What is talent management?
Identifying and engaging employees, also known as talent management, is a strategic concern for companies and HR departments. Employee engagement consists of taking talents into account throughout the employee journey within the organization, from application to integration, through learning, personal development, and career progression.
In the labor market, talents now have negotiating power which has increased in recent years. Attracting highly qualified employees is now a full-time activity. Companies now face a number of issues: high turnover, low engagement, or a tarnished employer brand. Employee retention and engagement issues are among the top concerns of business leaders.
Talent management can be seen as a strategy to attract employees, whether they are internal or external to the company. The goal is to understand their motivations and engage them through a “talent journey”, similar to the “consumer journey” traditionally used by marketing teams. But let’s start at the beginning: how do we define employee engagement?
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement manifests itself in the energy employees devote to the success of the projects they are entrusted with and their involvement in the life of their company. In concrete terms, investment in employee engagement translates into a positive state of mind and initiatives in line with their company’s strategy, thereby demonstrating their ownership of the strategy and the challenges facing their organization. Engaged employees are part of a collective dynamic, share their company’s values and defend them externally (on social networks for example).
How to recognize a committed employee?
Recognizing a committed employee is within the reach of every manager. The Engagement Observatory with the OpinionWay institute asked over a thousand local managers what indicators they were using to recognize committed employees. Here are the results:
Overtime came in the last place as an indicator of commitment (18%). This study shows that the three most important indicators are related to human qualities, soft skills, which bring employees to seek the best out of their company by the means of their own abilities and skills. By relying on them, companies make their employees’ loyalty productive. It is a win-win strategy.
Transformational leadership: the new contract between companies and employees?
he very essence of the employment contract has been turned upside down. Employees act more like free electrons, ready to combine the status of employee and freelancer or to juggle between both. Aware that their entire career will probably not be with the same company, they seek to share meaning and values with their work. In the end, influence is no longer solely in the hands of the employer alone but is now also shared with the employee. The company must therefore consider the employee as a human being in his or her own right and most certainly focus on individual singularity rather than on a form of collective conformity. This is how transformational leadership finds its place, and gradually imposes itself. In contrast with transactional leadership, which draws motivation from exogenous sources (income, sanctions), transformational leadership motivates through intrinsic sources relevant to the employees. This type of management requires employees to determine the meaning they give to their actions and to find their own motivation.
To define it precisely, transformational leadership is built around four characteristics: idealism, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and consideration.
According to Carley Sime in an Forbes article “transformational leaders enhance morale and motivation among followers, they are able to encourage them towards working for a collective good and beyond working solely out of self-interest. The effects of transformational leadership are highly desirable for the followers and the organization itself. Transformational leadership has a high payout as it positively impacts innovation, the heart of success and growth within an organization. It also increases organizational performance as well as job performance and satisfaction too. This could easily be seen as the holy grail of leadership, especially when compared to the transactional kind we have all probably known.”
By personally engaging employees in the success of their company, this type of leadership leads them to question their way of working. This results in a more interesting performance, as the trust regained among employees leads them to develop new ideas and to take measured risks.
Ricardo Semler, CEO of a large Brazilian company, has implemented transformational leadership. After suffering a heart attack at the age of 25 due to his 18-hour work day, he realized that he needed to “let go”. He implemented several measures, including reducing process control and simplifying budgets and objectives. Twenty years later, his turnover had grown by… 5000%! If the story seems out of the ordinary, it is nonetheless an example of the success of this type of management. Above all, it meets the expectations of employees by giving meaning to their jobs and their daily lives and to sign a new contract with their company.
Talent management: the 3 new missions of HR and the company
To face these new issues, companies and Human Resources departments have to fulfill three functions:
- A living space where Talents are continually being formed
- A structure in which Talents feels recognized and autonomous
- A company in which the employee satisfies his or her quest for meaning
2. Federators of talent
- Top management needs to identify and recruit high-potential talent
- The company stimulates and motivates Talents to contribute to its vision and missions
- Unites external and internal talent around common goals, challenges and shared values.
3. Disrupts its own business model
- The company needs to continuously develop new projects in order to reinvent itself and stay in the innovation race
- It can rely on its talents to achieve this and unite ALL employees around this challenge.
As we saw earlier, talents need to give meaning to what they do, the company will perform better if it allows its employees to do so. Talent management is above all a tool used to mobilize a workforce in search of autonomy, fulfillment, and development of its capabilities. This quest for meaning is all the more important in a crisis situation. Employees need to feel that they are part of a whole, that they are an essential piece of the organization’s puzzle. They need to give meaning to their work, and at the end of the day, to be proud of the work they have accomplished. According to a study conducted by BVA following the spring 2020 confinement, 58% of working people who have considered a career change have as their main reason the need to give meaning to their actions.
When it comes to giving meaning to missions, an anecdote comes up regularly. If it was difficult for us to verify its veracity and if it is an urban legend, it was in any case reported by Mark Zuckerberg during a conference (which is not the guarantee of absolute truth but encourages us to share it with you). In the 70’s, in the middle of the space race, John. F. Kennedy was visiting NASA. As he passed the man who was cleaning, he asked him about his role at NASA. The man said, “My job? I help put a man on the moon. “. This is the meaning that everyone gives to their actions: everyone contributes through their job to the success of a major project.
