The second blog from our very own Chairman, Trevor Dawes sharing his fountain of knowledge on all things Competency and Capability Management. Enjoy the read!
In my last article I set out to define some basic aspects of developing assessing and accrediting employees based on competencies, skills and capability. This was based on my experiences over 30 years of developing competency frameworks and related processes, mostly relating to projects where a client wanted to transform people performance.
Having established some of the basics I now want to turn my attention to Talent Management. This is an area where great results can be achieved, but where a lot of factors come into play. It’s an area where you often hear people say “Why can’t we….?”, and then identify an outcome that would really help the business, only to be told that current processes and systems won’t let it happen. I hope by sharing some of my experiences in this area I can shed some light on the subject and maybe give a glimpse of the possibilities.
Talent management can be viewed from a number of different perspectives. In the recruitment industry it implies finding new employees with the right mix of skills and experience to suit an employer’s needs. Recruitment is now a huge industry and pushes this perspective very effectively, so many managers believe that recruitment is the only solution to developing talent in their business.
In the short term they may be right. Recruitment is an enabler and may help an organisation to be more agile, seizing growth opportunities, or changing the skills mix of its workforce to meet future challenges, like changes in technology or markets.
The downside can be the effect that bringing in new recruits has on existing employees. Do they feel that their abilities have been overlooked? Have they been given the chance to progress within the organisation? Have their career options been discussed with them by their line manager? Have they been given the development they need to keep pace or progress in their current or a higher role? Bringing in a new manager from outside the organisation can have a damaging effect on the morale of the team they have been recruited to manage, as there may have been potential internal candidates for the role who have not been considered.
More and more organisations are recognising this now and have recruited Talent professionals to put in place a strategy for developing the whole workforce to meet the organisation’s future needs. But where do you start?
My preference would be to start with a career map. Why? Because it is very engaging for employees to see how their career might progress if they continue to develop their capability. Engaged employees will be more motivated to perform well in their role and will most often put themselves forward for development activities, and look for more responsibility, to progress their careers.
One of my first involvements in creating a career map was back in the 1990’s. I had been working with the European IT function of Shell to implement a competency framework. The IT community was spread across 22 countries, so in developing the English language competency framework we had to recognise that English was a second language for many employees. It was a challenge, particularly in one country where the IT function had only recently been acquired by Shell and few employees were fluent in English. Overall though we had a lot of engagement and an enthusiastic team leading the transformation.
Having implemented the competency framework and an assessment and development process we were looking for a way to support the roll out with something that would focus employees on the future, rather than let them be too focused (and maybe worried) on the assessment process. The career map was certainly well-received and particularly helped the newer employees to understand how their career could progress with Shell. This was an important issue, as retention of key IT skills was vital to the company. The market for IT skills was then, as it is now, very challenging and competitive, so it was vital to hang on to the IT talent.
Over the last 10 years or more we have been very involved with developing the project management capability. This is an area where we have implemented our capability software with Shell and, since 2013, have been developing and improving the assessment, development and accreditation process along with our software. Since 2015 we have also been supporting the Cabinet Office’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority with the development of Senior Programme and Project Directors and Managers. This is called the Project Leadership Programme. So we were very pleased when we saw that the IPA had published a career map for their project management community.
Although our work with the IPA, and the software we have developed, is only targeted at senior level, we know how motivational this can be. There are tens of thousands of people with project management responsibility in government departments, so giving them a career map to focus on as a way of developing and managing their career is an excellent way of retaining, motivating and developing talented project managers in government.
The software we provide to the IPA’s Project Leadership Programme (PLP) supports the delivery of a year-long programme of development. Candidates for the PLP are put through an intensive programme of learning, with Cranfield University providing world class input from guest speakers and challenging learning modules. In addition candidates are assigned to an Accredited Professional Coach, who will support them with their development goals over the course of the year.
An added feature of the software is the opportunity for the candidate to capture evidence of their experience and competencies against the Association for Project Management (APM) Chartered Project Professional Standard (ChPP). Supported by our colleagues at The Project Academy Ltd (TPA), candidates can compile an application to the APM to be accredited as a Chartered Project Professional.
Career maps are particularly valuable to an organisation where valuable skills like IT or Project Management Capability are in short supply. Attracting talented employees who recognise that they can grow their capability with that employer will help the employer to retain their talent and experience for longer. Offering a programme of development, accreditation and qualification alongside the career map will give the employer a powerful weapon in the “war on talent”.
Unlocking Potential from your Talent Pool
Developing your own talented employees is a significant issue in developing your workforce. However, it is acknowledged that recognising the potential of employees is maybe not as thorough as it could be in most organisations.
A standard approach in ,any organisations has been the use of a 9 box grid, see below:
The difficulty with this has always been the methodology behind rating an employee’s potential and performance. Performance is maybe the easier of the two. Often we use a scoring mechanism around a competency framework and an employee’s success in completing their objectives as a good guide to their performance. In most cases however the rating of potential may be subjective, based on a manager’s view of that individual.
Is the potential of the employee based on evidence from the experience they have gained and results they have demonstrated, perhaps from projects they have worked on? How was this evidence presented? What scales are used to measure the impact of their work? How expert were the people who rated the employee.
If this is done well, in a thorough and fair manner, then reliable ratings of potential can be a key factor in finding just the right people to resource a major project, work on new product development, or take the business in a new and challenging direction.
When done well, as in our experience working with Shell’s Academies, the reliability and consistency of the assessment process gives great confidence in the identification of the true talent and potential of employees. This can be a significant factor in reducing risk, achieving significant savings on a project, or creating outcomes that significantly outstrip expectations.
Around 10 years ago we created a talent management system for Costain which enabled the organisation to categorise employees using a 16 box grid. The significance of the extra dimensions allowing matching between an employee’s aspirations and their potential, as well as other important factors. Using the talent database to analyse the results across the organisation by department, by team, etc. gave real clarity and supported decisions about who might be best suited to go on a senior leadership course, or who might be potential for board level appointments in 5-10 years time!
With the power of a database it was possible to show numbers of employees who met the criteria for each box, colour code the result to highlight any significant factors, compare current results to previous years, and so on. Costain’s current senior management certainly includes employees who were identified by this process.
Sadly I don’t have the page space to describe here all the thoughts, ideas and innovations that went into the project with Costain. It’s hard to encapsulate our 21 years of experience in this area in one short article, and I certainly don’t want to bore our readers!
Careful talent management, delivered over time and fitted to the business strategy, is a great enabler. However, organisations rarely operate in a stable and predictable environment. We only have to look at the effect of Covid on organisations and businesses across the UK and Europe. It would be nice to think that we could gradually nurture the talent in our organisation and see the impact as it delivers greater value year on year. However, one of the effects of Covid has been the need to find people to cover a sudden vacancy, or provide emergency cover. So the emphasis had to change to one where broadening the skillsets of our workforce was more important, agility is more important than depth of knowledge and prior experience.
Nevertheless, the capture of employee data to create a talent management database gives an organisation a massive advantage. A quick search of a database to reveal people who may have relevant knowledge, skills and abilities which would enable them to cover a key role, even if that capability was developed some time ago, would be ideal for providing skilled resources when emergency cover is needed. In this article we have only explored a limited area of Talent Management. We haven’t had the opportunity to look in more depth at areas like emergency cover and business agility. We do recognise its importance, so we will look at this and other aspects of talent management in later articles.
Would you like to know more about how OPL can help your organisation? If so, please do make contact. We’d love to hear from you!
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