Talent Management for Innovation

You Can’t Develop Talent if You Can’t Retain It 

Overview: The last in a series of six, this article discusses talent management – specifically, retention. The employment climate has become fiercely competitive, and managing, retaining, and developing talent is crucial to achieving competitive innovation for the future.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for HR in leading engagement programs is shifting from a transactional, once-a-year mindset, to an always on, continuous listening approach to monitoring engagement.
— Deloitte Insights

What do Japanese culture and talent management for innovation have in common? In a word, “Kaizen.” Kaizen is a Japanese term that describes a sustained, long-term strategy to create incremental changes and improvements in processes over time.

Staff retention is a crucial component in talent management for innovation, and it requires a similar approach. Like Kaizen, it must be sustained, always “on,” and engage those involved – in this case, employees. Staff retention and management are not things to be discussed annually and then tabled for later prioritization.

Talent management is the commitment to acquire, retain, and develop the most talented and exemplary employees available in the job market. It encompasses:

But before talent can be managed, it must be retained.

In this article, we first address employee engagement, which is the crux of both retaining and motivating employees for innovation. We assume a design-thinking perspective, which considers HRM strategies with the employees’ needs and desires as the primary focus.

Here are some insights into talent management and employee engagement for the new organization.

1: Keep Staff Committed, Engaged, and Resentment Free

Carly Guthrie is an HR expert and leader. In an interview with First Round Review, she provides insights from her role as an HR consultant for tech companies, explaining why people quit and what employers can do to keep staff committed and engaged.

Guthrie finds that even mild feelings of anger, boredom, or dissatisfaction can cause someone to turn to a recruiter and consider switching employers. According to Guthrie, one reason why employees become disengaged and ultimately quit is because work encroaches on family time. For example, a manager might consider a happy hour good for building camaraderie, but if a happy hour is scheduled on a Friday, workers leave the office late, get stuck in traffic, and arrive home to their family late.

A company might schedule an early Monday morning meeting so that everyone can start the week on the same page, but this causes difficulties for staff who need to get their kids to school. It also cuts short employees’ weekends.

Guthrie wants employers to be more aware of workers’ needs and to respect employees’ personal time. Doing so will prevent feelings of resentment from seeping into the culture and will promote goodwill.

2: Promote Goodwill

The ideal workplace model is a community with purpose where people are so engaged in collaborating that they feel they are part of something bigger and important. For some workers, the option to work remotely is a clear motivator, and flexibility in work schedules is an often-cited need. However, remote work runs counter to the idea of building a sense of community and a unified culture.

The digital era has resulted in more team-based work; collaborative platforms and real-time solutions provide immediate communication, transfer of knowledge, and ultimately innovation. This transformation has occurred so rapidly that some companies that were actively promoting a remote work policy have decided to pull workers back into the office.

According to a survey by Deloitte, 38 percent of companies are functionally organized, which implies that around 60 percent have cross-functional teams. One organization studied was composed of 30,000 constantly shifting teams. The level of collaboration was such that remote work was too isolating for effective innovation to occur.

IBM Corporation, in an attempt to increase falling revenues, nixed working from home for 2,000 U.S. workers, and another 2,000 or so were asked to come to the office more often. The company was hoping that doing so would lead to more productivity and innovation. But IBM realizes that the challenge is to maintain goodwill with employees. Therefore, the company provides flexibility for some workers for whom close collaboration is less crucial, and employees can work from home to accommodate appointments and care needs.

For more on inclusion and collaboration read: “Could this be the Greatest Era for Innovation? HR Strategies for Collaboration in the New Organization

3: Use Intelligent Mentoring and Staff Development Programs

Guthrie’s recommendation with respect to mentoring is to identify the skills that a person would benefit from acquiring by listening to their opinion and monitoring their progress. For mentoring, the pairs between mentor and mentee should make sense, and the reasoning behind the pairing needs to be communicated to both parties.

An advantage of mentoring is that there is an immediate feedback loop, and it can be easier to spot a problem that might influence retention. Mentoring relationships are almost informal check-ins when it comes to employee satisfaction, and employees are more likely to confide in mentors if they feel dissatisfied and attracted to external opportunities. Trust is a large component of mentoring relationships; however, and they should be used to ensure employee development is on the right track, not as a performance management tool.

For more on mentoring read: “Organizational Learning for Innovation – It’s Mobile, Agile, and Visual

4: Train Leaders to Have an HR Mindset

Those who work in HR understand that managing employees is not about algorithms and digital technology, it’s about having empathy for concerns, building and managing relationships, and communicating. These are all traits that managers require, and managers should be trained to respond to the questions and issues that HR professionals face. If employees feel safe and comfortable enough to talk to their managers and leaders about problems, that’s a healthy culture.

5: Prioritize the Employee Experience

Employee engagement requires satisfying the wants and desires of workers, so it is worth finding out what motivates them and what they look for in an employer. According to the Best Practice Institute, people who love their workplaces were 94 percent more likely to perform better and 95 percent more likely to stay.

For example, Millennials are attracted to companies that are involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) because they want to work for the greater good. Companies that are active in CSR can use that to their advantage in their branding and marketing to attract and retain talent. As consumers, Millennials are already influencing brands to implement CSR in their operations.

Millennials prefer to do business with corporations and brands with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods, and ethical business standards.
— Forbes, 2017

Bring Talent Management to the Digital Era

The steps involved in listening to feedback, processing feedback, and taking actionable steps to address employee needs and concerns must be an ongoing process. However, it’s incredibly resource-intensive.

For that reason, HR leaders rarely have the required resources and are often unaware that there may be a retention problem until it is too late. Digital talent management solutions can constantly gauge the level of employee satisfaction and engagement and alert HR professionals that there may be a growing problem.

Staff surveys, for example, use employee feedback to gauge employee sentiment. From these data, changes can be instituted to improve the employee environment. These tools can be used in place of or as a supplement to the traditional performance review process. The advantage of using these systems is that staff retention can be managed before it becomes a bottom-line problem.

Real-time employee engagement platforms are another tool through which to take the pulse of workers, identify what drives them, create programs to improve engagement, provide managers with data insights and dashboards to help them take action, alert them to changes or outlier scores, and identify and fix engagement loops before they become problematic.  

Examples of engagement platforms include: Highground, which allows employees to set and track quarterly goals; PostBeyond, a platform on which employees can post and share articles; and WooBoard, where staff are rewarded for interacting.

Granted, these new solutions are without an established track record just yet, but digital solutions can offer a way to ensure that your company is successfully engaging employees. It makes sense that HR leaders take all the precautions they can to manage their most important asset for innovation in the digital age: talent.

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