The benefits of strong talent management go far beyond achieving HR KPIs. When talents are engaged, they become evangelists for the company, both internally and externally. They motivate their employees and think of new organizational or commercial solutions. They are more proactive and their innovative spirit is on the lookout for any growth opportunity for the structure in which they work.
Give your employees space where they can express themselves and develop their ideas
Having a company culture that promotes innovation and pro-activity of Talents is the first step. Giving them a space to collaborate on their projects is the real highlight of your talent engagement program.
But, how can you mobilize your Talents in a crisis context and make them the growth engine of your company? How do you continue to motivate teams, sometimes spread out around the world, from a distance? How can you ensure that the spark is still there and that the Talents of tomorrow remain attracted to your company?
The first step is to unite talents around a common project. For example, you can ask them to boost your innovation, identify ways to make you more efficient, or make your offer more responsible.
Ludovic Anfry, 35, likes to put his ideas into practice. In 2001, when Accor launched Innov’Accor, this receptionist proposed to systematically cut off the electricity as soon as the customer left his room. Today, it’s the badge in your room that manages the power supply. The idea enabled the Accor group to save between 600,000 and 1 million euros between 2002 and 2003. Ludovic Anfry climbed the ladder at full speed and three years later found himself director of a hotel in La Rochelle.
Secondly, to turn this interest into action, give your company’s internal and/or external Talents a dedicated platform where their ideas can be transformed into concrete actions that can be directly implemented by Top Management. This platform can take many forms: challenges, hackathons, incubators, intrapreneurship programs, learning expeditions… In short: show your employees that you support them in their efforts to contribute to the growth and development of your company.
Build a glass house
Social networks and the internet have accustomed us to fast, transparent and open communication. Humans need to have clear and precise information. In the age of “infobesity” this is even more true when this information directly affects your company, where your employees spend their days.
If your company is facing difficulties or going through a difficult period, it is essential to inform your employees quickly. This is also true when you have a good quarter, when someone achieves a particularly remarkable feat or when a customer gives you glowing feedback.
In fact, studies show that among millennials, leadership transparency is one of the top drivers of corporate loyalty. (Deloitte)
The 7 benefits of effective talent management
A company is first and foremost the people who make it up. Taking this into account means creating a space for synergies that foster innovation, commitment and performance, both individually and collectively.
1. More satisfied customers
How can you keep your customers happy if you don’t take care of your employees?
An engaged employee feels invested and recognized in his organization. These two feelings lead them to go above and beyond to provide quality service to your customers, taking pride in doing their job to the best of their abilities. This can mean that one of your salespeople takes the time to explain to a potential customer how a product works while encouraging additional sales, that a web developer does everything possible to make sure that your update is bug-free… Customers are sensitive to this and in turn become evangelists of their experience, reinforcing the loyalty of your community and the acquisition of new customers.
In 2021, Glassdoor research shows that on average, a 1-point increase in company rating is associated with a 1.3-point increase in customer satisfaction.
2. Allows you to constantly create and innovate
Engaged talent is more creative. They are quicker to share their ideas and observations with the company and are a real asset. They know your market, your objectives and your challenges. Their range of solutions is therefore wider, smarter, faster and they effectively target the growth drivers of your organization.
Innovation is the result of several factors, the main ones being the encouragement of managers to create, to dare, to accept the share of risks and the interest for the company’s performance. Brought together, these ingredients form the perfect recipe that reveals the innovative potential of each employee. This is a strong argument in every context where the company must find new ways to innovate by building on what it already has!
3. Attracting qualified profiles, guaranteeing the company’s sustainability
The more your company has shared human values, the more it is recognized as a company where daily work is pleasant and meaningful. The most qualified and motivated profiles will then see an interest in joining your company in order to blossom and give the best of themselves. They project themselves into the future within your company.
4. Boost your results and the performance of your teams
Results from companies with an in-house Talent Management program (Deloite, 2015).
An engaged employee’s ambition is to contribute his or her brick to the building of your organization. Therefore, he or she will find ways to work more efficiently, and be uncompromising about its quality. While the motivation of a less committed employee will be essentially financial (cf. transactional management mentioned above), the motivation of a committed employee is to provide work that he or she can be proud of and to move the company forward in line with its values (transformational management).
5. Strengthen your corporate culture
In recent years, corporate culture has become a major concern among employees. When employees are properly engaged in the organization, they understand their own importance as well as that of others. They are then more likely to take time to train, advise and engage their colleagues. They are invested in the success of their company, built by and for employees, to ensure that other employees are able to contribute effectively to its success.
6. Reduces absenteeism and turnover
According to the 12th Absenteeism and Engagement Barometer conducted by Ayming/Kantar, executive absence increased in 2019 (before the Covid-19 pandemic). However, the top 4 engagement factors are: work relationships, job content, company ethics and finally flexible working hours. Talent management focuses on these factors. If your employee believes in what they are doing, they will come to work. For a committed employee, leaving his or her job makes no sense and is a major risk to his or her personal and professional life balance. Talent management thus leads to a better retention of staff, especially the retention of the best performing members.
