The Importance of Talent Management: Linking Strategy and Execution through People Analytics
By John Healy, VP and Managing Director, Office of the Future of Work
What is Talent Management?
The Talent Management function – often re-labelled as People & Organization - focuses on maximizing the value created through and career opportunities created for a company’s workforce. In theory, it is through the deployment of a comprehensive workforce strategy that companies are able to locate the best talent to execute their intended goals, while simultaneously becoming most productive and efficient.
Businesses have spent more than a century analyzing their key consumer demographics, in an effort to understand how to best connect and identify with those who purchase their products or services. Today, an increasing number of companies have begun to place an equal amount of research and analysis on identifying and understanding the talent that will propel their organization forward. It is through modern-day Talent Management frameworks that we are able to ensure that this opportunity is moved from theory into reality!
Talent Management: Prioritised Areas and Key Components
What, then, are the key components of Talent Management? Let’s focus on two specific areas:
- business strategy
- insights necessary to execute that strategy
When thinking about your business strategy, the Talent Management function is central to identifying and understanding your talent (all of it – internal and external) and the talent engagement models, best suited to execute your business strategy.
For example, consider how businesses can lean on their Talent Management team as a way to grow organically in a highly competitive market segment. Through delegating a team to the talent function of the organization, leaders can prioritize the capacity and efficiency of their sales resources. In turn, Talent Managers can help facilitate the implementation of lean business operations and technology savvy resources on the front line by putting the right talent at the right place.
When thinking of insights, modern day Talent Management teams use a wide range of qualitative and quantitative metrics such as behavioral tendencies, market trends, employees’ expectations, and supply and demand. Over the past decade, continuous analysis of these insights has led Talent Management practices to become exceptionally efficient. In today’s modern Talent Management practices, the focus is shifting beyond efficiency and toward resilience and agility. From culture and engagement, to learning and development, to diversity-equity-inclusion, to the productivity of remote teams, and to researching trends of AI integration and their effect on workforce demand, talent managers are constantly aware of the internal and external insights they can unlock to maximize employee engagement.
Through researching, analyzing, and testing strategy and insights, Talent Management teams create a data-driven workplace culture with purpose and wellness in mind. This is where the emerging function of People Analytics has become a core entity inside an increasing number of progressive enterprises. People Analytics is a broad topic that can be explore in far greater detail, but at the core, there are four primary stages:
- Descriptive analytics – what happened?
- Diagnostic analytics – why did it happen?
- Predictive analytics – what will happen if…?
- Prescriptive analytics – what should we do if?
The Changing Role of Talent Management
The pandemic that we’re currently living in has allowed work to happen from anywhere, which means that there is an increasing number of internal elements that businesses need to analyze and update. At the forefront of these elements are culture, the new workplace, and Talent Agility. But what, exactly, about these elements needs to be reviewed and improved? To adequately refine Talent Management practices, companies need to consider the future of work in the present via four unique dimensions:
- Workforce (Open talent markets, deconstruction of work, re-skilling)
- Workplace (Culture, Innovation, Remote teams)
- Technology (Automation, People Analytics, Collaboration platforms)
- Social Norms (Labour laws, DEI - Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, The ‘Passion Economy’)
Expanding and Understanding the Workforce
With the changing landscape of both the gig economy and the workforce, it is necessary for businesses to find new ways to diversify the size, scope and geography of their available talent pool. Currently, in the Asia Pacific region, 84% of talent managers are employing remote talent via the gig economy. This reflects a larger, more global trend, with many of the world’s companies employing a growing number of external talent — whether that be contractors, consultants, or freelancers. Google, for example, employs 53% of their talent externally, and 47% internally (i.e., only 47% are in-house Google employees).
But to meaningfully diversify talent, and to create an inclusive environment, businesses will also need a detailed understanding of current workforce trends. Much like with consumers, employers need to identify with their talent on a psychographic level. Today’s employees and consumers alike are increasingly concerned about the core values, practices, and vision of the companies they work for or support. In 2019, the Edelman Trust Barometer highlighted the growing importance both employees and employers place on ‘purpose’; in instances where employees don’t identify with a business’ values, 67% would either expect higher pay or be completely unwilling to work for them.
Currently, 39% of Millennials believe that businesses should work to improve society. Additionally, talent is likely to stay an average of 7.4 months longer if a company’s values resonate with them. Employees have become more socially and environmentally aware, and businesses must respond accordingly by finding effective ways to facilitate impactful innovation and change.
Environmentally speaking, talent is increasingly concerned with eco-ethical practices; businesses committed to the sustainability imperative will be identified as morally valuable. But in this age of social sharing, it’s just as important to implement a show-don’t-tell methodology with ethical practices. By letting the actions of your business speak for its moral value, talent will feel exceedingly motivated to commit time and energy to their work.
Understanding Talent Agility
Talent Agility is a key aspect of Talent Management, and a necessity for businesses that are looking to maintain a competitive edge. At its core, Talent Agility describes the process of reorganizing and reallocating talent (both internal and external), and quantifies a business’ ability to do so efficiently. The ever-changing landscape of both the workforce and the workplace has led to the proliferation of programs that increase talent's agility. And when businesses are able to adequately foster and improve Talent Agility, 86% are able to react quickly to unpredictable changes in the workplace or market, as opposed to the standard 50%.
