Power to the people — embrace distributed talent management
The new way of managing talent is like today’s workforce — distributed — and it’s about putting value and power in the hands of employees and managers. The old idea of centralized command and control is long gone. We now inhabit a world of self-reliant, self-reliant individuals who can support themselves. Welcome to distributed talent management.
Much of the traditional HR role will now be carried out (in a perfectly voluntary and perhaps more effective way) by managers and employees themselves. HR professionals can shed the administrator for a more strategic role focused on providing managers and employees with policies, processes, and tools to manage themselves.
It’s time for autonomy
The rise of distributed talent management is the culmination of a long-term trend that has recently received a major boost.
Until about three years ago, most organizations practiced a top-down approach with an annual cycle of formal activities. In recent years, many have moved to a continuous style of talent management. Going forward, however, successful organizations will follow a distributed model, in which an ecosystem of teams, managers, and employees focus on creating more value for employees.
This evolution has, like so many other things, been accelerated by the pandemic which has forced HR to become much more agile overnight, to increase its use of digital technologies and to help managers and employees take care of their ‘themselves.
Elements of Distributed Talent Management
Learning and development. The new watchword is lifelong training at the pace of the employee. It’s HR’s role to inspire people about opportunities rather than prescribe training. Schneider Electrics is a company who uses a learning portal which offers development opportunities based on an employee’s skills and professional aspirations.
Career Management. In the new world, employees take charge of their own careers. Internal mobility is mediated by a digital platform that suggests roles across the organization based on people’s skills and stated preferences. Unilever Flex is a frame that allows employees to choose to upskill or retrain within Unilever, retrain for a role outside Unilever or move to a new employment model.
Performance management. Beyond prescribed annual or even ongoing reviews, managers can define their own preferred style of performance management, provided HR gets the annual data they need. The Belgian testing company, Eurofins Digital Testing, moved from semi-annual assessments to monthly conversations and used a software tool to keep all relevant data in one place.
Employee engagement and well-being. This has become paramount in the pandemic and will remain so. Many companies have started using engagement boost apps to monitor their employees’ performance and offer them support. Other companies offer health and wellness apps, like Bupa, that encourage employees to set healthy lifestyle goals and sends reminders to help them stay on track.
Workforce planning. In the distributed model, HR breaks jobs down into projects and tasks so that, in addition to matching talent to projects, they can identify trends and gaps across the workforce as a whole. IBM, among others, uses a open talent market tool to match internal and external talent to assignments. These systems allow managers to query available skills and allow employees to volunteer for projects.
Sourcing and recruitment. The new approach transforms talent acquisition into an unbiased and largely automated process. This involves the whole team in the process, matching not only skills and experience, but also personalities. Fujifilm, on the other hand, uses an internal system that automatically publishes job vacancies and candidate selection and keeps all data in one place.
How to do it
Moving to distributed talent management doesn’t happen by buying an app. This is transformational for HR, but it doesn’t need to be daunting if you follow a structured method:
- Review and streamline HR processes – ask what value they add for employees and managers and decide whether to reduce, keep or replace them.
- Introduce Gold Star KPIs – decide on the absolute key indicators that define the style of talent management you want and monitor them closely.
- Prioritize HR programs — list your programs and organize them by level of priority, and don’t be afraid to mix them up when priorities change.
- Rethink the HR department — shift to a matrix structure by classifying functions as day-to-day or strategic, and process- or people-centric.
- Start tracking skills – gather data on everyone’s skills, experience, performance, and aspirations in one place.
The technology you would need
Beyond a mindset shift, you will need to acquire technology that will empower employees and managers themselves to measure engagement, track performance, and grow.
The system you choose will likely consist of a cloud-based platform with several associated mobile apps. It should provide AI-powered people analytics so that HR can identify broader trends within the workforce and develop appropriate strategic policies and programs.
If you want to dig deeper into the biggest HR trend of 2021, take a look at The Unit4 White Paper on Distributed Talent Management.