7. Reduces the number of security incidents
Finally, an engaged employee is attentive to what he does and to the safety of his colleagues. They want to do their job properly and are therefore more attentive to their environment and their actions. Engagement also encourages innovation by workers in the field, in contact with daily problems to which they certainly have an answer if the company’s culture allows them it. In the long run, several solutions to avoid security incidents can be generated.
Roadmap: 3 ways to engage your Talents
Build a corporate brand: employer brand assets
Solidify your brand mission and vision. Mission-driven companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and employee retention. They also tend to be first or second in their market segment (Deloitte).
When you offer a mission and purpose more important than financial performance, you attract passionate people who want to contribute. (Deloitte)
Mission and brand vision are linked to 2 factors:
- The rational factor: your company’s strategy, offer…
- The emotional factor: company culture, values, common goals, etc
Take the time to question not only the values that appeal to the general public in relation to your business sector, but also those that speak to all your stakeholders: employees, investors, suppliers, customers… Also find your Brand Evangelists, those who are proud of the company they belong to and share it on social networks.
Engage top and middle management in your talent management program
Having a clear and precise vision of the roles of each person is essential in engaging your talent. Relying on the charismatic leaders in your organization is invaluable. Define upstream the roles of each person: managers, intermediaries, consultants… The more the members of the management are committed to this, the more effective and unifying you will be.
To do this, it is first necessary to define the rules of the game. What is the real meaning of “Talent” in your corporate culture? What is a “leader”? How do you recognize a budding innovator…? Every manager, every director, every person who has an influence on the motivation and performance of your teams must be an inspiration. As role models, they are the face of top management to your employees.
Build an innovation space
If the idea box was a very useful tool a few years ago, the digitization of practices today allows to go further. Intrapreneurship consists in developing a start-up within your company. This strategy is spreading as it proves its benefits. Conducted through an open innovation program, intrapreneurship federates employees around the company’s challenges and ambitions, stimulates and unloads collaborations, while encouraging the emergence of realistic and feasible projects. It engages the entire company, instills the agility necessary to adapt and maintain employee commitment.
Here is a recent example: the PepsiCo group has been organizing its internal challenge, The Next Big Idea, for two years. The group has also launched the Driftwell drink on the American market, a pure product of open innovation, and has thus captured a market valued at 1 billion euros. The development of this product will have taken 9 months, instead of the usual 24, a time-to-market two and a half times faster! In addition to the innovation itself, employees unanimously expressed that they appreciated the experience and more than ⅔ of the teams recognized that this device had a positive impact on the way they innovate and work.
Open innovation schemes also allow to build an intrapreneurial program. A real talent engagement tool, it makes the company that initiates it attractive, especially to the younger generation: according to an Allianz France/ Ifop study, nearly 67% of students say that companies with an intrapreneurship program attract their attention more. 58% of them even say they are motivated to join these schemes after their hiring.
On the one hand, the organization gives a vision on how it wants to embody its values. On the other hand, employees are more involved in making this vision concrete with their projects, and participation rates in these programs are still high.
5 quick tips to implement in your organization to boost talent engagement
Define short-term, cross-functional goals.
With the help of middle management, define SMART, cross-functional, short-term objectives which are understood by all. Unite every team around quickly achievable and attainable goals that give them the motivation to carry out the brand mission and communicate about rapid progress by rewarding successful initiatives.
Reward and recognize your “Top Performers”
Motivate your employees to gain skills, make every employee a potential brand evangelist, inspire other employees by recognizing and rewarding the most successful and proactive among them.
Reduce your work teams to a minimum
“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” – Jeff Bezos
Reducing the size of your teams on a project allows everyone to increase the impact of their decisions, to be heard by the group, and to be proactive. Each member will have more responsibilities and will feel more invested in the project while cultivating strong links with his collaborators.
Be a daily source of learning for your employees.
The company is a place of personal and professional development for more and more employees. If your organization allows your employees to develop their natural abilities and gain skills, then it brings them meaning and commitment to their missions.
Organizations with a strong learning culture are 92% more likely to develop new products and processes, 52% more productive, 56% more likely to be first to market with their products and services, and 17% more profitable than their peers. Their engagement and retention rates are also 30-50% higher.(Deloitte)
Communicate and build bridges between teams
The meaning your employees give to their work also depends on the awareness that what they do is useful to other people, in areas that sometimes never communicate with each other. Encouraging cross-functional communication strengthens team cohesion and brings employees together. It is when two minds that have nothing in common meet that everyone can step out of their comfort zone, become aware of external needs and opportunities, and respond with fresh perspectives. In addition, encourage middle managers to share their best practices with each other, you might be surprised!
In conclusion, talent management is part of a global corporate strategy. It drives human and financial performance and is the engine of a positive reputation, trust and dynamism. To be successful, all departments must take ownership of the talent management issue, while being led by HR, which will be able to provide the broad outlines.