HR strategy needs to focus on management techniques

11 October 2018

Amid a growing shortage of talent, effective recruitment and human resources management, as well as fostering engagement, have become essential to the future success of global businesses. New analysis shows the kind of people management techniques that are effective at attracting, supporting and retaining key people.

As a key demographic shift takes place, with an increasing number of people approaching retirement age, and falling birth-rates over the past fifty years making them harder to replace, the ageing population many leading economies face is of key business importance. Companies also face a host of other challenges to recruitment in this scenario, including increased competition for talent, and tightening borders in key markets restricting the flow of labour.

However, there are a number of ways which businesses can navigate this series of challenges. Most obviously, they could devote more time to engaging communities which they have historically neglected to boost their dwindling human resources. Workers whose sexuality, gender, ethnicity or class have previously been barriers to employment represent a major pool of under-utilised talent, as well as the UK’s growing number of graduates, nearly half of whom still reside in jobs that don’t require graduate skills.

Ability to attract and retain talent

In this context, new analysis from McKinsey & Company, titled ‘Winning with your talent-management strategy’, explores trends in the talent management space. The report is based on survey of 1,820 participants across global industries and regions.

Talent management

According to the survey respondents, talent management is a key driver of business performance. Companies, the ability to attract and retain talent in addition to having an effective talent-management programme, were found to support organisational performance. The survey identified organisations that have performed somewhat or much better than competitors over the past three years, based on the effectiveness of their talent-management practices.

Respondents tended to cite improving the overall performance through talent management as very effective, compared to a small percentage who said that it was ineffective. The attraction and retention of talent and skills needed to realise strategies was cited by most organisations as very effective, at around 80% respectively, while smaller numbers cited the technique as very ineffective.

Talent-management linked with rapid talent allocation, employee experience, and strategically minded HR

In relation to the overall effectiveness of talent-management programmes, the most prominent factor was noted as the ‘movement of talent among strategic projects as priorities arise and dissolve is fast or very fast’. That was followed by ‘HR functions ensure positive employee experiences across the employee life cycle’, while the third most strongly correlated factor was having HR leaders with comprehensive understanding of the organisation’s strategy and business priorities. Weaker correlations were noted in ‘employees understanding organisation’s overall strategy’ and ‘organisation’s executive team being moderately involved in talent management’.

While the top three have individual correlation on improved business performance, the study also found that organisations that engage all three top most correlated talent management attributes, are correlated with more effective talent management overall – which contributes significantly to financial performance in reference to outperforming peers. The survey noted that 17% of the surveyed organisations exhibited all three attributes, with as a result higher performance and TSR. They were also 2.5 times more likely to say that their organisation’s overall talent management was effective.

Rapid talent allocation

Around 39% of organisations noted that they are ‘fast or very fast at reallocating talent as strategic priorities arise and dissolve’, which is correlated with 1.4x outperformance. The factor is a key aspect of the outperformance of a business, with two thirds with the factor saying that their talent management efforts improve overall performance.

In addition, the study considered the factors that influence the ‘fast or very fast reallocation of talent as strategic priorities arise and dissolve’, and found that around 59% of organisations deployed talent effectively based on skills needed, while 51% said that their executive team were moderately or very involved in talent management, while 51% of organisations said that employees work in cross functional teams that arise and dissolve as projects do.

Executive involvement in talent allocation is a key part of likelihood of an organisation having a fast talent allocation strategy. For organisations that have a quarterly review (31% of companies), 31% said that they have a fast allocation strategy, while those that do a twice-yearly review (18%), 22% said that they have a fast allocation strategy. Meanwhile, 62% of organisations without fast allocation do not involve executive teams at all (30%) or do so only once per year (32%).


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.