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Best HR Ideas for Talent Management

The editors of HRE announce their choices of the most noteworthy HR ideas for talent management that were launched last year.

Monday, March 1, 2010
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Future LEADers Program and Designing Your Future

Verizon Communications Inc., New York, and Greeley and Hansen, Chicago, respectively

Transforming interns into an organization's next generation of leaders is no small feat, but that's exactly what two companies are attempting to do in an effort to expand their executive-talent pipelines to include more millennials.

At Verizon Communications, interns who successfully complete their assignments and degree programs become eligible for the company's College Hire program, launched last June and called Leadership, Excellence and Development (LEAD).

The program begins with a customized intern roadmap that includes targeted developmental exercises by year worked, a required reading list from the CEO's executive book list, a mentoring program that pairs former and current LEAD members and a Campus Ambassador Program to tap into the power of intern testimony to promote attendance at college visits where LEADers have graduated. All these mileposts are designed to keep more interns moving up through the company's ranks.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based engineering company Greeley and Hansen launched its "Designing Your Future" program last June, an innovative two-day conference for company interns that focuses on career development and includes intern interaction with the CEO.

During the program, the interns are offered specific training in foundational leadership skills, navigating conflict and change, learning to set goals and dealing with work/life balance issues.

While both companies are years away from seeing the ultimate fruits of their labor, Greeley and Hansen reports it has already hired 20 percent of its 2009 intern class.

Town Hall Scorecard

United Rentals Inc., Greenwich, Conn.

Looking for a way to better engage its 8,000 North American employees, United Rentals employed a Town Hall Scorecard after holding a series of 59 executive-led meetings with employees beginning in March 2009.

During the meetings, management listened to hundreds of employee suggestions regarding everything from operations to workplace training. In order to prevent an eventual disconnect from the good ideas suggested by the employees, the scorecard approach was championed by Craig Pintoff, vice president of human resources.

It serves as a report of suggestions received from employees during the town-hall meetings and how the company is responding to them. It provides a checklist as to what's been done so far or what remains in progress. The scorecard checklist segments suggestions into categories such as teamwork, technology, communication, recognition and training -- and employees get a copy of the scorecard in each bi-monthly newsletter.

"The scorecard serves as a method of direct feedback to employees, evidencing that their voice matters and that their direct feedback can impact the success of our business," says HR specialist Maureen McFarlane.

Market Leader Business Simulation

Western Union Corp., Englewood, Colo.

Imagine turning on the television and seeing a live news report showing that your company's main competitors have just merged and are now threatening to disrupt your organization's entire business model.

That's exactly what happened to key executives at Western Union during a quarterly market review meeting last June; but what those executives weren't told was that they had been unwittingly thrown into an elaborate business simulation.

The ruse was the brainchild of Gint Baukus, senior vice president of talent management at Western Union, who says it was intended to get the executives to start thinking more aggressively about future possible business scenarios. He came up with the television script with the help of colleague Marcus Cudina and faculty at INSEAD University; the script was then performed by a professional newscaster in a studio setting.

Baukus says that, upon hearing the "news," the executives either attacked or defended the company, taking sides almost like a war game, before ultimately agreeing on six new major strategic initiatives to help improve business, including point-of-sale improvements, geographic expansions and others.

"All these things were bubbling in the back of people's minds, but this was the catalyst" that got people talking, Baukus says.

Volunteer Work In Lieu of Layoffs

ODL Inc., Zeeland, Mich.

Facing a lull in production and the prospect of losing valuable workers to layoffs late last year, decorative glassmaker ODL decided to think outside the box and ask 35 of its 135 assembly workers to leave the production floor and volunteer (while still on the company's payroll) at area nonprofit agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity and the United Way, for eight weeks until business picked back up.

Ann Busby, the company's vice president of HR, says the idea of service is built into the company's DNA, which also includes annual days of service and a fund that helps employees in need. "It's part of an ongoing pattern of giving in our company," she says.

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The company estimates the program cost between $170,000 and $225,000 in salary and benefits (it didn't receive any tax breaks on the program, either), but it also saved on costs associated with hiring and training new workers to replace those who would have been laid off when orders started to pick up again.

In short, the program achieved that most rare triple-crown of benefits: good for employees, good for the company's image and good for the greater community.

Monthly Employee Dialogue Sessions

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Mass.

Looking for a way to capitalize on the instant-feedback nature of its 150 employees, many of whom use Twitter, Facebook and other social-networking sites on a daily basis, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals decided last September to get rid of its semi-annual review process and replace it with 12 monthly dialogue sessions.

Since Merrimack's managers and employees already meet at least bi-weekly to check in and discuss work, the new system simply involves the manager reallocating 30 minutes of that time to deliver data-based, actionable feedback to employees. The feedback framework is comprised of four sections: a quarterly goal check-in, feedback on job competencies, one actionable item the employee can improve and the support that management will provide. A simple online form allows managers to capture the short feedback sessions, which can then be viewed online by employees.

The company also recently began paying out bonuses twice a year, and the new dialogue sessions give employees a better sense of how their performance is tied to company bonuses as well as stock options.

Andy Porter, a senior director in charge of HR at Merrimack, says the program has been well-received by the company's workforce.

"One of the lessons learned was that branding matters," he says. "No one wants to hear 'monthly reviews.' "

See the 2010 Best HR Ideas.

See also:

Contextualizing Cleverness

Worst HR Ideas

The Architecture of Change

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