Poor Talent Management Costing $Billions

Poor “Talent Adaptability” Costing $BillionsMost of us already know that high turnover rates can be extremely costly for companies – to the tune of some $10 billion a year in the U.S. alone. But a new study has revealed that poor “talent adaptability” – the ability for people to retrain for new skills or switch industries – is costing the global economy billions of dollars in lost productivity.

PwC had indeed conducted an extensive study, combining data from LinkedIn’s 277 million members with employer information from its database of people and performance metrics, which covers more than 2,600 employers across the globe, in order to determine how better alignment between talent and opportunity can drive economic growth.

Money talks: The facts aren’t always what they seem

According to Gallup, of the more than 100 million full-time workers in the U.S., only 30% are engaged and inspired at work, and roughly 20% are actively disengaged. It is in fact estimated that approximately 2 million Americans quit their jobs every month.

According to the Center for American Progress, the average cost to find a new employee for a non-specialized position that pays $50,000 per year can be as high as 20% of salary ($10,000. Not considering lost knowledge and productivity, it is clear that companies need to work intensely on retaining their staff, even if this means giving way to a 5% raise.

But is salary all that matters?

The most important question to ask yourself as an employer isn’t whether or not to acquiesce to a raise request from an average-performing employee, but rather to determine why your employees are quitting.

In its study, PwC found that out of all the reasons employees choose to leave their jobs, compensation only comes in third place, preceded by lack of career advancement opportunities and poor management/leadership. Other factors included boredom with responsibilities, work hours and lack of recognition.

Putting compensation aside, as it can be difficult for some companies to radically make a difference in that area, every one of the other reasons stated by exiting employees could have been avoided with the proper talent management strategy.

Remember: Talent doesn’t always come naturally. By investing in your workforce to develop their competencies, and rewarding them adequately for their achievements, you ensure your own success as a company.

The Millennial conundrum: Are your retention strategies tailored to your workforce demographics?

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average tenure of employees – males and females, 25 to 64, combined – was approximately 5 years in 2012. This figure has been relatively stable over the past two decades, with slight variations along the way.

Yet, when we look at Millennials specifically, we see that this timeline drops to 1.5 years, despite the fact that most claim they would rather stay with their employers for 10+ years. Considering the wide gap between intent and reality, it is relatively safe to assume that if Millennials have earned a reputation of career instability, the blame may need to be shifted from employees to employers.

Last month, we discussed how to identify your employees’ real motivation to performance. The article mentioned how employers cannot assume that every employee aspires to an executive position and more and more, younger generations are instead looking for that perfect balance between professional accomplishment and personal well-being. But when it comes to retention strategies, Millennials do want to be boss; they want to have the power to choose rewards that are meaningful to them.

Where there’s a problem, there’s a solution

The real problem with turnover is that the majority of companies don’t really take the time to invest in their retention strategies until they suspect that key employees may be considering leaving. Too often however, it is by then too late to avoid the inevitable. And even if it did save you an employee, you have done nothing to rectify the situation for the future.

The solution to limit turnover entails a multi-step process that begins before recruiting takes place:

1.  Take a look around

Regardless of your short-term hiring intentions, it doesn’t mean that you cannot grow your workforce organically and plan for future hiring needs. As such, begin with a thorough assessment of your industry – trends, gaps, needs, etc. – and benchmark your company against your main competitors: What are you missing? What do you need to outperform? What advantages do they have over you? You over them? Once you have determined all of those elements, you will have a much clearer picture of the workforce you need to succeed looking forward.

2.  Design your path to success

Based on your findings, develop competency models for all the job roles across your company. In the process, sit down with your employees to discuss these models, and to take the pulse on areas that may need improvement. Not only are your employees your best source of data to accurately determine the competencies and behaviors required to succeed in their own jobs, but they will also feel appreciated and valued – a clear detractor to turnover.

3.  Recruiting, training and coaching

Even if you do not intend to hire more staff right away, your competency models are not wasted. Rather, use them against your latest performance evaluations to identify skill gaps and develop professional development programs for your employees. Remember that two of the main reasons workers leave their employers are boredom and lack of in-house opportunities. Your employees want to succeed and excel at what they do so give them the tools to better themselves and feel accomplished in their job.

*Note that while it may sound counterintuitive, research shows  the best way to keep them from leaving is to prepare them to do just that.

4.  Be the motivation

Good managers understand that their responsibilities don’t just reside in overseeing output and processes, but include all facets of leadership. If a great majority of workers who quit a job blame management, it is mainly because of a culture issue. To counter this, implement an executive program by which your managers are encouraged to help their subordinates achieve superior roles, and your recruiters are trained to identify workers who aspire to build a career, rather than just ‘fill a role’. The key is to motivate your employees to stay and plan their careers with your company; it is therefore crucial that you provide the tools and support to how they can achieve their goals with you.

5.  Get personal

As previously mentioned, newer generations of workers have voiced their desire for incentives and rewards that matter to them, and more and more ‘older’ workers have joined in, realizing how smaller things like an extra day off or flexible work arrangements can mean more than a 1% raise. But there’s an art to rewarding employees to improve performance, and the key is to make it personal. Why not offer a wide-ranging package of incentives, and let your employees chose what is most meaningful to them? You’d be surprised how much motivation can come from giving them the power to choose.

Of course, these steps have been simplified for the sake of space, but we have included several links to provide additional information on employee retention and talent management strategies. We also invite you to comment below or contact us with any question you may have.

Ready to take these first steps? Register to attend one of our upcoming workshops! Choose the location nearest you – Washington, Chicago or Fort Lauderdale – or let us come to you!

For a DIY solution, you’ll find a wide array of talent management tools and manuals on our website, as well as external links to studies and white papers that can further help you in the process.

Happy browsing, and hope to see you at one of our seminars!

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Eliminate HR? No problem? Not so fast.

Eliminate HR? No problem? Not so fast.	“Sometimes, the only thing worse than having an HR department is not having one.”

So begins a recent article published in the Careers section of the Wall Street Journal.

“Companies Say No to Having an HR Department”

“Employers Come Up With New Ways to Manage Hiring, Firing and Benefits”

There have been many articles written about the effectiveness of HR departments across the nation, the main criticism being that they have become inefficient in nature.

Yet, if HR has lost some of its appeal in eyes of line managers, the answer shouldn’t be to rid companies of its intrinsic value, but rather to identify the causes of this downfall. After all, when sales are down quarter over quarter, does a board choose to eliminate the sales department?

Why HR’s success is everyone’s business

One of the biggest challenges with some organizations is that HR is seen as a freestanding entity, controlling every facet of workforce management almost in an outsourced manner. Typically, when a manager obtains a green light to hire a new employee, he/she turns to HR with the expectation that it’ll know what to do to find that ideal candidate to fulfill the newly opened position.

But HR is no crystal ball. To do its job as intended, it requires input from those who know the company’s reality most: managers and executives. How can one reasonably expect anyone, regardless of their expertise in their given field, to have the ability to fill a position with no concrete knowledge of what success entails in this role?

