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Talent Management Models For The Agile Workforce

Written on Mar 17, 2017 6:42:05 PM, by Ilie Ghiciuc

Has the world gone totally insane? Are you ready to press the big red EJECT button to launch out of this crazy economic climate we are living in nowadays? Just wait. Take your finger off the button. Grab a drink (not at work though, you really shouldn’t day drink at the office, no matter how much you might want to), take a breath, and read this first.

I have been a part of several startups, a good portion of which have failed miserably. So, I have had my fair share of managing changes outside my control: technology, economy, society, business climate, and other changes that impact the business world.

Also read: Does Your Talent Management Strategy Support Millennials?

There has been more than one time when I wanted to press the red button. In my experience, the best you can do in these times is to try your hardest, remain flexible and to embrace agility. Lately I've been reading and researching about how to a more agile workplace using talent management models that enabled me to support a workforce that can adapt.

Are you agile?

Before we get into the various models of an agile workforce, first see how agile you are at this moment. Maybe you are better off than you think. Again, if not, don’t panic.

The big red button or a keg will only provide temporary relief, and even that’s debatable, but ask yourself this:

  • Has my organization identified crucial skills that need to be established?
  • Is my company effective when it comes to creating and implementing initiatives?
  • How well does my organization take an idea and form objectives and timelines?
  • Does everyone in the company receive effective onboarding and know what is expected of them?
  • How often do I assess performance, what do I use, and how well can employees adjust?
  • How are employees treated and how are issues resolved?
  • Are rules, expectations, and changes communicated effectively or is there too much bureaucracy?

So how did you do? I bet there are a lot of questions here that showed you that you are more agile than you think. The other questions will be answered when we look at the various models.

The Phase Model of Talent Management

Any talent management process should start by learning about your talent: who they are, what their strengths are,  and how to continue the cycle when they are promoted or leave. This process can be broken down into various phases that represent it's vital aspects.

Talent Review

In this phase, you should review and prioritize employees based on their skills and abilities. This is the first step for succession management.

The 9 Box Grid is a tool that you can use to map out the organization’s human capital strengths and gain insight into the performance of your employees as opposed to their potential. This tool can help lead to a more agile workforce as it helps you find high potential employees and high performing employees.

Use it to plan for how they will adjust if changes in the business environment change your needs or the employee makeup of the company.

Assess & Identify

A key to making sure that the talent management runs smoothly is to make sure you know where your employees are in their lifecycle. By assessing their abilities and needs, you can then identify who needs what.

This will help you see who has the potential to lead, who is underperforming, and what kinds of training they need to acquire the skills to help move them forward.

Manage & Develop

During this phase, your high potential employees are guided so that they can become leaders that are in tune with the company’s goals and objectives. Many companies follow the 70-20-10 rule which states that 70% of learning should come from hands-on training, 20% should come from didactic training sessions, and 10% should come from self-directed learning.

A more effective learning program also includes blended learning and continuous learning. Those make for a more mobile workforce as employees are better prepared for whatever changes might come their way.

Also read: The Future Of Your Organization Is In Its Culture Of Learning

The Holistic Model

Using the holistic model of talent management means that you have an integrated system where everything is connected. This requires that all aspects of the organization that involve employee management are integrated into one main system. It makes no sense to spend a lot of time and resources recruiting excellent employees if you don’t have programs in place that will help retain them.

The areas that should be included are recruiting, onboarding, performance management, talent review, succession management, and learning and development. Some companies have different departments for each of those functions, which can be helpful when organizing tasks, but the problem becomes when those departments do not collaborate.

One way to help create this type of collaboration is through technology.  Recruiters, learning specialists, benefits specialists, and other HR staff can work together to create an integrated and more effective employee lifecycle.

The Integrated Model

With the current business climate being what it is, that workforce must be agile. The first step in creating this kind of workforce is attracting the right kind of candidates through HR practices and policies. In my experience, the finance department has a strong role in how the company operates.

This is understandable as a company can not survive if it does not have a solid financial foundation. But the same could be said about HR. Without the influence of effective talent management and a strong HR team, your company will not attract or retain workers who can bring in money for the company and help it run effectively. HR needs an equal and active role in creating policies within the company.

One of the keys roles of HR should be performance reviews. After employees are hired, they should know what their role is and how it impacts the various strategic goals of the company. They need to know that what they are doing directly impacts the future of the organization. If their own goals or performance do not seem to match their role, managers along with HR staff need to find them a role that will help them excel.

Also read: Is Your Learning Program Really Improving Workplace Performance?