Re-defining Talent Expectations (Learning and Development)
Expanding and diversifying your talent means updating qualification standards to reflect the current workforce trends. New trends with talent are emerging: necessary skills are being obtained outside of education, employees are committed to lifelong learning and re-skilling, and multidisciplinary on-the-job training is now commonplace. With the recent hyper-expansion of virtual learning platforms, employees are gaining soft skills and up-skilling through increasingly non-traditional avenues.
To adequately diversify talent, businesses need to commit equal focus to talent’s multidisciplinary abilities, soft-skills and academic achievements/traditional qualifications. Different types of projects may require different types of talent, and the introduction of more case-specific qualifications, alongside the expansion of a company’s external workforce, will have immediate results. In addition, companies need to properly and consistently update their on-the-job learning systems; this will ensure that talent is always a step ahead of the competition. The ways that the technology sector have adapted to engage the neuro-diverse community is a great example to explore!
The Implications of Technological Innovation on Talent Management
The incorporation of automation and technology in the workplace is an immediately noticeable element affecting Talent Agility. In the current, post-COVID workplace, two impacts to businesses have been evident: the occasional limitations of talent’s skills, and the compensatory advantages of technological innovation. More importantly, however, these impacts have highlighted the importance of social context with technology, particularly when its used to fill gaps created by human limitations. To optimize productivity, technology must be introduced for the sake of improving talent’s capability and proficiency, rather than replacing them.
Since the dawn of the information age, work has been almost exclusively socially based.
And through the recent proliferation of remote work, businesses have leveraged new technologies that improve opportunities for workforce collaboration. But while online platforms have been the preferred method of connection and collaboration, both employees and employers have run into challenges, be it with the technology infrastructure and training, or their feelings of isolation while trying to balance the different roles each of us play in our homes.
Online platforms are only one element of the growing incorporation of technology into the workplace. If used correctly, technology will be key in fostering improved collaboration and performance for both employees and employers. This highlights the importance of ‘cobotics’ — collaboration with robotics, rather than gradual replacement. Technological innovation can lead to improvement in Talent Management frameworks and processes, increased proficiency of talent performance, and an increase in workspace morale.
Additionally, technology can provide aid and opportunities previously unavailable to talent. For example, Ford has recently begun using ‘EksoVests’, which help factory workers to lift and move additional weight (up to 15lbs). With better technologies comes the possibility of more efficient Talent Management methodologies. But if innovation is levelled at workforce performance and talent proficiency, companies will also see a meaningful increase in Talent Agility.
Reframing the Workplace
With the ongoing pandemic having facilitated a major and unprecedented shift from in-person to remote work, certain trends have been brought to light. For one, 63% of companies in the U.S. already employed remote talent. And for those that didn’t, (more than 50% of companies in the U.S. don’t have a legitimate remote work policy), a large number of them are now aware of the advantages and limitations of work-from-home. These trends are indicative of a much-needed adaptation.
This growing trend of remote work is directly reflected in the workforce, with a growing number of talent looking for and preferring work-from-home roles. In particular, 40% of workers with advanced degrees (46% for master’s and above, 32% for bachelor’s) work from home on a weekly basis. With hiring managers predicting 38% of full-time employees will be remotely based by 2027, companies should capitalize on the altered landscape of the pandemic, and immediately begin to implement remote work policies.
With the dramatic introduction of remote and external workers post-COVID 19, companies will need to equally balance their focus on creating an inclusive workplace, one where all people feel confident that they are able to bring their whole self – even when that means having their kids or the dog interrupt Zoom calls!
According to the CCL, there are five key steps to the proper implementation of DEI:
- permit thoughtful and productive conversation
- conduct network analyses
- increase coaching and wellness resources
- update and expand processes involving talent
- foster environments welcoming of myriad social identities.
Further, it’s equally important to create an environment where individuals feel encouraged to have impactful conversations about workplace improvements and conduct. These conversations will give insight, alongside legitimate network analyses, to the areas within a company which may be contributing to inequity and exclusion. Then, through offering wellness resources, increased mentoring, and by expanding and updating the processes involved with onboarding and promoting talent, companies can promote Talent Agility. Finally, by creating a welcoming environment for diverse social identities, companies can guarantee that their workforce will be diverse and inclusive.
Updating Talent Management Practices
So what are some of the best avenues for you to start integrating updated Talent Management practices at your company? To begin, conduct an overarching performance analysis, and identify the areas in your workforce operations and management that are currently underperforming. Target the individual areas of Talent Management by focusing on respectively incorporated technology, workforce trends and practices, workplace etiquette and policy, and social standards.
These steps will give better insight into the workforce operations that need to be restructured to better benefit your talent and company. When we isolate issues — for example, limited progress reports and well-being check-ups — we can better formulate their solutions, in this case being to implement and enforce continuous check-ups on talent’s work and well-being.
In closing, I will acknowledge that we have covered many areas, and the easiest response is to feel overwhelmed and to revert to status quo – to let this be someone else’s problem. If that’s where you find yourself, move to the other side of the desk and ask if that is the culture and attitude that you would look to add to your workforce?
The pandemic has changed so much, for so many, and it commands us to take the necessary time to reflect on how processes, systems and organizations must transform to come out of this crisis with positive momentum. Now is the time to bring a team together – a different team than you have engaged in the past, one that includes representatives from different parts of your talent supply chain – to leverage these new collaboration tools that have been introduced, and build a new model, one that will make you proud, energize you, and initiate the positive momentum that will make your team and your organization the envy of top talent across the world!
Click to learn more about available resources, and start taking steps towards improving your Talent Management practices today!