The truth is, painting Human Resources as a silo at the service of the entire corporation is bound to lead to inefficiencies and excessive wastes of money… and talent. It is common knowledge that silos, in any part of the organization, should be eliminated, and HR should be invited to sit at the table regularly, if only to get a better pulse of where the company is heading and what it is lacking to get there.

If a company’s success depends on the quality and motivation of its employees, HR’s participation in your everyday processes means it can provide much needed expertise in terms of workforce planning, performance incentives and talent management to help ensure that every one of your projects accomplishes their intended objectives.

Without a HR Department….

To do without a Human Resources department, companies would need to first make sure they can accurately evaluate the cost of managers and other employees taking control of HR-related functions.

Granted, such a structure may promote accountability amongst your staff in charge and should, in theory, help optimize some of your talent management processes, but there is more to eliminating HR than what meets the eye.

Just think about potential liabilities and legalities, financial and managerial risks, missed opportunities with strategic deployments, conflict resolutions, etc. These are issues that no company can afford to neglect. If your organization has determined that it would best be served by cutting out ‘the middle man’ and attributing HR functions, such as recruiting, outsourcing, and succession planning, to its executives, there’s an important opportunity cost that must also be taken into consideration.

It may seem more efficient to let your existing managers handle the basic tasks that are often relayed to HR, but there’s a much bigger reason for the existence of a department dedicated to the expert management of your workforce.

A neglected source of profitability

Because it rarely deals directly with business development, HR is often perceived as an administrative cost center. Yet, when we consider that the cost of recruiting for a new position in this day and age has been reported to be approximately $3,500, wouldn’t it be important for your business’ profitability to ensure that you have the right experts working to minimize these costs?

And this is only one aspect of HR’s functions within an organization.

The HR Difference website describes HR’s true purpose as helping “make effective continues: “HR’s orientation is one of responsiveness to both immediate and long-term business needs, providing both operational excellence and strategic insight.”

In more specific terms, Human Resources deals with:

  • Recruiting and employment
  • Training and professional development
  • Remuneration and benefits
  • Internal policies and legalities
  • Culture and philosophy
  • Equality and diversity
  • Disciplinary and rewards programs
  • Corporate alignment and vision

This list is not exhaustive, but taking a good look at it may help you understand why relying on your managers to handle these tasks can be of great cost to your productivity. Do you really want your best executives to allocate so much of their time to these duties, for which they may not possess the right expertise and training?

In an upcoming article, we will discuss how you can streamline these processes to ensure profitability and value in your HR department.

In the meantime, we invite you to sign up to our newsletter to receive other materials designed to help you better understand, analyze and optimize your talent management processes.

BNA Guide to HR Benchmarks

http://www.bna.com/HR-Benchmarks-27417/

http://www.bna.com/uploadedFiles/Content/Products/Human_Resources/Reports/Guide%20to%20HR%20Benchmarks%202013_Web%20preview.pdf

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Benchmarking is not Competency Modeling

Human capital management is a relatively new science, but there is no denying that this practice has made tremendous progress over the past few decades, particularly in terms of recognition and efficiency within a greater organizational context.

Modern scientific advances, namely within the fields of behavioral and cognitive psychology, have helped support the development of many human resources theories that sought to establish a pattern to building and managing a workforce in a manner that sought to produce continuously superior results.

Of all the human resources theories to emerge over the years, competency modeling and benchmarking have probably been some of the most scrutinized. Strangely, it appears that the two schools of thought have grown to oppose each other, as if one couldn’t exist alongside the other.

But could it be that rather than taking sides, HR professionals – and consequently, organizations at large – could stand to gain by incorporating both approaches into their practices?

Let’s take a closer look.

Benchmarking, or the ‘grass is always greener’ theory

The Global Benchmarking Network characterizes benchmarking as “the systematic search for efficient procedures and better solutions for complicated problems and processes.”

Benchmarking ProcessUnder a more generic definition, benchmarking could be defined as the comparative study of processes within a precisely segmented group to identify best practices. Let’s remember that benchmarking can be external or internal, meaning that the group under review could range from an entire industry to an organization’s own branches, departments or teams.

Regardless of the group surveyed, the objective of benchmarking is to allow an organization to measure its ‘relative success’ as a means to improve and, ultimately, optimize its results.

Within an HR framework, we find that the most common metrics measured through benchmarking are recruitment costs, compensation, training expenses, and turnover. For example:

  • What is the lowest/average cost per hire within my industry?
  • How are my competitors achieving better results?

In this case, you are benchmarking your cost per hire to your competitors, and attempting to gather data to understand what they are doing to outperform you so that you can improve.

Looking inward: A customized approach to performance

Then, at what many believe to be the other end of the spectrum, we find competency modeling, which refers to the development of groups of related competencies that together describe successful performance, within a given job context – e.g., the competencies necessary to achieve superior performance in a senior production management role within the textile industry.

It is important to note that the term ‘competencies’ includes knowledge, skills, behavior, personal characteristics, interests and values – all of which combine to set the standard against which to measure an individual’s chances of success within a specific job role.

The fact that competency models can be used to assess a worker’s potential in a particular position has often led to the assumption that competency modeling mainly served recruiting purposes. Yet, in reality, these models carry a much broader definition, and can be applied to a variety of organizational processes (succession planning, performance management, training and development, compensation, etc.).

Much like benchmarking, the metrics obtained from competency modeling are the result of empirical and comparative studies based on a segmented group’s best practices; the exception being that competency models tend to be more focused on the performance metrics of the people behind the processes, rather than the processes themselves.

Understanding this difference is key to grasping the full potential of integrating competency models with a benchmarking approach.

Power to the people…or processes?  The chicken-egg paradox

While the intent of this article isn’t to argue which is more important: the process or the people implementing the process, it is nevertheless imperative to understand that even the most optimal process can fail if the people responsible for its execution do not possess the skills to implement it as intended. Similarly, even the most qualified executives may not deliver the intended results if the processes they must apply are not optimized for performance.

Acknowledging that both people and processes are instrumental to a company’s success makes it much easier to see how benchmarking and competency modeling can work together to provide an invaluable competitive edge for any organization.

Benchmarking can be an important component to optimizing organizational output, as it gathers data about the competitive landscape. But once you have become aware of your industry’s best practices, you need a strategic plan to not only replicate them internally, but hopefully also to build upon them to eventually set the bar within your sector.

Here’s where the input of benchmarking can be used.

Competency modeling can use the data gathered through benchmarking to develop models of superior performance that are customized to your organization’s unique descriptors, characteristics and goals.

Benchmarking is not Competency Modeling

In step 3 of Workitect’s competency modeling process*, it is necessary to identify the superior performers in a job for which the model is being developed, and then collect data to determine the skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics of those superior performers. One of the methods used to identify the top performers and collect data is a resource panel, also known as an expert panel.  In addition to studying people who are top performers today, the panel needs do a “future scan” to:

  • Identify ongoing or anticipated changes in the organization, industry, and relevant technology that may affect the job
  • Identify what each change implies, in terms of additional skills and personal characteristics that job incumbents will need

To illustrate more specifically to a job role, benchmarking would allow you to identify the best practices with respect to a CFO’s duties (key tasks and performance measures), while a job competency model will use the data gathered to identify the skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics required to perform these key tasks as intended, at the most cost-effective ratio for your organization, in accordance with your constraints.

