All businesses understand that their workers are the most precious asset they possess. However, as the skills gap continues to widen, the ‘Great Resignation‘ expands, and employees demand a more hybrid approach to work; what does this mean for talent management, and can talent management technologies and systems deliver a world-class workforce that can ensure their companies are post-COVID-19 fit?
Throughout 2022 businesses and organizations will increasingly be in an arms race to locate, attract and retain the talent they need. According to the latest survey from Korn Ferry, over half (55%) of businesses believe employee turnover will increase this year. If this trend does accelerate, developing an effective talent management strategy becomes a commercial imperative.
What is talent management
Talent management is not simply recruitment using additional digital tools. It’s important to appreciate that talent management is multifaceted and encompasses every touchpoint from candidate selection and onboarding to wellbeing, career progression and every aspect of their learning and development (L&D).
Speaking to UNLEASH, Sathya Smith, the CEO and founder of Piper, defines talent management: “Employees’ expectations have drastically changed in recent times, with an increasingly strong conviction that there’s more to life than work,” Smith says. “Employees want to make a difference and feel a sense of accomplishment – and they expect their employers to support these goals. At its heart, talent management today needs to ensure that employees feel connected and engaged. Any business that hasn’t woken up to these risks is missing out on both recruiting and retaining great talent.”
With Gareth New, head of learning & development for Huboo, explaining how his company approaches talent management: “Talent management isn’t just about attracting and retaining people, it’s about developing our colleagues’ careers and motivating them to improve their performance. It’s part of our make-up to be fair and to provide equal opportunities for all, which is why we cast a broad net to try and find the best people, and this also extends to internal recruitment. Talent management, for us, is ensuring that brilliance is equally distributed across the entire company.”
Talent management is a 360-degree understanding of every employee’s hopes, fears, and ambitions.
Using digital tools to manage the entire recruitment process is possible, but HRs should ensure these tools are used within a well-defined and integrated talent management system.
How to manage talent during the great resignation
To stem the tide of employee resignations, many businesses are designing attractive packages that include sign-on bonuses, long-term incentives such as stock options, and an array of flexible working environments that also include lengthy sabbaticals.
It is too simplistic to describe these incentives as bribes to hold onto their workforces, but these initiatives are a clear reaction to how work and its structure have changed over the last two years. Post-COVID-19 businesses will have to navigate an increasingly competitive talent landscape that is constantly shifting. It is also interesting that a Washington Post reporter coined the term ‘The Great Reassessment’ as a more practical description of what was happening in the US labor market.
And Steve Tonks, senior vice president EMEA at Workforce Software, warns that the shifting patterns of work show no sign of stabilising: “Without a better focus on the employee experience, I can see the ‘Great Resignation’ lasting well beyond 2022. To tackle this issue, we need to regularly communicate with – and listen to – staff on the ground. These employees have better first-hand experience of what went wrong during the pandemic – whether it was long hours, outdated technology, or a lack of flexibility – to those at corporate headquarters, who are almost completely removed from the customer.”
Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal, also says companies should protect the skilled workers they have: “Many businesses have already responded to the crisis by increasing recruitment spend. Whilst this may be necessary, it is costly and does not address high levels of turnover or protect existing skills within a company. It may take months to replace staff, and in smaller businesses, that gap can significantly impact revenue. It is for this reason that investing in retention is crucial. Employers should be making changes to support the employees they already have as a key part of a successful long-term resourcing strategy.”
Also, businesses are looking inward to assess how they can enhance their workforce and reduce attrition rates. Upskilling and re-skilling have become vital weapons that HRs are using to retain their staff and create an environment where personal development is at the core of their business’s culture.
There is also another important component businesses need to pay attention to. Making their companies attractive to new employees is also a significant trend. Prospective employees – especially within younger age groups – are increasingly using ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) credentials to choose the businesses they want to work for. Enhancing ESG is today a critical component of talent management models, and to make a company attractive, candidates will often have multiple offers to choose from.
Talent management for the digital age
Businesses have been evolving CX (Customer Experience) for decades. Today, EX (Employee Experience) is also vital to enhance and place at the centre of talent management strategies. Managing talent also means managing their experiences at work. Businesses can take what they have learned about building great CX and apply these techniques to EX. As customers want to interact with companies via multiple channels and touchpoints, so talent management also needs this kind of approach to reach every employee no matter where they are located.
