to be motivated to access typical HR applications on a mobile device, if it’s easy and quick enough to use.

Timesheets, as an example, can be made much less fiddly and clumsy through a mobile interface, which would inherently be designed to be as simple as possible. As another example, Adobe discovered that response rates to their employee feedback surveys dramatically increased by five times when put onto a mobile platform.

As far as professional development is concerned, e-learning has never been more suited to mobile distribution, with the amount of commuting, travelling and waiting around that people endure for work. For similar reasons, neither has goal setting.  Even in recruitment, Forbes estimates that half of all corporate job responses originate from a mobile advertisement. The value of mobile technology in HR continues to grow and continues to be something big companies cannot ignore.

However, disruptions don’t only come in the form of apps.  The science of assessment and development has become more advanced in recent years. Consultancies that are leading the way in this space now have tools that can create and store big data on all kinds of job-relevant skills and behaviours.

Whether we’re talking about gamified processes or virtual assessment centres, these sleeker mechanisms of delivering talent acquisition and development are providing organisations with the equipment they need to carry out the true revolution in HR and Talent.  I’m talking about the way they use data to inform their practices and to ensure greatest certainty of business impact from what they do. It’s an empowering time for a business function that has traditionally been seen as a cost centre but is now beginning to get the recognition it deserves as a source of important change and disruptive innovation. More positive than the gunpowder plot, that’s for sure!

Author: Jordon Jones

The Talent Awakens: 3 HR Lessons for Star Wars

Fans of Star Wars (myself included) have been in a frenzy since the last trailer ‘Episode 7: The Force Awakens’ was released. In honour of the excitement, I’ve reflected on the original trilogy (and by that, of course, I mean I watched it again).

I thought about what it would be like to work for the Rebel Alliance and the Empire; after all, they are both organisations. I quickly realised that there are many important lessons we can learn from the way they are both run, and why ultimately the Alliance outperformed the Empire.

1. Engagement in a mission and culture optimises your talent

The Rebel Alliance had a core mission to restore diplomacy, fairness and freedom to the galaxy, and highly valued hope and optimistic behaviours in the process. The Empire’s culture of power and fear was self-destructive, and did not give its employees (eg Stormtroopers) an identity that would be worth fighting for.

If you look at talent optimisation through an engagement lens and realise your people are disengaged, you will undoubtedly find they are holding back from giving 100%. Why else would a military force have such terrible aim with a laser rifle?

2. Learning in the workplace is key

Luke Skywalker proved his ability when he destroyed the first Death Star, but he was given the freedom to train with Yoda and become something greater (a legendary Jedi). The Rebels’ approach to nurturing talent, encouraging them to learn new skills / capabilities and apply that learning was much more conducive to greater performance. You wouldn’t have found this kind of leadership from the Imperials.

In fact, succession planning in the Empire simply happened when your boss was force-choked by Darth Vader. This links to another key part of learning: making mistakes. This was clearly not valued in the Empire, but the Alliance encouraged it. Did they victimise Lando Calrissian when his error in judgment got Han Solo frozen? No; the Rebels’ forgiveness allowed him to contribute to crippling the Empire’s hold on the galaxy. Did Yoda criticise Luke for his impatience and haste in his training? No; he was patient himself. Valuing the benefits of learning from mistakes works wonders for your employees and their professional development.

3. Motivation comes from within, not external reward

The Millennium Falcon successfully delivered Princess Leia back from captivity, and that easily could have been all the reward that Han Solo and Chewbacca needed. If that was the case, he may never have come back to fight for the Alliance’s cause, but it was their purpose, values and treatment of their supporters that won him over and drove him to become a key contributor to their success. Don’t rely on rewards and benefits to motivate your workforce; actively give them praise, useful feedback and a feeling that what they do on a day-to-day basis is fun and rewarding in itself.

In essence, don’t turn to the dark side. Let in the light.

Author: Jordon Jones