*The building of job competency models, making use of benchmarking data, is included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models certification workshop.

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Competency-based performance management to reward top performers

Rewarding top performers through a behavior-based performance management processCountless books and articles have been written on the subject of performance management and performance appraisal. “New and improved” systems have been launched in most companies and yet, the same cynicism and dissatisfaction exists, particularly at the employee and lower management levels.

It is a constant battle for employers to find and properly implement an efficient performance management process by which valuable and accurate data can be used to assess the true ROI and potential ROI of your workforce.

Even here, at Workitect, we have discussed the topic of performance management in several articles, supporting companies in their search for bar raisers and top performers. But what is top performance anyway? How can a manager identify and properly reward those individuals who exemplify the qualities and attributes needed to continuously increase a company’s efficiency, competitiveness and future chances of success?

Debunking the myths of performance in the workplace

One of the most common myths of performance management is that the best employees should get all the glory. After all, they not only deliver, but rewarding them gives an incentive to others.

While this strategy may help you retain your best employees, it can also create an unbalanced work environment, which could in turn lead to demotivation and high turnover rates. Remember that approximately ¾ of your workforce is made up of “average” performers; those very workers who, day in and day out, do what is asked of them. They may not exceed expectations, but they nevertheless are committed to doing what is required, and doing it well.

Neglecting to nurture or develop these individuals’ competencies so that they may derive satisfaction from their work and achieve their career objectives is the equivalent of setting roadblocks to your company’s success. A top performer may possess the will or drive to excel, but an average performer still delivers on the work that matters.

What’s more, by recognizing good performers, rather than just the top 5%, you are investing in their potential and motive to improve their performance. Your average workers may be average today, but it is your responsibility to give them the tools they need to become bar raisers.

Let’s however note that this doesn’t mean you should reward poor performers, nor that you should reward good and top performers the same. There is an important distinction to be made, but more on that later.

Step by step: understanding performance management as a behavioral tool

Performance management is much more than periodic performance appraisals; it aligns individual professional development to overall corporate results. In an interview given to Performance Management Magazine, the father of performance management, Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels, describes performance management as:

A scientifically based, data-oriented management system [consisting] of three primary elements – measurement, feedback and positive reinforcement. Although each of these three elements can exist alone, all three must be present [implemented systematically and in sequence] before you have true Performance Management.

In this definition, measurement refers to collected and anticipated performance data; feedback is the discussion between employer and employee on said data; and positive reinforcement is the reward or recognition of improvement in performance.

By Dr. Daniels’ definition, successful performance management takes a page out of behavioral theories, confirming the power of positive reinforcement in behavior modification. He indeed suggests that to promote a culture of top performers, companies must avoid two unfortunately all-too-common practices:

  1. Generalized rewards, such as an extra week of vacation every 5 years of employment or an x% raise every year, as this sort of incentive program rewards good, bad and top performers equally. “The good ones will conclude that it doesn’t pay to perform well, and the poor ones will conclude that it does pay to perform poorly. After a while, the extra week will just be taken for granted anyway.”
  2. Negative reinforcement – “No one works up to his/her potential unless he or she is positively motivated. For example, if you threaten an employee with being fired, chances are he’ll do just enough to keep his job, but no more. And, if jobs are plentiful, he might pull a Johnny Paycheck and tell you to “take this job and shove it.”

So what should a performance manager do to promote performance? Reward good performers with something (tangible or not) that is meaningful to them and 100% contingent on improved performance. Once again, understanding your employees’ motives to performance is a crucial tool in adapting your performance management reward system to yield the right results. Employers should make good use of the feedback session with their employees to understand their drive in the workplace – not just to read and explain the comments on the performance appraisal review.

Remember that not everyone aspires to become a leader. Success is subjective, and assuming that you can motivate your team simply by dangling the reward or promotion carrot is ludicrous. To succeed, a person must not only want to, but he/she must also be motivated to invest in developing the competencies that matter. In other words, if you want top performers, you need to know your team and give them the tools to succeed in accordance with their individual motives.

Measurement: It all goes (down or up)hill from here!

If finding the right reward is important to the success of your performance management system, identifying the right behaviors is even more crucial to the process. If you have difficulty recognizing good or outstanding performance from average or poor performance, even the best performance management system cannot be sustained efficiently.

Some organizations have found that managers should be evaluating employee behaviors and competencies demonstrated, in addition to organizational results achieved. Just as acquired skills and education cannot predict a person’s performance in a given job role, vague or subjective measurement points cannot support a healthy and future-oriented performance management process.

In an article published last month, we mentioned that one of the most common flaws of performance appraisals is that they focus on evaluating workers’ quantitative output, rather than their competencies and potential for outstanding performance. By focusing on purely quantitative results achieved (e.g., number of sales, revenue generated, etc.), you are overlooking several other elements of performance (e.g., leadership, team work, availability, etc) that may be impacting your business more than you think.

Many organizations shy away from a competency-based performance management system simply because it is easier to hold employees accountable for hitting or missing quantitative targets, rather than attempting to measure their qualitative input and planning for their future development. In a way, companies primarily use performance management to determine compensation and meet certain professional development targets, rather than using them as strategies to create bar raisers.

There are several guidelines for effective performance management, but the human factor is critical. Once you lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with individuals, each of whom have personal goals, interests, motives and competencies, evolving over time, no matter how brilliant your performance management process, you are bound to continue experiencing the same results.

For more information on performance management, browse our free resources or contact us for personalized advice!

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The power of customization in competency modeling

Iceberg_2-1

 

Over the years, competency modeling has been the subject of its share of criticism, particularly with respect to their level of complexity. Many have indeed argued that in addition to the fact that developing customized models that can be applied across the multitude of job roles within an organization is an arduous challenge, competency modeling is a language that most managers don’t speak. Rather, a great deal of HR professionals and line managers prefer to talk about skills and experience when assessing and selecting internal or external candidates for open positions

But can acquired skills and past experience really support an organization’s need to remain in constant movement, to evolve, to adapt to a rapidly changing environment?

As groundbreaking technologies make their way into our professional lives at a pace faster than most companies can adapt to, can the simple fact of having learned a certain skill guarantee a company’s future success?

A skill is a skill is… not a competency

There is an important difference between skills and competencies, although both terms are unfortunately often used interchangeably.

A skill is an ability an individual learns in order to accomplish a task. In an organizational context, this may be, for example, programming, translating, writing, etc. Skills are acquired through education and hard work, and can be regarded as somewhat tangible.

A competency extends a bit further on this definition to include the behaviors, motives and knowledge required to utilize that skill to produce the desired results. In the context of workforce planning and talent management, competencies can therefore be defined as a group of measurable traits that allow an organization to assess an individual’s probability of superior performance, in addition to the skills he/she already possesses.

In other words, competencies do include the underlying skills needed to produce a given outcome, but they also involve a lot more than the ‘technical’ abilities an individual has acquired over the years, to include what employees possess in the way of personal characteristics that enable them to produce superior results.

