Winning the Race for Talents

Written By: P. Raj Kumar,
Director, Executive Placements and Leadership & Talent Consulting CnetG Asia

It looks like winning the race for talent will be a long race with a moving finishing line. The timeless principles of attracting, nurturing and retaining highly talented managers are constantly reviewed and strengthened. We  are now seeing companies beefing up their talent management team to manage the constant demand for people, whether through internal promotions/transfers, from other businesses within the group, or finally, external talent.
The truth is, if you have a superstar employee in your organization,  there is always a high risk of them being picked up by other companies. There has to be an equal focus in acquisition, nurturing and retaining people. While the talent management concepts are routinely strengthened, I feel it is all about making it real.
Humanization of the process is essential for the success of the model. While technology facilitates business growth, it also kills human interaction. Your top talent has to be able to repeat to you what are the different options available for career progression within the organization, how performance is measured and mapped to growth, and who are the key people who measure the employee's performance. Humanization here means, there has to be constant conversations around the topic of talent management with employees.
Simplification of the model is also essential as job descriptions, performance appraisals, interview processes have all become generic. Job description should be specific to the job, in that organization and not a standard off the shelf one, that says everything but not address "must haves" and "nice to haves".

Hiring Managers need to be real on their expectations and not expect a replica of themselves. Here is where, HR professionals as strategic business partners,  should play a role in facilitating the process, from identifying the need, to spelling it out in the job description. I have seen Job descriptions that are 4-page long, that tells everything but does not tell me the pertinent aspects of the job.
Localization of the model is essential. Most companies use models cascaded from headquarters but some aspects have to be applied differently, based on the countries, cultures and business environment. For instance, the Employee Value Proposition of a company has to be unique to the business and the country it operates in.

I strongly propose each company to have a Unique Employee Value Proposition, that the employee or candidate can relate to. Some EVPs of international companies are so broad, but they are not entirely reflective of the businesses they are in, in a specific country they are present in. EVP has to be more of a story-telling. Candidates are not just keen with the brand, but also the leadership team and culture. They want to know how are decisions made, how are performance measured and rewarded and also the company's values.  

The other obstacle is promotions. A candidate I interviewed recently, left his previous company, which is among the Big Fours as they were not able to promote him because the structure does not allow it. His immediate superior recognizes his capabilities but his hands are tied, as internationally, there is a specific set of conditions to be met before a promotion is given. The candidate left and now the company is calling him back.
 According to Param Murthi, the Director of Talent Management (East Asia, Japan & Pacific), Schneider, candidates who attend interviews are now interviewing the  interviewer, about the company, the culture and environment and the role.

He shared that candidates want to know about the hiring manager, and the key decision makers, how decisions are made, etc. This is different from past practices where the interviewer leads the interview. Grace Munsayac, the HR Director, SEA at  Mondelez feels that talents today are individualized. She feels there has to be "employeeship" more than just leadership. Grace defined "employeeship" as ownership + engagement + high performance.  

Employees want fast promotions and have many demands but they do not put in the efforts to earn it. Grace also mentioned that with "employeeship", we will able to discover their goals and align our plans with their aspiration. Through this, the employee will take ownership of their career growth.
Candidates these days are different from Gen Xs and Baby Boomers. Longevity is now rare. Personal satisfaction replaces loyalty. Deepa George, the HR Director of Roche said that candidates understand and have a very practical mindset as they think that companies due to various factors can undergo restructuring, mergers, acquisition and downsizing so they too also keep their options open. The candidates today don't stress on longevity.
Mike Selva, the Area Recruitment Lead, Drilling Group (ASA) of Schlumberger (SLB) shared that companies have woken up to the fact that loyalty is a bygone concept. In fact he advises hiring managers against candidates who has been with a company for too long e.g. 19 years because it raises concerns that the candidate would not be able to adopt, unlearn, untie relationship etc. Recruitment is an active, agile and adaptable process.
Companies have also begun reviewing their policies on rehiring former employees. Mike Selva said that SLB didn't use to rehire people who went to competitors but today they open their arms to welcome them back as they have gone out within the industry and learnt new and best practices.
The notion that its best to pinch from your competitors is also changing. Companies have to be creative and start looking at candidate's capabilities and ability to excel in that role, as what really matters is if the candidate fits your culture and environment.

Hsu Yi, the HR Manager of Pepsico said "we hire from competitors (who has worked long in other companies) but sometimes they thrive and sometimes they don't." Lim Chee Gay, the HR Director of Samsung added that he has had great successes in hiring from companies that have similar culture and environment, and not just competitors. That allowed him to hire almost 200 employees who are all highly-driven.
Andrew who is the HR Director of Sanofi Aventis says it is important to understand reason for the change as it is ultimately a calculated risk for both parties. The interview should not be focused on getting the position filled, but a broader process of ensuring sustainability in that position.  Andrew says it also important to recognize the expectation on leader & expectation towards their own careers.
Manish Mehta, the Practice Leader of CnetG's Pharmaceutical Practice, advised that identifying individual needs  and wants are very important, especially for loyal candidates. We must get more personal with the individual to understand their needs and what drives them. To this point, Hsu Yi further added  that HR should ask the candidate in the interview, "what do you want to do'. This helps us to understand what drives them.
Allan Khong, the Consumer Practice Leader of CnetG shared that people will leave if they do not know of "plans" the company has for them. If the company does not articulate or manage their career, the candidates will do it on their own. Simply maybe because they want to do more.  

Mike Selva added that a company needs to recognize that their internal talents want to grow & diversify. Companies focus too much on functional competencies while they don't realize that the interest and drive is more important. Thoughts should be given towards cross-training and diversification of roles.

In Schlumberger, there is a system that allows the employee to key in the next 3 positions the employee wants to move into, and made known to the manager. It also expects the employee to have mobility so that they can be rotated every 2 years.  

Another innovative practice of Schlumberger is offering dual-career to employees who are transferred to other countries. The spouse is offered a suitable position in the same location, so that it is easier to make the move.