Back to school and work: getting your talent management world all set for the year ahead.

The days are starting to shorten, and the leaves are beginning to change… and those yellow buses are hitting the road in the morning again. At home, fall is a time for getting back to schedules, re-organizing our lives, and putting our house in order for the long school year ahead. You know – time to put the carpool lists back up, empty the closets, streamline our chore lists, and sort that pesky catch-all drawer. Which got me thinking: why not take that same initiative and apply it to how your organization manages and supports its talent? After all, with everyone finally back from summer vacations, you’re dealing with a full house again for a while. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds, and it could go a long way to increasing the strategic value of talent management to the business.

Set your goals
First things first: establish what you want to get out of all the effort before you even start. Think about your organization’s upcoming strategic insert_1(1)initiatives, and take a big-picture look at how you can support them. Maybe the business is looking to streamline – to get more efficient in service or product delivery. Or perhaps there’s a looming business event that will require agility and responsiveness, such as an upcoming transformation that will ride on employees’ readiness and engagement. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a way to get people excited about working for your organization again. Whatever it is, remember to use your organization’s strategy as the ultimate guide for deciding what you need from talent management.

Go room by room
Once you’ve figured out what your overall goal is, you’ll need to plan your attack. What efforts do you need to make in each ‘room’ (such as recruiting or performance management) to support your final goal? Use your fall organizing goals as a lens through which you look at your processes as you go through your ‘house’. Go into it knowing there are always going to be a lot more opportunities than time to work on them, and that it probably will be insert_2overwhelming to think about taking them all on at once. Don’t try to clean out the garage and plan a little league coaching coup all in the same weekend. Try instead to find a quick win to establish momentum for later, and focus your efforts on the most important bits and pieces. And who says you should take it all on yourself? Get others involved. Often the best talent management solutions are driven from deep within the business itself.

Figure out who all the stuff belongs to
Take a look around and get underneath everything – it’s where the lost soccer cleats and odd socks lurk. This is the perfect opportunity to gain clarity on what gets used today and by whom. Identify the biggest users of each process and tool (such as employee referral programs or optional development planning tools) – are they managers, new hires or mid-career staff? Are they getting the support they need? It can be messy to untangle, and particularly challenging if your organization doesn’t already have some level of awareness of the real requirements of the end users. If you’re in the latter category, you can evaluate if they are getting what they need by how many support issues there are, how many questions roll in, and what your engagement and other surveys show you. If they aren’t meeting the needs, try to identify the problem. It could be as simple as increasing the availability of information or training, or tweaking tools to make them easier to use – or it could mean a wholesale process update.

insert_3If you find something clearly out of line with your current needs – like a high-potential program designed before the company expanded globally – assess whether it can be fixed, improved, upgraded, or simplified. And if it’s truly not going to work, think about going about it in a new and different way before swapping out the old for the new. Maybe even ask the people using it for their ideas on how to improve or remove it; crowd-sourcing is a great way to get valuable ideas, and build engagement. Remember, though, even if you do find a solution for one group of users, it might not work well for another. Pay attention to this question: can you use a common approach to make your updates, or do you need to look at a more flexible option, such as an enterprise-wide infrastructure that can be configured at the group level? Remember, one size doesn’t need to fit all groups. On the flipside, keep an open mind to alternative solutions – you might find something in one area can be expanded across the organization.

Call out what is gathering dust or past its useful life
With all that said, chances are some things are still around just because they’ve always been there. I mean, do you really need to dedicate that garage space to those old college textbooks? insert_4
The workplace process and systems equivalents of those unused items are likely consuming far too many resources to keep them going – and for what? Ask the simple question: what would the impact be if that process or tool wasn’t there anymore? And if the answer is ‘not much’ – or worse, ‘a relief’ – then it’s time to replace them with something more functional, or get rid of them altogether. In process-heavy organizations, this sort of fresh look can be invaluable.

Root out what’s gone rogue
Great things come from creative problem-solving. But just like rampant plant growth means you need to do some late-season pruning, unfortunately too much creativity can sometimes be a problem. You may have passionate people leaders who have come up with some innovative solutions in one insert_5or two of your business units – a great thing, in itself – but unfortunately, such ‘skunk-works’ solutions can sometimes create unintended consequences and compliance risks. Find out what underlying need drove the creation of the alternative – such as a dynamic shift that’s not addressed by your current people programs, or a process that causes too much workload. Then make the decision on whether it should be stopped, replaced by a better solution, or embraced with compliance oversight. Just make sure you address that base need!

Keep up the good work
Once you have done your organizing, clutter removal, and streamlining, remember to keep the trend going. Clearly articulate to the leadership team those the few indispensable updates that you’ve discovered. Find sponsors and venues to create broader visibility and encourage adoption of the most strategic and valuable updates to your people programs. And sell it all as an integrated picture – keeping the entire house and unit in order as insert_6one project rather than as a collection of disparate ‘rooms’.

And don’t stop there. This should be an annual spruce-up, year after year. It will help you develop an environment that sticks to its strategic direction, yet remains nimble and flexible. After all, nothing gathers dust if it’s valued and constantly in use.


About the author:

Sam Crumley, PeopleFirm
Sam’s work and focus has long been in helping human resources be a strategic partner to the business. Prior to joining PeopleFirm, Sam served as a Global Offering Manager for HR outsourcing where he was pivotal in helping create, sell, and service people-related strategies and solutions for some of the largest companies in the world. In this role, he led external projects spanning system development, talent management and re-organization. From the client’s point of view, his commitment to balancing big picture with situational details, communication, and commitment has led to a proven track record of positive and trusting relationships. Sam’s focus and dedication to successful delivery of everything from competency models to complex organizational transformation make him an invaluable member of any project.