The bottom line: Why competencies matter

Typically, when companies realize they need an employee to fill a new or newly opened position, they begin the search for a candidate who ‘knows what they’re doing’, i.e., who can perform the task based on their educational and/or professional record. In doing so, the organization is evaluating the value of this candidate based on previously demonstrated skills, overlooking the person’s future contribution. Yet, in our current environment, successful companies must be a step ahead of the current trends to win the game.

We’ve recently discussed how it is ludicrous for an employer to assume that all employees aspire to be boss one day. Many are very content with fewer responsibilities in their careers, placing more emphasis on achieving success elsewhere in their life. As a result, a company in the staffing process may now be placed in a situation where it must choose between a candidate with 15 years’ experience in the field with no career advancement motive, and a candidate with 5 years’ experience with a great inclination for acquiring new skills.

This desire to learn is not a skill, but part of a competency cluster that is crucial to companies. In general, competencies at the motive or trait level (e.g., initiative) are more difficult to develop than competencies that resemble skills (e.g., persuasiveness, communications). It is those harder-to-develop competencies that should be the criteria for selection, rather than ‘skills’ that can be learned.

Customization: Looking inward to play your strengths

Building a competency model for future success requires more than listing the traits or motives desired within a certain job role. In fact, a 2011 article mentions that if competency models have fallen short of their goals, it is because too many organizations decide to create just one model or buy an “off-the-shelf” model for the entire organization, thereby failing to recognize the unique aspects of their own strategy, culture and values.

The article then goes a step further, comparing this method to taking another company’s logo, tweaking it a bit, and calling it your own. Competency models defined in this way will provide clear direction on how to be successful in another company and will result in poor linkage to results and poor alignment with strategy.”

We cannot deny that generic tools are critical to the competency modeling process, as they serve as a guideline, a starting point in your development process. After all, by utilizing the tools at your disposal, you save considerable time and money. But the competency modeling process involves more than listing ‘desirables’ on paper. It entails looking inward, at where your organization is, what it intends to accomplish, your competitive landscape, and the obstacles that may stand in your way over time.

There are as many ways to learn to build a truly valuable and viable customized competency model for your organization as there are applications to modeling:  succession planning, performance management, recruiting, training and development, etc.

You may want to take advantage of onsite workshops, which tailor for you generic competency models to the needs of your organization, or attend public workshops, where small groups gather to learn the techniques required to develop and implement their own models, with the support of an array of already-available tools.

What’s more, Workitect also offers webinars and white papers to further guide you in the process, so that you may derive the best value from the tools we have developed over our decades of experience.

We invite you to contact one of our consultants to discuss the best solutions for your situation.

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Matchmaking Through Competencies

Competency models no longer need to prove their effectiveness within the recruiting process. Most organizations know that by utilizing a competency model customized to their future needs, the selection process becomes all that much more efficient.

Yet, many continue to rely on competency models as a preliminary tool, rather than an ongoing development tool, thereby recruiting candidates based on their readiness to demonstrate the skills required to perform in a given role. But some competencies can more easily be developed than others, and by overlooking a person’s potential to acquire new critical skills, employers may be closing the door in the face of future top performers.

What’s more, recruiting on the basis of competencies that can be taught on the job entails having implemented the right development programs to ensure that these employees really do have the opportunity to evolve into the bar raisers they were hired to become.

Selecting for (the right) competencies

In general, competencies at the motive or trait level (e.g., initiative) are more difficult to develop than competencies that resemble skills (e.g., persuasiveness, communications); the latter of which might best be developed through a combination of training and on-the-job experience. It is those harder-to-develop competencies that should be the criteria for selection or career pathing to a job, rather than the competencies that can be learned.

The table below is an extract from an actual competency model completed for a Project Manager position. It summarizes recommendations regarding selecting for or developing the competencies in the position.

project_manager_compentency_extract-table

You’ll notice that seven of the competencies are recommended as selection criteria, due to the fact that they are deemed difficult to acquire on the job. These form the basis of your selection process and should be the primary skills assessed by your interviewers in their decision-making.

The competencies under the Train column are less critical than the others in the recruiting process, as they can be acquired through experience and on-the-job training. The competencies under the ‘Develop’ column refer to skills that can be further developed with proper coaching or mentoring, granted that the interviewing candidate demonstrates learning abilities and motives to do so.

Ideally, all the competencies in the model should be criteria of selection. However, what this exercise shows is the value of rating competencies once your model has been developed. Doing so provides a means of determining the relative importance of each competency in the decision to hire or promote.

For example, given two candidates who each possess 9 of the competencies, the candidate who lacks Self-Confidence (a competency recommended for selection) is much less desirable than the one who lacks Managing Performance (a competency recommended for training). The operating principle behind these guidelines is to select or promote into the target jobs according to the competencies that are most difficult to develop, and not to give excessive weight to the other, more developable competencies.

Developing your employees’ competencies

Understanding that your selection process should account for candidates who not only possess the right skills but also show great potential in developing additional competencies is one thing, but the process doesn’t stop there.

To ensure that you and your employees derive value from a competency-based assessment, it is important to ensure that further to the selection of qualified applicants:

  1. You implement and utilize the right development and performance evaluation programs
  2. Your employees make use of these assessments to plan their own growth

Your competency-based system therefore needs to define a process by which development and other related activities will occur. The process should describe a sequence of activities and expectations of the participant, the participant’s manager, HR, and the participant’s coach, if any.

Two tools are needed for this purpose: a development planning form and a resource guide with ideas for developing each competency.

The development planning form usually includes the following features:

  • A requirement to target a small number (2-4) of competencies for development
  • Specific activities to develop or practice each targeted area
  • Dates set for the accomplishment of the activities
  • Criteria or processes by which the participant will assess his/her mastery of the targeted areas

The resource guide is a book that provides general guidance on ways to develop competencies, including:

  • Books, articles and other readings explaining a competency and describing ways to use it effectively
  • Internal courses offered by the organization
  • External courses endorsed by the organization
  • Ways to practice the competency or apply it on the job
  • Ways to learn from experts (by observing or interviewing them)
  • Coaching suggestions for managers

Workitect’s Competency Development Guide and eDeveloper™, The Successful Manager’s Handbook and The Successful Executive’s Handbook are great support tools in this area. However, if your competency models use competencies that differ significantly from the generic competencies presented in these manuals, you may want to develop a customized resource guide, so that your employees can easily find ideas for developing each competency.

Remember that consultants who specialize in competency-based assessment and development can also create a customized resource guide for you. Furthermore, if your program involves coaching, you may want to consider bringing in professionals to work with your employees (typically six months to a year) to help with their development plan and improve their skills on the targeted competencies. Professional coaches can add tremendous value in motivating your employees to reflect on their behavior and think through challenges they are experiencing in their jobs and their careers. Here again, remember that coaching should be tailored to the needs of each participant, and The Executive Coaching Forum website offers many excellent free resources on this topic.

The value of a competency-based approach to talent management and workforce planning isn’t just in what it can do for your recruiting process, but how it can be integrated to every one of your HR processes: selection, assessment, performance management, training and development, succession planning, etc.

