One More Time: Competency Based Talent Management is Still the Key!!

A recent white paper from SAP proclaims: ”The ability to attract, retain and manage talent will soon become one of the biggest factors in determining organizational success”.  While the paper is focused on the unique challenges that millennials pose to organizations, the points it makes are broadly valid.

  • Relevance and importance of work in their life are different
  • They are looking for collaboration, innovation and teamwork
  • Their focus is not on promotions but competencies like teamwork and decision making
  • Demographic gap in organizations poses a significant knowledge leakage issue

Another white paper from Deloitte proclaims how Procurement/Supply Chain must transform itself by 2020 (Really?  We haven’t started yet and we have that much time????).  They see the role as not one of sourcing goods and services but sourcing ideas.  They talk about Innovation and Creativity as key competencies for Procurement/Supply Chain organizations.  Expectations that category management is  just normal expected activity and driving top line (revenue) growth are what will set organizations apart as Next Practice organizations.  And then they go on to identify Talent Management as one of the top four capabilities needed by Purchasing/Supply Chain organizations – “helping strike a balance of roles and the right expertise at all levels”.

We have one thing to say to our professional colleagues in these esteemed firms – welcome!!  For those of you familiar with our firm, you will know that we have been talking about Competency Based Talent Management (“CBTM”) for quite a while.  And while we have seen a fair amount of progress in our most recent research, it is clear that we still have a long way to go.  Our colleagues are now starting to talk about Change Management, Collaboration, Alignment, Stakeholder Engagement, Innovation, and Creativity as key competencies.  Finally!!  We have been steadfast in our belief for close to two decades that rather than the derogatory label of “soft” skills, these are actually the strategic competencies that enable any and all value generation – at least that which is valued by our stakeholders. 

By now the debate should be over – CBTM is what will separate the men from the boys or the women from the girls (just to be gender neutral) and within CBTM, the organizations that rightfully acknowledge and incorporate the strategic competencies will be Next Practice organizations and the rest will be “also- ran” or Best Practice organizations.  The ability to forecast and align your needed/desired organizational competency model and then put in motion a strategy that closes those gaps will set leaders apart.  The ability to manage, grow, invest and develop your competency asset base will be your competitive differentiator.  Protecting existing knowledge and then growing it as an asset will be a huge risk factor.  Moving away from “certifications” as competency indicators and more towards applied knowledge will be critical. Having a CBTM strategy to manage the entire hire to retire lifecycle will be crucial.  I know you have heard us say this before but given the recent attention by some of our colleagues, it perhaps merits another discussion.  Where are you in your CBTM journey?  Are you still trying  to convince your boss and your leadership?  Is your training budget the first thing to go?  When was the last time you assessed the risk that you are carrying as far as CBTM is concerned?

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What Your Parents Were Afraid to Tell You About The Birds and The Bees – Secrets FINALLY Revealed!!

No, this is not about the Kama Sutra – sorry!  But before I tell you about The Birds and The Bees, let me ask you a serious question.  If you were faced with a life and death situation, what percentage of the time do you think you would make the right decision?  What if the decision criteria were fairly complex?  Would your percentage drop?  What if you had to get a few more people involved in making the decision?  What if I said that your process MUST involve collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building?  Would your percentage drop even further?  By the way, this represents the decision making situations in your work everyday -n’est ce pas?  Let’s stretch this a little further – how about those few more people are actually 10,000 people?  What would your percentage be now?  I’m not done yet: what if you had to make that decision every year, year after year?  What kind of success rate would you predict of making the right decision every time?  Would you like to learn about a top secret methodology that will guarantee a success rate of close to 90% given ALL the criteria above?  All you have to do is to forget whatever your parents taught you about birds and the bees and listen to what Professor Thomas Seeley from Cornell has to say about bees in a Harvard Business Review article. I’ll cover the birds some other time.

A beehive has to find a new place to call home every single year because of over population.  And what I described above is the actual situation that they face, every single year, and Seeley’s research documents a success rate of 90% – year after year.  They have very complex criteria that they have to meet because their survival depends on it, and they have developed a process which depends on experts to gather data, ways to consolidate the market research, validate the information, communicate to everyone and build consensus and then most importantly, make the decision and get it Adopted and Implemented.  And then they live happily forever – till next year!  90% success rate!!!!!  Seeley points to the fact that bees have figured out how to achieve a high collective IQ and that organizations would be well served to emulate bees.  I could not agree more, and we at TMG have been preaching similarly.  Here are his 5 keys:

  1. Remind the group’s members of their shared interests and foster mutual respect, so they work together productively.
  2. Explore diverse solutions to the problem, to maximize the group’s likelihood of uncovering an excellent option.
  3. Aggregate the group’s knowledge through a frank debate.
  4. Minimize the leader’s influence on the group’s thinking.
  5. Balance interdependence (information sharing) and independence (absence of peer pressure) among the group’s members.

Raising the collective IQ, High Performance Work Teams, Change Management,   etc. are clearly critical competencies in organizations.  In addition, decision making is the most overlooked competency in organizations today.  People are promoted based on an assumption that they are better decision makers than others.  Group decision making is probably the single biggest bottle neck in corporation today.  Yet, there is very little attention paid to this issue-both at an individual level and at a group level.  If you do find competencies related to Seeley’s list above, my guess is that it will be in the dreaded soft skills category and we all know how those are treated most of the time.

You first must fundamentally believe that those Strategic Competencies (soft skills) are the key to your organization’s success. Defining the right competencies, developing those organizational competencies (CBTM) and then adopting and implementing (AEIOU) can get you a 90% success rate.  With 10,000 stakeholders to boot.

And again, my apologies to those who were expecting something from the Kama Sutra!

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