According to LACE Partners, an HR transformation and tech advisory consultancy, many people teams aren’t improving their people insights despite increased HR tech innovation. In addition, they caution that some HR teams lack the data, analytical and articulation skills needed to use new technology to its full potential and inform HR strategies.
The warning comes as new research from PRinHR shows that many HR teams remain wary of the future of HR tech. The survey of 200 UK HR managers reveals that over half (52%) agree that understanding how new technology will impact employees and organizational design is a crucial challenge for them. In addition, 22% are also worried about creating a clear tech roadmap that can support the integration of new technologies.
SumTotal’s Ian Rawlings explains: “Proactively building digital dexterity into the workforce begins with managing existing human capital in the most effective way possible. Key to this is hunting down the right talent internally, projecting what workforce skills will be needed in the next five years, and planning a re-skilling strategy that ensures the organization is appropriately equipped with these identified skills.”
Of course, a significant shift is also how talent management can be maintained with a workforce that could be widely dispersed and working remotely on a semi-permanently or permanent basis.
“The technology that enables remote working has been available for quite some time, but policies and trust issues have halted progress and held many organizations back from fully committing,” Mark Sweeney, regional vice president UKI, at Citrix, told UNLEASH. “COVID-19 enforced lockdowns have helped to break down those barriers and those wishing to spend more time working remotely should no longer be burdened by outdated cultures. Flexibility is what the modern employee values the most and with the right tools alongside a progressive, flexible work policy, recruitment teams will have a powerful draw for future talent while simultaneously giving current employees no reason to look elsewhere.”
These initiatives are all well and good, but as Janice Burns, chief people officer, Degreed points out, HRs need the systems and insights to deliver these worker innovations: “Many HRs lack a consolidated view of all available talent, skills, and experience in their organization and this will hinder any upskilling, internal mobility, or workforce efforts. HR leaders report a lack of the right technology and systems with 49% stating that they lack the tools to identify and move people into new internal roles.”
Burns continued: “The first step must be to gather all skills data together in one single place accessible to key decision-makers, HR, and learning. Organizational siloes are reported as a barrier by 75% of HR leaders and a lack of visibility into skills and internal opportunities is a further challenge. Over half of employees find it easier to find a job outside of their organization compared to inside – and if that’s the case, many will simply leave when making their next career move.”
A brute force attack with HR tools won’t be enough to create an attractive environment for new recruits and a place where existing workers want to stay. Here, business culture comes into play. According to the KPMG The Future of HR in the New Reality report, 34% of HR organizations prioritize redefining or further enhancing their organizational culture to emphasize digital mindset, virtual working, agility, etc. They see it as critical for managing the implications of COVID-19 and moving to a new reality.
“There is no shortcut to building culture and the vision must be clear,” adds Dean Tong, head of group human resources at Singapore’s United Overseas Bank Ltd. “Organizations are constantly emitting signals about what is important to them, such as through review processes, criteria for promotion, their sourcing strategy, and so on. To change the culture, change the signalling.”
Talent management tools and strategies
There has been an explosion in the use of technology right across HR. Digital talent management. AI-based assessments and HR analytics have all seen rapid expansion and adoption. For businesses increasing their use of automated systems in other parts of their enterprises, HR seemed the next logical step to use automated tools.
As UNLEASH discovered last year, we are now in an era of ‘post-digital people’ who place technology as a hub around which every aspect of their lives orbit – including work. This can mean a readiness to engage with talent management systems that can offer long-term L&D, which is also a major differentiator when candidates choose which job offers to accept.
Indeed, research from Sage concluded that even though a healthy 90% of C-suite leaders state HR technology is a business priority, only 63% believe their current systems are fit for purpose. How HR technology is procured and then integrated into an enterprise is moving through a period of transition.
“When we look at specific HR solutions that are critical right now, I’m seeing our clients crave simplicity,” says Erica Titchener, global head of technology & analytics at AMS. “They want tools that integrate seamlessly into their tech stack for a frictionless and fast experience. Automation tools that streamline workflows for a recruiter or an applicant are especially critical right now, as we’re seeing new levels of competition to reach and engage applicants with speed, which is, in turn, creating pressure on in-demand recruiting roles that are overworked with intense hiring volumes.”
Titchener concluded: “We’re also seeing a resurgence in learning solutions – whether it’s an LMS, a content library or an experience platform – organizations are seeking ways to close skills gaps and upskill or reskill their current employees for internal mobility and retention.”