Read more about the different applications of competency models, or contact a Workitect consultant to discuss your particular situation.

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Behavioral talent management: Not everyone wants to be boss

motivatorsTalent management, in its purest sense, refers to a high-level HR strategy that sees to the optimal utilization of human capital to maximize an organization’s chances of success. But when it comes to managing a workforce, the human variable of the equation isn’t always easy to define and as such, predicting an outcome can be extremely arduous for managers who overlook important human behavior concepts, including motivation and aspiration.

Success probably carries as many definitions as there are people walking the earth. To some, it’s a general disposition in life while for others, it is mostly centered around a specific aspect, such as career, finances or love. This diversity in the very definition of success is part of what makes developing and implementing a talent management approach so difficult for executives attempting to optimize workforce performance.

After all, your ‘incentives’ to performance must be broad enough to allow for a cost-effective, streamlined process, but they also need to be sufficiently customized to the varying needs of your employees.

Performance: A question of satisfying needs?

Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how each level affects an individual’s behavior in life. But the continuation to this story, developed by David C. McClelland, is a little more obscure, despite the fact that his Need theory is often considered a major contributor to understanding human behavior in an organizational setting.

McClelland’s theory claims that humans possess three main needs, or motives – Achievement, Affiliation and Power – each of which dictate specific behaviors in the workplace.

Motives Characteristics
Achievement
  • Need to be challenged
  • Need for a sense of accomplishment
  • Need for regular feedback
Affiliation
  • Need to belong and be appreciated
  • Need for collaboration/interaction
  • Aversion to uncertainty
Authority/Power
  • Need for control/influence
  • Motivated by competition
  • Propensity for status/recognition

Unlike Maslow’s theory under which it is understood that a person will not intentionally seek out to fulfill a need for as long as other more pressing, or basic, needs haven’t been fulfilled, the McClelland theory states that most people possess a combination of the above motives, to varying degrees based on culture and life experiences.

Based on this knowledge, the Need theory can help you optimize your talent management processes in a manner that is consistent with both your employees’ social ‘motives’ and your organizational need to maximize their performance.

Identifying your employees’ real motivation to performance

In a recent article, we discussed the importance of tapping into your workforce’s potential and interests to develop their competencies and create a culture of bar-raisers. According to this system, it is only “once employees understand the gap between their own skills and the competencies required by the position they aspire to attain” that training for optimal results begins to occur in the workplace, driven by employees’ need to succeed.

But success, as we previously mentioned, is a subjective matter, and it is ludicrous for an employer to assume that all employees aspire to be boss one day. Many are very content with fewer responsibilities in their careers, placing more emphasis on achieving success elsewhere in their life. What’s more, it is critical to have a diverse workforce to ensure performance at all levels of the organization.

McClelland’s theory assists us in accurately identifying your employees’ dominant need so that you may set appropriate goals (and expectations!), as well as provide the right feedback and incentives to get the best results out of every employee.

For instance, realizing that an employee possesses the potential to develop certain competencies required to access superior roles within your organization does not mean that your talent management system will succeed in unleashing it. Rather, McClelland’s study reveals that if the dominant motive of an employee under consideration for a managerial role is affiliation, presenting the benefits sought after by authority-driven individuals is unlikely to yield the intended results.

This can easily be compared to the effects of a customized value proposition on your business development strategies, relative to a generic proposal that doesn’t highlight the benefits sought after by the potential client. The potential of a new collaboration may be great, but failing to understand the motives of the person on the other side of the deal is unlikely to translate into the results you seek.

What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander

By integrating and analyzing the most dominant need in your employees, you place yourself in a situation where you can adjust your own behavior and talent management approaches to drive superior results.

For instance, the theory proposes that to succeed in top management positions, a person should have a strong need for power and a low need for affiliation. And while authority-driven individuals are more likely to excel in these senior roles, it is achievement-motivated individuals who are better known for “making things happen and getting results”. But to encourage this behavior, employers need to provide constant feedback, with a fair share of praise. As such, when dealing with these employees, managers need to offer objective and regular performance reviews in order to set the pace for improvement and ultimately, superior results.

When combined with a customized competency-based approach to talent management, these insights into the characteristics of each person’s dominant motive to performance are critical to an organization’s success.

The case of ‘deliberate practice’, or the grooming of top performers

Once you have identified those employees who have 1) the competencies required by a given job role and 2) the motive to succeed in that role, it is important to assess the value of your professional development programs.

Scientific research shows that the quality and quantity of your coaching are as equally important, and that top performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice, NOT innate talent.

K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist and scientific researcher at Florida State University, wrote a paper entitled The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, in which he states:

“We argue that the differences between expert (top) performers and normal adults (employees) reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

In other words, top performers – here referred to as ‘expert performers’ – are individuals who are developed to excel and deliver results. And this is where identifying the very motives that will drive an individual to train to become an expert performers becomes highly critical to the process.

To learn more about talent management, we invite you to browse other valuable articles and downloadable PDFs here, or join us at our next seminar, set to take place in May in Washington. 

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Optimize your performance management system

performance2Lately, there’s been a lot of press about the lack of value performance reviews bring to a talent management process. Some claim they are simply too subjective and that as a result, only serve a compensation purpose; while others say that because the process only takes place sporadically throughout the year, with little follow-up, it doesn’t help employees achieve better results.

In a recent post, we also acknowledged that performance reviews can indeed be time consuming for both managers and employees. Yet, our experience shows that the main reason why performance management systems rarely deliver on their intended promise is that management often fails to either 1) understand the true value and purpose of the reviews, or 2) utilize the process in an objective and result-driven manner… Or both.

What’s more, the very results that many companies seek to obtain from performance reviews are often quantitative (e.g., number of sales, revenue generated, etc.), whereas the real value of performance management resides in providing both a qualitative and quantitative assessment of an employee’s skills and competencies within an organizational context. In other words, companies primarily use performance reviews to determine compensation, rather than using them as strategies to generate additional value and optimize their output.

Let’s take a closer look.

The performance evaluation conundrum: Results or competencies?

One of the most common flaws of performance review processes is that they focus on evaluating workers’ quantitative output, rather than their competencies. There’s no denying that your workforce needs to generate value for your company, but are you evaluating your employees’ actual contribution to your success or focusing solely on financial results over which they may have very little to no control?

This line of questioning is critical as we move into a new era of workforce planning, one that is now past most of the hurts and pains caused by the financial crisis, which had many employees suffer the burden of additional responsibilities being assigned to them via employers’ cost-cutting strategies. And as we enter a brand new age of having to do more with less, it is even more critical to focus on the real value (i.e., current contribution and potential for future contribution) that your employees bring to your organization, rather than isolated financial targets.

A competency-based performance management system combines planning, management and appraisal of both performance and competencies by assessing not only results and accomplishments, but also the methods used to get there. This shift from evaluating quantitative results to rating desired behaviors and skills makes the performance management process more valuable in the sense that it becomes a tool to empower employees in their development of new skills, as well as a way to distinguish between ‘performers’ – one who executes as anticipated – and ‘bar raisers’ – one who contributes to the productivity, growth and competitiveness of your operations.

