Published: Mar 24, 2020
Time to read: 5mins

Retooling Talent Management: How HR Teams Can Engineer a New Era of Productivity

To maintain a competitive edge, manufacturers must retool their factories often, deploy new processes and design models, and take advantage of new technologies. By adopting new technologies like robotics and automation, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things, manufacturers can navigate a progressive market and reimagine efficiency. Perhaps the simplest definition of retooling is “to revise and reorganize, especially for the purpose of updating or improving.” For manufacturers, retooling is driven by the pursuit of efficiency, product innovation, and productivity.

So what does this have to do with talent management?

From an HR standpoint, the concept of retooling is one we—as ‘people engineers’ of our respective companies—can and should embrace. Granted, people aren’t smartphones or Teslas but the analogy fits when reevaluating our talent management practices. Continuous, data-driven updates and improvements with an overarching goal of elevating the productivity of our people.

As business needs change, HR systems must be flexible and adaptable to facilitate multiple avenues for communication and collaboration as well as generating continuous optimization through an ongoing roadmap to incorporate new, enabling technologies.

Speed and agility aren’t just a matter of smart thinking and anticipation. Companies also need to accelerate the deployment of digitally powered processes, employee experiences, and ways of working across global teams—all with an eye toward business outcomes.

Related reading: Do Your HR Processes Align With the Depth of Your Technology?

Taking an Agile Approach to Talent Processes

Considering the rapid pace of change and the ongoing need to adapt, Josh Bersin’s philosophy of making the move to an agile organizational model is an upward trend. Based on the successes of agile as a design framework for software developers—and today in HR—the shift will have an impact on how companies make talent management decisions faster.

For many companies, there’s a disconnect between talent processes and the company’s needs to grow or expand. Even companies with current, robust talent management technologies and solid HR systems are at risk of stagnating if there isn’t a commitment to evolution and a flexible system.

Just as markets change, so do employee needs. The same for customer and shareholder expectations. Employment laws and regulations, international business standards. Media attention for issues like diversity, inclusion, and pay equity.

Building and managing a modern workforce continues to be a challenge for businesses. Demographic shifts—notably, multiple generations of workers and the impending retirement of baby boomers—have caught us all unprepared.

The challenge of building and managing a modern workforce has, in a sense, crept up on businesses. Demographic shifts—notably, multiple generations of workers and the impending retirement of baby boomers—seem to have caught us all unprepared. And coupled with the move to digital business, and growth in global markets, what we have is a nexus of drivers creating dramatic shifts in talent management, including

  • Increasing use of contingent labor and internal mobility as solutions for talent acquisition
  • Adoption of continuous learning and rising employee expectations for career development
  • Transformation of performance management from an annual appraisal and rating to frequent conversations and real-time feedback
  • Burgeoning and vocal demands from employees, customers, and boards for pay equity and radical transparency

Evolution of diversity and inclusion beyond mission statements and one-dimensional initiatives to an essential component of employer brand.

In order to support ongoing organizational change, companies need to regularly re-evaluate their approach to talent acquisition, onboarding, compensation, learning, and career development. And they need a talent platform that not only automates and optimizes key processes but allows custom configuration so they can accommodate future process changes.

Why not download:A Human Framework for Reskilling: How 5 Seismic Forces Are Driving the Reinvention of Learning & Talent”

Communicating the How, When, and Why of Talent Management

Across all talent management processes, communication is mission-critical. Not only to explain how to do things, but to convey why and when. Many HR processes are seasonal. Managers and employees participate annually or ad hoc.

Just as factories gear up and gear down depending on market demand, HR systems and teams need to ramp up periodically, to refamiliarize themselves with, for example, compensation planning or interviewing protocols.

To reduce friction and ensure manager decisions are sound and employees feel valued and empowered, it takes more than a user-friendly interface. Companies need an experience that conveys institutional knowledge and expert guidance right in the flow of work—for example, via real-time collaboration tools or video coaching from HR, peers, and managers.

Communication is also the secret sauce of successful change management. As processes evolve, change can create anxiety, shake confidence, and tank enthusiasm. To overcome individual and organizational resistance, HR and leadership teams need to generate buy-in. How? By defining the change clearly, explaining its impact on business goals, and simplifying and reducing the burden on employees wherever possible.

Employees and managers may need comprehensive training to learn new skills and behaviors, or microlearning for just-in-time adjustments and continuous development. And everyone must have a clear understanding of how his or her role in the transition affects and depends on others.

More from the blog: Learn from the Best: How Goldman Sachs Uses Video Interviewing to Improve Talent Experience

Engineering a Productive Workforce

The digital evolution of talent processes is inevitable. For CEOs, it really should be a top priority in the next two or three years to avoid being dramatically displaced by competitors who beat them to it.

For HR leaders who have a strong executive champion, the time is ripe to begin thinking like an engineer and looking for opportunities to retool talent management and drive organizational productivity.

To learn more about retooling your talent management processes, register for our upcoming webinar, 'How to Bring Your Reskilling to Life', on Tuesday 31 March 2020.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been refreshed with more recent data.

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