These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Wednesday 6th March 2013 hosted by Centrica’s Ruth Bastian (Head of People Development and Talent), titled ‘Satisfying the Demands of Talent when Opportunities to Progress don’t Exist’ .
The following summary, prepared by our TTT partner the Chemistry group, reflects a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and talent professionals from leading UK and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Toward the end of 2012, Forbes magazine entitled an article ‘no career path, no retention’. Whilst it’s true that career direction and the visibility of internal opportunities play an integral part in an employee’s desire to remain within a business, can we really afford to take such a black and white view with regards to retention? The fact is, many businesses simply can’t promise such prospects to staff during these periods of uncertainty and change.
This TTT covered an array of issues relating to the topic of satisfying the demands of talent, such as:
- How to keep talent engaged when limited progression opportunities exist
- How to create a ‘desire’ to develop – breadth as well as upwards
- Creating the right expectations for existing and new talent
- Challenges of geographical opportunities in global organisations
- Creating a culture where people take responsibility for their own career path
What is demand and should it be met?
We first discussed what we meant by ‘demand’ and questioned whether the demand was real or perceived. It was agreed that we do not always know what people’s expectations are and make assumptions. It is critical to support managers to have more open and honest career conversations and encourage people to be more honest about their personal aspirations. It was also thought that the conversation should be about the ‘whole’ person not just what they want to achieve at work as understanding their passion in life could be used to engage them more fully.
We discussed the importance of having a clearly articulated Talent Strategy so that you are clear on which groups of talent should be invested in and who takes accountability if their demands were met or not. This should be decided by the necessity of those skills/capabilities to drive the future strategy of the business. It may be that certain talent can be ‘let go’ but this needs to be understood from having a strategic workforce plan in place. This would help the business know who they should be concentrating their retention and development efforts on.
Can expectations be met?
We debated whether companies should invest in creating opportunities outside of the ‘day job’ to retain talent. Examples such as additional projects, charity work and secondments were discussed, some companies are using these successfully and it was agreed that if people are given additional activities, the organisation would need to remove some existing activity to enable the person the time required for this.
We also discussed that some organisations are meeting the challenge with an opportunity. Alumni Groups and regular contact plans are in place to keep in touch with talent when they have decided to leave. Some companies are openly welcoming people leaving to build additional skills elsewhere with a view to returning at some point in the future. Changing the way careers are viewed today will be important particularly to newer generations whose expectations may not be in line with traditional organisational career paths. Keeping abreast of these trends will be important.
Changing the ‘deal’
As a group we went on to discuss whether organisations are clear about what people should expect when joining an organisation and also for existing employees. There was felt to be a challenge between what HR, the Business Leaders and the individuals were expecting form each other. HR expect individuals to ‘own’ their own career with support from their managers. managers expect HR to manage their talent and talent don’t really care who manages it as long as it happens. So we discussed this challenge and the need for the organisation to be very clear about this positioning – it should be an element within its EVP, widely publicised and regularly reinforced.
We closed the session by talking about the key messages that came out of the discussion, which were all about changing the perception of managers and employees about who takes responsibility for career development.
- Are we clear about the purpose of an alumni group and using this effectively?
- We need to be clear about who does own career development and incorporate within our EVP
- We need to shift the focus from HR to leaders and managers for owning talent and career management
- We can influence this shift by changing what we recognise and reward
- Access and visibility of career opportunities is important.