Communicate your strategy effectively - a lesson you usually learn after a miscommunication. Try thinking about communication as a waterfall. In many types of waterfalls, the water cascades down various layers of rocks before it reaches the bottom. These steps or cascades can help you focus your strategy and communicate it to various levels of the company. At the top of the waterfall is the main strategy of the organization. As the water cascades, the strategy is focused more and more on business units, then teams, then individual employees. That way, everything is linked back to the strategy and all your employees know how they contribute.

Creating a Strategy

Make it clear - The strategy should not be a dense document that only leaders who created it can understand. You need a strategy that speaks to everyone. 

Enlist ambassadors - After you have the strategy you need to enlist people to share it with others and explain its purpose and worth.

Measure - When the strategy is in place, you measure various KPIs to see if it is working.

Evaluate - After you have results, you then need to talk about the data to see what changes need to be made.

Encourage communication - With a process in place for creating and evaluating various strategic goals, you need to keep the lines of communication open. For continuous improvement, you need to always be willing to talk about and listen to ways to make things better.

After you have a strategy system in place, you need to determine what kind of people you want helping implement or guide that strategy. This means that in order to manage your strategy, you need to manage your talent. That first requires you to define what you mean by talent. This word means something different to every organization, but to some of the most agile ones, talent has more to do with measuring potential than just current performance.

These companies also understand the importance of teams. They know that agility does not come from just a collection of individuals, but from creating teams that can weather any economic storm. These teams function so that the group will continue to be able to produce results even if there are changes in the makeup of the team.   

For individuals and teams to thrive and grow, they need to be nurtured. You can nurture your teams and retain excellent employees by focusing on what motivated them to stay (remuneration, development opportunities, other perks).

As with any system, there will be changes. Using the integrated approach to talent management places HR practices into the strategic goals of the organization, creating a system where agility is fostered from the beginning.

VUCA and the Agile Model

Experts in the field of talent management created the acronym VUCA to describe the current business atmosphere.

Volatile - Change comes quickly but not in any sort of predictable manner.
Uncertain - Predicting what lies ahead is not possible as there are so many disruptions.
Complex - Solving problems is not easy due to all the factors and causes involved.
Ambiguous - Cause and effect relationships are unclear.

The chaotic and volatile nature of today’s business environment requires us to be more agile. Change occurs at such a rapid and disruptive pace that we all have to figure out how we create talent management practices that help us survive.

VUCA planning is not new in the business world. Supply chain management and risk management have been doing it or years. Some companies have adapted their leadership development programs to VUCA, but for the most part, companies are not VUCA ready. Many do not have the agility required due to their lack of VUCA recruiting, retention, onboarding, learning and development, remuneration, and performance management.

In a VUCA environment, you need to create an agile talent management process. That means that all aspects of the employee lifecycle need to be adapted to handle anything at any time. In order to do this, there are many must haves and must avoids that you need to take into consideration when trying to adapt to VUCA and create that ideal agile workforce.

Must Haves

  • Agile processes
  • Training and Fast learning
  • Innovation and Collaboration
  • Quick hiring process
  • New resources and Knowledge sharing
  • Flexible talent pool and Fluid jobs
  • Effective planning
  • Alternative ideas and paths
  • Data and analytics
  • Frequent real-time performance reviews
  • People given the power to make decisions
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Everyone is involved in change management
  • Freedom to experiment and improve processes
  • Working with various collaborators and off-site employees

Must Avoid

  • Permanent solutions
  • Fixed training schedule
  • Resistance to change
  • Expectations of long-term employee retention
  • Fixed company culture
  • Defined roles and job descriptions
  • Only finding solutions for current problems
  • One size fits all practices
  • Focusing on past trends
  • Yearly performance reviews
  • Power isolated at the top
  • Extrinsic motivation
  • Limited change management involvement
  • Little room for experimentation

The New Role of HR

In these various models, the role of HR is evolving. HR now has a new mission, one that focuses on creating a more mobile and agile workforce. In my experience, HR has to focus on many core initiatives:

  • Fostering employee mobility
  • Helping employees find their hidden talents
  • Creating an adaptive and ethical culture
  • Using analytics and data
  • Making learning a priority

So now that you have read all this, hopefully, you can see that there is no reason to panic. Small changes over time can make a big difference. I have been through this process before. It will take some time, energy, and resources and it will probably be stressful, but it is the only real way to help your business survive in this crazy world we live in. Reach out to me anytime you need help. And it if comes to it maybe I can recommend a good place to buy a parachute.

Ilie Ghiciuc
I've been an entrepreneur for the past 10+ years building great software companies together with fantastic teams. I like to spend most of my free time reading :)