Intelligent Talent Management: A Step-By-Step Guide
by Rand J. Gruen Ph.D. President, Corporate Integration Strategies, Inc.In the face of the recent downturn, many companies, including those in marketing, advertising, PR, and branding, have come under increased pressure due to declining revenues and profits. As the slowdown drags on, many are looking for ways to increase profits. Cutting costs is an obvious and potentially attractive option. In the service sector, salaries and employee benefits account for a large proportion of a company’s budget. One way to control costs then, is to cut salaries and/or employees. While this may be necessary (or even desirable), it is often done without a guiding set of principles or clear conceptual framework. The result is that valuable talent can be lost in an effort to save money. People with the capabilities that were lost then need to re-hired when cash flow improves. The purpose of this article is to provide a framework for making targeted, informed human capital decisions. Use of this methodology can actually lead to a stronger, more focused, and more competitive organization, staff reductions notwithstanding. Business models and staffing decisions. The foundation of the model rests on a simple core question: what organizational resources/skills/assets are needed to support the business strategy. The follow-on question then becomes, “does this particular employee (or group of employees) have these skills”. This information is absolutely necessary if one is going to make informed decisions regarding lay-offs. All too often, these questions are not at the center of the decision-making process. Employees are often retained for a variety of other reasons including: how well liked they are, years of service, whether they are useful to certain key decision-makers, loyalty, historical factors, cultural values that over- or undervalue certain skill sets, attitudes re: lay-offs, the size of an individual’s salary, political considerations, legal concerns, etc. Just to clarify – I’m not suggesting that these factors are unimportant, but the first question should always be: “how critical is this person in terms of our ability to meet our business objectives?” To be in a position to answer this question, a fair amount of work needs to be done beforehand. A Step-by-step Guide: Step 1: Strategy development/review. Human capital decisions are intricately intertwined with questions about business opportunity, competitive advantage, and strategy. While they are affected by organizational or cultural factors, at their core, human capital decisions are the logical expression and outcome of the strategy implementation process. As a first step in having the ability to make intelligent hiring and firing decisions, key executives need to understand the opportunities that exist to grow their business and the skills needed to exploit these opportunities. Those in the decision-making role must be able to answer the following 5 questions:
- What are our core assets, strengths, and weaknesses?
- What opportunities exist to grow the business, now and in the future?
- What types of skills do employees/leaders need to exploit these opportunities?
- What potential obstacles exist (i.e. competitive, local, regional, and global economic factors, etc.)?
- What types of competencies will be needed to overcome these obstacles?
- Are there teams in the organization that are not critical in terms of our ability to reach our key objectives? Can these teams/roles be eliminated in order to experience a cost savings? Alternatively, can employees in these groups be reassigned or cross-trained to an area where they can add real value?
- Are there individuals who do not have the skills needed to exploit the opportunities that exist? Can we let them go or reassign them?
- Do we need to develop people or bring new people on board who do have the right skills?