Talent Management: The value added part is what you do outside of your organization’s box!


This will be a series of posts over the coming weeks. It will explore how TM Officers (TMO) who want to demonstrate extra value to their organizations will show they spend fruitful time looking at how the “world out there” can affect their organizations’ TM issues.

Read most work on TM and you will notice that the primary focus (guess – excess of 90%) is on what to do internally (workforce planning and succession planning for example). This is understandable if the organization’s view of TM is one of being a great employer (at attracting, retaining and using employees). In this circumstance the external considerations extend to concerns such as recruitment and competitor poaching type issues. These are valid concerns. However, there is more that can be provided.

Readers of this BLOG know that I view TM as the effective access and use of talent which considers options well beyond “employment”.

I would argue that  effective TMO know how to read the tea leaves of economic activities. This would consider doing at least the following:

  • Competitor behaviours (current, probable even possible competitors)
  • Supply of talent creation activities (anything that can disrupt or enhance the supply and/or access to requisite talent now and in the future)
  • Effects of significant economic activities (e.g., mega projects) talent supply and security
  • Government and social policies that affect not only the supply but even the nature of applicable use of requisite talent (e.g., virtually every construction project needs environmental talent now)
  • etc.

This series of posts will examine through various scenarios how the TMO can fruitfully consider potential issues.

Scenario: What are the TM effects of the subprime crisis?

Simply stated, the subprime crisis is one where people find themselves owing more on their homes than the homes are worth if they sold.

The effects can be varied. So the task for the TMO is to discern the specific implications on their significant talent areas: direct – critical employee ones; indirect – critical market supplied ones. This latter group should be looked at from both the input and output side of your business model. Why is it important to do this? Because no organization is totally self sufficient. When we think about it, organizations rely on significant amounts and types of talent that is not on their payrolls.

Obviously if your business requires a critical outsourced talent (e.g., manufacturing) then anything that affects your suppliers ability to secure access and use of related talent is of interest to you. But what about your customers when you are not in the final retail link? Surely, they have specific talent  requirements that make use of your products and services. What if they are starting to have problems securing access to this talent area? They will have reduced capacity to use your products and services.

The subprime like crisis is one that creates these potential issues. Why? Because this type of crisis adversely affects the mobility of talent. People cannot afford to move without walking away from hundreds of thousands of personal family wealth and equity.

So even if there is sufficient potential talent available in the market place, it may be virtually unavailable because of this immobilizing effect.

BUT, as in all things in life, my dilemma can be your opportunity. However, this will only be true if you can recognize this to be so, and make the necessary efforts to capitalize on it. Anyone who figures this out before you is in a much better position (than you) to take advantage of the situation. So the subprime crisis can be an opportunity if you figure out how to make it so before your talent competitors.

The underlying strategic issue here is to use lead time advantageously. Recognition of an issue/opportunity and creating the practical plans to deal with /capture it takes time. In practical terms, this means thinking about the future (with its uncertainties and risks) and being bold and insightful enough to take the steps to create the future you want and need.

I would propose, that if you do not do TM work that considers a time horizon of at least five years, you are not being strategic. Any TM plan that I have been associated with that has some substance takes five years before it really pays off. TM plans that can be pulled off and benefits realized before five years will be “incremental improvement type projects. These earlier payoff projects are worth doing simply because they have the quick payoff and they often make internal processes more efficient thereby, releasing scarce working capital for other purposes.

In fact in some cases I encourage clients to take up to a ten year TM horizon. These longer term horizons are almost always linked to capital expansion/renewal type projects.

I have already acknowledged (two paragraphs above) that we cannot predict the future. But those of us with skill, determination and effort may (sorry no surety here either) make the future we want.

Scenario: What are the TM effects of the disparities in housing prices between geographical areas?

This is a “chestnut” type issue. I live in the Vancouver area in British Columbia, which enjoys one of the highest housing costs anywhere in North America. Organizations located here who need critical talent often are faced with trying to attract people from an area where nice houses are in the 300 – 500K$ to one where the prices begin at over 1,000K$ (yes a million).

It is always interesting to hear how often clients continue to lament (sometimes sounds like a whine) about this housing cost disparity. First they have problems getting people to relocate, secondly, it is easy to lose people who see the career and personal wealth advantages of moving elsewhere. The situation is like the area’s climate, it is to be expected.

The key here is how TMO support their organizations by finding creative TM solutions to this reality. Here again, those who do first, will have a comparative competitive advantage for as long as it takes before others replicate the strategy.

Those TMO who see the TM need as one of getting suitable access will look at options other than “typical employment” ones. I have been intrigued at how resistant decision makers can be when asked to consider nonstandard employment type arrangements. There are always at least two parts to this resistance:

  1. The arrangement is “strange” to them and this raises the sense of loss of “to taken for granted privileges” (e.g., always just down the hall). Yes there can be real implications that affect “convenience” and “ease”. So the choice here is one of trade-offs: get atypical access to the talent you really want or not.
  2. The arrangement can begin to shake up the implicit assumptions about how we should operate. All operating models (note I view organizations having clusters of micro and macro operating models). We can come to assume that the way we operate (work together) is the “naturally right”, hence, only way (note: I do not consider most reorganizational efforts having much impact on these entrenched patterns). We forget that all organizations are at their heart social systems, so we can design them in various ways. Each way has advantages and trade-offs. It is always discomforting to change the way we work, especially when there is a “high touch” component to it.

Those of us who are Rolling Stones fans/knowledgeable recognize that applicability of the following lyric:

“You can’t always get what you want. No you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might get what you need.” (with apologies for mis-citing here)

I have found that one of the most helpful benefits I can bring to a client is I can more easily ask: “Why do we have to do it this way?” “Do any other organizations do it differently, and what advantages do they accrue from their approach, and what trade-offs are they prepared to absorb?”

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
This entry was posted in Decison Making, Risk & Uncertainty, Talent Manangement. Bookmark the permalink.

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