Many organizations shy away from a competency-based performance management system simply because it is easier to hold employees accountable for hitting or missing quantitative targets, rather than attempting to measure their qualitative input, especially when the bottom line is running thin.

But there is a big financial value in assessing overall contributions, as opposed to only focusing on specific financial results. An employee may be highly productive and provide great value for a company – be it in the form of peer motivation/inspiration or taking on additional responsibilities at no additional cost to the organization – but not necessarily hit his/her intended financial targets for the period under review. This ‘bar-raising’ behavior should be remarked and rewarded, as it may be contributing to maintaining a lower turnover ratio and/or overall human capital expenditures.

When you integrate competency models into your performance review process, it becomes easier to evaluate the metrics that really make a difference. Plus, it motivates employees by providing them with both feedback that takes notice of their input at many levels and opportunities to develop and advance; two distinct drivers of superior performance.

All things being equal: Past performance as a deterrer of future output

We cannot and won’t argue that past performance isn’t an important metric, or that it shouldn’t be included in a performance review process. But penalizing an employee for failure to meet a quantitative target may also come at a cost – as mentioned above, this employee may be adding tremendous value in other ways and not recognizing it can lead to a lack of motivation or desire to ‘go the extra mile’.

Where performance reviews solely or mainly based on past results fail is that they typically go on the assumption that management can predict an employee’s future performance based on what has been accomplished in the past. This ‘ceteris paribus’ assumption rarely bears any credibility in matters of human capital because while it is possible to draw fairly accurate conclusions when attempting to predict the behavior of individual X when placed in context Y, this assumes that we already know the characteristics of X and Y.

Yet, in an organizational context, these values (particularly Y – which can be time, operational processes, or workforce turnover, to name a few) are in constant movement. As a result, we are no longer attempting to predict the behavior of, say, an entry-level employee of 25 years of age with a college degree (etc.) to a specific environmental context. Rather, we are attempting to predict the behavior of an evolving individual as he/she experiences variations of Y, thereby making the ‘ceteris paribus’ assumption obsolete. It is therefore nonsensical to ‘bet it all’ on your managers’ ability to predict an employee’s future performance based on what has been observed in the past.

Competency assessments to ensure organizational success

The success of competency models as a basis for performance reviews is that they work to describe emerging and anticipated skill requirements, rather than skills that have been effective in the past. As such, customized competency models allow you to rate an employee’s strengths (competencies, skills, behaviors and interests) in accordance with what is required for your organization to succeed going forward.

This process makes it a lot easier to optimize your workforce planning strategy, as it helps you determine whether or not an employee is

1)     Suited to the organizational culture and strategic direction

2)     Possesses the competencies to master his/her current role or the potential to develop skills required by a different role (one in which he/she would deliver more value)

But evaluating competencies does not only serve the needs of the organization; it also allows employees to feel valued within their professional environment, as they are given an opportunity for development and mobility, in accordance with their skills and interests.

We recently wrote that one of the most common myths of succession plans is that companies believe a successor has to be ready now. This also applies to your performance management system, on the basis that a viable top performer is developed with this very purpose in mind.

Granted, this has important implications for management, as it explicitly commits them to provide employees with formal training, coaching, and other competency development activities. But the rewards are significant. In fact, this sort of competency-based system uses the principles of the “self-directed change” theory, which holds that adults change only when they:

  • Feel it is in their own best interests to do so
  • Feel dissatisfied with their existing situation or level of performance
  • Are clear about a “desired” situation or level of performance
  • Are clear about action steps they can take to move from the actual to the desired situation or level of performance

So where do I start?

Implementing a competency-based performance review system from scratch is a complex process, but here is an overview of the steps involved:

  1. Design the core of the performance management process, including the objectives of the process, senior management expectations, frequency of performance discussions, etc.
  2. Determine weighting for performance on the competencies, and identify the competencies required for superior performance in present jobs.
  3. Train managers and employees in the new performance management process. The training should include all the information identified above, as well as the competencies used as part of the performance management system.
  4. Provide training in performance coaching to all supervisors, including how to assess employees on their “actual” levels of competence. Managers should be able to objectively explain the reasons for their ratings, and show that they have considered feedback from peers to establish the ratings.
  5. Organize formal sessions during which employees are given the opportunity to identify their “desired” levels of competence to meet their career goals.
  6. Implement or enhance corporate professional development tools and programs to ensure that employees are given the tools they need to develop the competencies they need to succeed in both their current and future job roles.
  7. Schedule regular coaching sessions during which developmental progress is evaluated.

Of course, these steps only serve as guidance. You can learn more about competency-based performance management on our website’s dedicated area, where you will find valuable articles and downloadable PDFs, or by contacting us for a private consultation.

If you are ready to start developing a competency-based system, we invite you to read more about our onsite workshops and consultancy support for building and implementing competency models for a variety of applications in your organization.

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Competency Models for Succession Planning

Business MeetingSuccession planning is an ongoing system of identifying competent employees who are ready to move into key jobs in your organization, as well as those who, with specifically identified development, will be ready to assume key jobs at some stated point in the future.

Succession planning is one of the most complex responsibilities of CEOs and board members. And while it ranks high on the list of priorities of the great majority of companies, it is often written off as part of the executive’s ‘to-do’ list, with very little coherence to both the organization’s long-term objectives and the evolving nature of the role and the business.

At a time when more and more companies need to find ways to do more with less, particularly with respect to hiring, it is imperative to ensure that your succession-planning processes are optimized in order to avoid unnecessary turnover and development costs.

Succession planning: Whose job is it anyway?

Before we discuss how a successful succession plan should be developed and implemented, let’s first determine who should own this process.

Executives may appear to be best suited for the job, given their exposure to the pool of candidates and their understanding of the competencies required to be successful in their role. Yet, tasking executives with finding their own replacements can lead to unintentional yet avoidable turnover costs, and a considerable delay in anticipated profits.

We have indeed noticed that certain executives have a tendency to show bias in their decision to find a successor. Some, to maintain their ‘legacy’ by selecting candidates who can’t outperform them; others, by choosing their right-hand person, with disregard toward the potential of other employees who may be poised (i.e., have the potential) to develop into successful leaders.

Considering the above, many would assume that the board should be granted ownership of the succession planning process, if only to veto the short list of candidates brought forth by executives. But let’s remember that such a decision would be based on documented past performance, a measure that is, on its own, insufficient to assess the true potential of a candidate.

Research also shows that when a board is tasked with selecting successors, it tends to primarily look externally for candidates, rather than considering the company’s existing pool of talent. Yet, internally available and adequately skilled candidates present a much lower risk when compared with hiring an individual who has very little knowledge of the organizational processes and may not be a great fit for both the existing culture and the teams he/she will need to manage.

Conversely, omitting to look externally is a risk of similar consequences. “Having a viable internal candidate doesn’t ever excuse the succession planning process from looking outside to ensure that the best candidates for the job are considered.” Running internal and external searches concurrently is simply good governance.

Finally, there are organizations that leave this decision in the hands of the HR department. According to Workforce magazine, HR can indeed build a great talent development plan but “without active support from leadership, it won’t have the desired impact.” For instance, while HR may be aware of the main responsibilities of a particular job role, it may not have all the information pertaining to the position’s intricacies and the behavioral traits required to manage them successfully.

