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The Talent Storm

Surviving in the global marketplace will mean embracing where technology has taken us and shattering the myths that HR and talent-management experts have relied on up until now.

Sunday, September 2, 2012
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Consider the decade we're in the decade when everything changed. And rest assured the change is continuing, more rapidly than ever.

Never before has the world been so flat, so networked, so inter-dependent and so transparent. Our complex, globalized and highly technological business environments are creating demand for new business and management models and new ways of leveraging the human dimension of business.

Just as economies have shifted from agricultural to industrial to manufacturing and now technology, we contend the next economy will be built on innovation. In order to be successful in the future, organizations must develop differentiating capabilities to strategically leverage the world's talent and lead global innovation of the future. Those that do will reap the rewards, while those that rely solely on past methods will fail -- plain and simple!

Rethinking Talent

Over the past year, San Francisco-based Executive Networks assembled a group of progressive talent-management leaders to debate, in depth, the challenges facing the future of organizations -- specifically assessing the needs of leadership and the current function of talent management and human resources. Like many new functions, our history is based in the sciences and has evolved over time. Our purpose in writing this now is to challenge some of the myths HR functions have relied on, and probe areas to consider for future effectiveness and business impact.

* Myth 1: The future leaders of your company will come from your existing pool of high performers. The technology revolution, coupled with the rise of key emerging markets, has shattered the business world as we know it. The skills and capabilities required to achieve scaled efficiencies according to today's performance agenda will not naturally translate into the skills and capabilities required to achieve innovation in process, product and organization/management models. Unless you are aggressively developing your leaders to operate bi-modally between present and future business models, as well as managing scale while innovating, your core performers of today will eventually become obsolete.

* Myth 2: Talent management is a strategic HR process. Oh so wrong! Talent management is a business imperative. Business executives need to manage talent investments as effectively and aggressively as they manage capital, technology and brand. Executives who understand this set themselves apart and extricate expertise from the HR function. Talent needs to be managed with the same discipline and rigor that business leaders apply to anticipating industry and market transitions, managing entry into new markets and developing new products. As an HR leader, is your organization applying the same rigor in analytics to talent as other functions are to market development? Are you looking at "talent capitalization" in the same way that finance views market capitalization? Are you thinking about disruptive talent as IT does about disruptive technologies? Is your organization engaging in proactive rigor to set the course for the future rather than in reactive "fit it" behavior?

* Myth 3: Innovation comes from the top. Pressure to innovate is on the rise. Organizations that can outsmart, out-problem solve and out-innovate their competitors will thrive. The key to innovation success is to purposefully create a culture that will take risks (and be rewarded for such approaches) and be supported by disciplined processes that enable viable ideas to come to fruition. Innovative ideas rarely come from the top of an organization, but culture and process discipline certainly do! As a leader, are you encouraging the conditions for innovation and experimentation? Do your core HR processes align to a culture of growth, innovation and speed to market? If not, what might you need to do as an HR executive to challenge the HR status quo?

* Myth 4: We can rely on the practices that allowed us to succeed in the past as we move our business forward. Stop right here and go back and study your history. It goes without saying that what got you here will not get you there. We live in an interconnected global world where our economies are based on other economies, and the biggest companies are no longer the best. What does globalization mean to your business and how do you match your talent strategy to your globalization strategy? As you look to expand your global footprint, do you do so with local talent or send in your own talent from headquarters? As you localize your products, do you design them with culture in mind? As you assess future partnerships, how critical is a thorough assessment of the people in those organizations to drive success? Who is best positioned to answer and do they, themselves, have experiences in those cultures to provide direction?

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* Myth 5: Just because your strategy demands it, it doesn't mean your culture will allow it. There are written and unwritten assumptions and rules by which people have flourished or been extricated. There are norms of change that dictate how far and how fast the business models, organization, management system and culture can move. And there are power players and resisters who work consciously and unconsciously to ensure that homeostatic balance remains. The ability to execute strategy effectively is predicated on the strength and alignment of the leaders who form your organization's culture. Who delivers on cultural change within your organization? Who can help identify the game-changing advocates to work within the culture while changing it? If you are not sure of this answer, think carefully before you embark on the journey.

So, what now? Consider these questions for your own organization as you plan for the future:

* Are you always turning to consultants for the answer? Why? What inhibitors exist in your organization that require outside counsel?

* Do you measure impact and results, or programs and processes?

Lastly, find opportunities to take risks, and encourage and reward others to follow.

Annmarie Neal is the founder of the Ellicott City, Md.-based Center for Leadership Innovation. Daniel Sonsino is the vice president of talent for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Polycom.

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