HR tech has moved through three stages of development: Stage one saw HR as little more than compliance and administrative officers. Stage two, with the advent of the Internet, HR professionals could influence the process and begin to measure workforce efficiency and engagement.
Today HR 3.0 delivers employee experience management. Advanced cognitive, personalized and transparent workforce management tools.
And as post-pandemic businesses take shape, remote mass working is now the norm. For talent management professionals, this means applying HR 3.0 at a distance. In their research, Forrester with Applaud concluded: “The majority of HR professionals are especially challenged by their ability to support remote employees, with 74% of organizations flagging this as an issue. Subsequently, 89% of organizations report significant inconsistency between remote workers’ employee experience of HR tools and in-office employees. Such a staggering figure causes concern, as the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new normal with the vast majority of the global workforce required to work remotely.”
Huboo’s Gareth New also warns: “If you rely on tech tools, then I fear you will struggle to deliver world class talent management. Human to Human interaction as well as providing honest and valuable feedback are absolutely critical.”
New expanded: “Systems are the supporting cast. And in that regard, I would just suggest a good ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and any decent HR system that can track one-to-ones, develop action plans and feed into talent mapping. However, if you are solely relying on tech tools to deliver great talent management then you are missing out on the chance to have interactions that can be personally and socially transformative to the colleague.”
Even with a raft of new HR technologies, it’s essential to use these tools to support people and not reduce them to just datasets. AI (more correctly, Machine Learning) has impacted many business processes. It’s not surprising that businesses are also looking to this technology to help them fight the war on talent. Some level of automation is possible and can help HRs remove many of the manual tasks (such as CV screening with systems such as Fama and proficiency testing for specific skills) that erode their efficiency.
However, it’s vital to understand their impact on the people they are testing or managing when choosing and deploying these systems. For example, the TUC states: “Only 6% of workers who responded to our survey question on consent to AI-powered recruitment and management technologies said they had been asked for consent before this was used.
“Also, just 5% of workers responding to our survey question about trust said they would trust technologies involving AI, machine learning, and algorithms to make decisions about them at work. Our BritainThinks polling revealed that only 28% of workers are comfortable with technology being used to make decisions about people at work.”
These results are telling as many in the jobs market do not appreciate or are even aware how much of their recruitment process could be managed by machines. CV scrapping is commonplace, but AI is also being used to make value judgements. In these scenarios, it is vital that HRs understand the risks of unintentional bias. In many cases, the AI in use is a black box with little explainability for the outputs from these systems. More automation is inevitable across all HR functions. However, care must be taken to ensure these systems are used ethically and with the lowest bias levels possible.
Talent management and next-generation workforces
The workforces that are taking shape right now are the foundations onto which the so-called new normal of work will be built. HRs are now tasked with locating the people their businesses need and nurturing these individuals that have very different mindsets and an approach to work that many enterprises are only now beginning to understand.
The talent management strategies businesses are building have multiple channels and support the entire talent management cycle. In the post-pandemic era, the legacy metric of performance is shifting to become more collaborative. Claire Ainscough, chief people officer, Ocado Group, says that the word ‘performance’ can have a negative connotation. “It should really be about how do we collectively do better together.”
Huboo’s Gareth New explained what he thinks the new normal of work looks like:
“If you hire great people, you have a responsibility to offer them a great career. That can be through progressing into more senior roles, carving out a career across different areas of the organization or simply being amazing at what they do and mentoring others.”
“You must double down on your culture and work at that every day,” New continued. “It’s all about providing a more defined and tailored experience for the individual; it’s not a one size fits all approach. With that in mind, the future of talent management shouldn’t be to always look for the shiny new rock star hire, but instead, you should think about how you can grow our own talent.”
Laurie Padua, managing director, advisory at AMS also points to agility and integration as core components of next-generation HR: “A successful talent management strategy for 2022 is all about dexterity. Where the components are defined and cohesive, yet flexible and adaptable. It will combine internal and external talent mapping and be driven by the need to create a positive and attractive environment for potential new recruits and current employees. Finally, leaders should see the broad array of talent technology tools on the market as a great enabler to their strategy – the right solution has the power to simplify how we work, while empowering people to be great.”
For the past two years, businesses have also reacted to the changes across their industries or sectors with quick fixes, which included how they approach recruitment technology. However, as the pandemic begins to recede, a more holistic approach should assess their medium and long-term skills needs.
How technologies have been deployed also needs to be re-assessed to ensure they can deliver the insight and support HRs need to create vibrant workplaces people want to join.