What HR can do however is “align (the company’s) talent management efforts with strategic plans, and educate executives and managers about the business value of succession planning efforts.”

Succession planning needs to be regarded as an organizational effort, which requires the input, vision and expertise of a diverse group of individuals. At times, it may even involve getting your top talent to the table. Nevertheless, the key is to gather your best experts in order to develop a comprehensive, stress-tested strategy that can then be implemented with ease.

Accuracy, objectivity and flexibility: The makings of a successful succession planning strategy

There are three main obstacles to a successful transition strategy:

  1. Accuracy: Identifying the most critical competencies for the job
  2. Objectivity: Knowing how to find and evaluate candidates
  3. Flexibility: Trusting in the development potential of existing talent

Accuracy: Getting the job done right the first time around

Not taking the time to accurately identify the competencies successors need to possess is by far the most common and the main reason why succession-planning strategies often fail. The Society for Human Resource Management puts this into perspective by saying:

“It is not enough to select people who seem “right” for the job. Not only should the experience and duties be considered, but also the personality, the leadership skills, and the readiness for taking on a key leadership role.”

Competency models serve to determine the skills that your successors must possess to perform to your expectations – and beyond. It is only once you have clearly listed these skills, knowledge and personal characteristics that you can truly evaluate your options. Leaders may seem easy to identify but as businesses change, grow, adapt and evolve, objectives are revised, and skills and competencies must follow course. The success of competency models is that they work to describe emerging and anticipated skill requirements, rather than skills that have been effective in the past.

To achieve the objectives of a succession plan, we believe that the single-job approach is the most effective, as this approach uses extensive and rigorous data collection to ensure that the model contains highly specific behavioral descriptions of what a potential leader needs to do and how in order to achieve the desired results. Because of its complexity, it is also received with great credibility by top management and senior executives.

While this process requires a considerable time investment, your HR department can easily get started using a generic competency dictionary, which can then be passed on to senior management and board members for customization to a specific role within the company. You can also call on competency modeling experts to help you build a sustainable model for your needs.

Objectivity: More than intuition

Companies often overlook the importance of objective competency models in the succession planning process. After all, they know what leadership looks like, and will be able to recognize successors without having to rely on a list of descriptors. But this subjective way of identifying leaders can deter change and stump future growth, as it is human nature to tend to seek people who are like us. In other words, foregoing objectivity is a great strategy to maintain status quo and preserve current leaders’ shortcomings.

On the other hand, relying on the board to make that decision means short-listing replacements based on past performance – in a different role, no less. Considering that board members rarely have a chance to interact with entry or mid-level employees, they often find themselves in a position where they must bank on employees’ track records to make a decision. This backdated assessment of candidates’ future potential may appear as objective as can be, but it provides very little insight as to how these individuals will perform in the future, in a different role, especially given the right development tools. We discuss this some more in a recent article on the cost-effectiveness of combining workforce management processes.

Flexibility: Providing a roadmap to excellence

Another great flaw of many succession plans is that the successor has to be ready now. Truth is, there is no way of knowing if a candidate is ready for the job, unless he/she gets a fair chance at proving that they possess the right competencies. At the very best, the candidate has demonstrated certain skills in his/her current job, under that role’s scope of constraints and responsibilities. But a true, viable successor is developed with this very purpose in mind.

“In order to prepare potential leaders, the gap between what they are ready for now and the preparation they need to be ready for the job when it is available needs to be determined.”

This advice from SHRM is critical. Companies cannot wait until they need a successor before beginning the ‘grooming’ process. With a competency model in place, aspiring leaders can develop their skills over time, preferably with the help of mentors, i.e., your best executives. Once employees understand the competency requirements for higher jobs and the gaps between their competencies and those required by the jobs they want, they ask for training or other developmental activities to close the gap. Similarly, once an organization is aware of the competencies it needs to be successful and the gaps between these needs and the capabilities of its existing or projected staff, it seeks selection or developmental programs to close these gaps.

You may even want to complement this professional development path with an annual assessment, by senior management, of your current talent pool, including performance and potential of direct reports and other high potential people within other groups.

Remember that the degree of readiness of a candidate depends on your reality, the risks you are willing to take, and the underlying job roles.

Building your succession plan using competency models

Understanding that the objective of succession planning is not only to provide you with a system for identifying a pool of replacements, but also to provide your candidates with a clearly defined career path to their advancement is half the battle; the other half entails finding and implementing a solution.

To develop a customized competency-based succession planning system, begin by listing the core competencies that are required to take over your key roles. Use competency dictionaries to save you time and effort; these are a highly effective starting point to customization.

Another great tool to help you find potential successors are behavioral event interviews (BEIs). In a BEI, the candidate is asked to describe how he/she approached a specific past experience of a particular type. The interviewer then uses a probing strategy to elicit detailed descriptions of behavior, and to keep the interview focused on what the candidate thought, did, and said at key points during the sequence of the event. Each “event” question is selected to elicit evidence for one or more of the competencies being assessed. BEIs may take from 30 minutes to two hours or more. To save you time, you may want to consider using competency interview guides; these help you interpret positive and negative behavioral indicators via key questions and answers.

Once you have identified a few potential replacements, don’t just sit back expecting them to become the person you want them to be. Rather, coach, develop and work to improve their competencies. Our development workbook provides instructions on setting competency development goals, along with specific suggestions for developing 35 competencies. The guide contains a variety of worksheets and information for each competency, including definitions, behaviors and general considerations in developing and practicing specific competencies, obtaining feedback for development, coaching suggestions for managers, and other similar resources.

The final step: Evaluating your succession plan

Once you have developed your succession plan, it is important to test it. Begin by asking yourself if your current system…

  • Presents the job requirements in a structured, focused and precise manner?
  • Explicitly describes the competencies a candidate should possess?
  • Accounts for a way to test your selection process?
  • Plans competency development actions with potential successors?
  • Identifies the most important competencies and requirements on your list?

These are, of course, just a few of the key elements that a successful succession plan entails. Simply put, you need to know 1) what you need 2) what you have access to and 3) what you can develop. Without this information, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to identify the right leaders to ensure your future success.

Read more on what it takes to build and implement a competency-based succession plan, or contact us for more information on the tools available to assist you in the process.

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Workforce Planning: Do More with Less

mentoring_leaders

The latest criticism to come out of the Affordable Care Act relates to the idea that the law is motivating workers to work less in order to retain their eligibility for federal subsidies. Conversely, some companies – particularly small businesses – have been reported as claiming that the ACA may force them to either halt their hiring/growth strategy or cut their employees’ hours, both in order to avoid the penalty for not offering health coverage under Obamacare.

And to top it off, the prospect of minimum wage increases now has several employers squeezed between having to absorb increased costs or raise prices, either of which could lead to a reduction in labor and/or consumer demand.

The debate rages on and whether the widely anticipated workforce reduction will come from workers’ decision, the aging of the population or a drop in businesses’ demand, the fact remains that numerous organizations are now faced with the conundrum of having to do more with less in order to remain competitive and relevant in today’s highly globalized marketplace.

Here are 3 solutions to consider:

Don’t reinvent the wheel; learn to use it better

Research shows that when dealing with limited resources, companies find more benefits from repurposing their existing processes, rather than attempting to create new ones, which too often only serve to further weigh down operations.

Case in point: Performance reviews are a time-consuming chore for both your managers and employees and while many argue that it is quickly becoming a dated practice, our experience shows that the main challenge of performance management resides in understanding its true value and purpose: i.e., not just evaluating past performance but mainly improving an individual’s productivity, which in turn, leads to improved organizational performance. (Read more about how performance reviews can actually add value for your company.)

What’s more, since the financial crisis, many mid-level employees have been assigned additional responsibilities in light of their employers’ cost-cutting strategies, and most now claim they can’t physically sustain the pace at which they have been working. This is extremely unhealthy for companies because while your bottom line may not yet suffer the consequences, the resulting costs can be exponential over time, namely in terms of healthcare, as well as the impact of stress and fear of layoffs on employee morale and productivity.

One counter measure to this scenario consists in combining processes, for instance, by merging your performance reviews with your recruiting strategy. The concept is rather simple: Performance reviews, when done right, serve to assess your current workforce’s output and plan for future actions that will allow you to reach your business objectives. By using the data gathered through performance reviews to pinpoint the specific areas where you are lacking talent, you can quickly identify the very competencies that are necessary to your future success. Your performance reviews could therefore be used to support your coaching and professional development needs, as well as identify those competency gaps that are preventing you from achieving an optimal output rate, i.e., your recruiting needs.

In other words, combining your workforce planning and management processes into one globally strategic practice is a much more cost-effective solution than requesting that your already-overloaded mid-level managers attempt to define your company’s needs – a costly hit-or-miss strategy when not based on real insights. In fact, by using the data already gathered through an existing process, rather than handling recruiting, reviews and development separately, companies are more likely to observe an amplified workforce planning, reduction, and management ROI for minimized and more targeted efforts – a win-win strategy for both employers and employees.

Achieving this isn’t all that complex, but it does require a thorough understanding of the variety of competencies and what they mean for your organization and business sector.

If you already have a competency-based recruiting or evaluation approach in place:

  1. Start with your most comprehensive competency model
  2. For every position, combine the skills, behavioral traits and objectives you may have spread across different documents (performance evaluation, recruitment, salary revisions, succession planning, etc.)
  3. Eliminate duplicates and remove obsolete data
  4. Streamline the competency descriptions with the use of a competency dictionary, and try to narrow it down to a maximum of 10 competencies per position (the higher the responsibility level, the more competencies you may require)
  5. Stress test your new model across different processes with the use of resource panels and event interviews
  6. Implement!

If your company doesn’t use competency models, first begin by determining the approach that is best suited to your needs. Then make sure you have the right tools at your disposal; generic competency dictionaries are often times crucial to the development of such a framework, and they allow you to build and implement integrated talent management systems. But beyond the dictionaries, you may also want to look into acquiring competency development tools, such as eDeveloper™, 360° survey instruments and interview guides. Many of these tools can be purchased or licensed, and can prove to be indispensable to your modeling process.

Once you have determined your approach and selected the tools to help you, follow the steps highlighted above.

At any time, you may contact us for advice or the development of a customized solution for your business. You may also attend one of our popular competency model building events, or book one of our expert consultants to visit your head office for a tailored onsite workshop.

Let go of the control

Silos can be destructive to a company’s productivity and as stated in a Forbes article “it is the duty of the executive leaders and management to prepare and equip their teams with the proper mind-set to break down this destructive organizational barrier”.

Over the past decade, numerous organizations have restructured specifically to avoid this very configuration, mainly because it created an unbalanced workload at the conjunction point of the silos, which was generally at a managerial level (e.g., approvals, sign-offs, strategic planning, etc.).

Such a blockage caused by an individual’s time constraints has dire consequences on the rest of your operations. When your mid-level managers cannot find the time to properly evaluate, review, optimize, and support their teams, they get caught in inefficient labor-intensive processes, and the benefits of having recruited great strategic thinkers are practically – if not entirely – erased.

Instead, try redistributing some the workload in a manner that allows your best non-managerial performers to oversee, or at the very least help manage, your recruiting and development processes. A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses how Amazon has implemented such bar-raising practices, which lie on the following premise:

Bar raisers are skilled evaluators who, while holding full-time jobs at the company in a range of departments, play a crucial role in the hiring process by interviewing job candidates in other parts of the company.

By empowering your top employees to select and coach new talent, you help ensure that your workforce planning, recruiting, reviewing and professional development processes (now that it’s all combined into one) is:

  • Cost-effective (your top performers being ‘on the clock’ already)
  • Fitting to your organizational culture (who better to understand the behavioral traits that will strengthen or harm the welfare of other employees than those who take your success to heart)
  • Optimized to the task at hand (top performers understand what others lack and what is required to get the job done right)
  • Productive (freeing your managers and HR staff of some responsibilities to focus on areas of more pressing importance)

Many companies feel reluctant to implementing such a process when it is first brought to their attention; after all, letting go of the control means giving your employees the opportunity to fail. Yet, keep in mind that those you are giving power to are the same individuals who, day in and day out, exemplify the ability to change, accept extenuating circumstances, ask the tough questions, and earn a reputation for success… all without expecting extra compensation.

When dealing with having to do more with less, this delegation of responsibility opens up a whole new level of job performance, on which it is difficult to place a price tag.

Make time for strategic thinking to boost productivity

According to Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn and Associates and best-selling author of The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, most executives don’t think as much as they react to their environment.

The ability to think strategically is one of the most prominent competencies sought out in leaders, surpassing innovation; yet, a survey published on Talentlens.com reported that the competency most next-generation leaders lack the most is strategic thinking, followed by vision and the ability to understand the total enterprise, i.e., how the parts work together.

It may seem counter-productive to invest time each day to rethink operational processes when you are struggling to do more with less but remember that if you want to remain relevant with less resources, you need to fully leverage your executive expertise with the objective to draw up more cost-effective solutions.

In fact, a certifiedceo.com article reminds us that:

“Critical thinking enables leaders (…) to understand the impact of their decisions on the business as a whole, and ensures both alignment with organizational goals and accountability for results.”

If you’re not focusing on the big picture, there are very few chances that others will. What results from this are inefficient and outdated processes and reduced productivity for less-than-optimal results.

If there are always 3 sides to a story, there are always 3 solutions to a problem: your way, your competitors’ way and the right way. Critical and strategic thinking allows you to play the devil’s advocate to your ‘old’ ways, critique your competitors’ choices, and gather these results to find opportunities to carve your way forward. Creativity may seem to be key to doing more with less but in order to concoct creative solutions, you first need to sit down and think.

If you find yourself unable to make time to think, consider delegating some of your responsibilities to one of the employees you have identified as a potential successor. Of course, this requires you to have a valid succession planning system in place already, but we can help you with this as well. Click here to read a recent article about the development and implementation of a succession-planning program that ties into your competency-based multi-purpose approach described earlier.

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