Adam Miller (North America) - How Empowering Employees Via Strategic Talent Management can Help U.S. Organisations

Businesses have to shift from consolidation to growth to stay competititve. Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand Inc, examines how US businesses might hold an advantage during this transition.

Organisations around the world have survived the recent global recession by cutting superfluous costs and focusing on execution of core activities.  For many, difficult decisions have had to be made regarding staff numbers and budgets, increasing demands on the remaining workforce. Research shows that as a result, many U.S. employees have been feeling overworked, undervalued and disengaged.

As businesses shift from cost cutting and retrenchment to growth and innovation of new products, it is critical to plan for the future even while coping with the present in order to stay nimble and competitive.  In part, this means empowering the employees who remain in order to drive employee retention, innovation and business results.

In this respect, I believe that organisations in the U.S. may have somewhat of an advantage when compared with their counterparts in other countries. More U.S. businesses are shifting to flatter organisational structures that facilitate lateral as well as vertical career mobility and allow for an easier flow of information and collaboration across the organisation.  By comparison, corporate hierarchies still relatively common among European businesses (and indeed in more formal cultural environments such as Asia) can make it difficult to ensure employees are aware of and buy into the corporate strategy. This structure can also prevent the communication of innovative ideas up the management hierarchy. 

New ideas are the life-blood of future growth; many commentators refer to the "creative destruction" that is the legacy of recessionary environments, where future corporate leaders are created by companies needing to diversify or even start again in order to survive.  In our experience, it is relatively simple to establish an environment where employees are able to create and communicate those vital ideas.  All that is required is an enabled, collaborative culture and the right tools in the hands of employees, managers and HR to make employee empowerment a reality.  

An empowered employee will go that one step further to be creative and deliver results, but they need to be properly equipped to be empowered.  It is critical that they have the resources to do their jobs well and clearly defined opportunities to develop and advance within the organisation.  What's more, engaged and empowered employees need to feel they are appreciated for their contributions. 

An increasing number of U.S. organisations are integrating their learning, performance and talent management strategies, as well as investing in the right technology support, to help them achieve their business objectives.  While this transition from tactical to strategic HR is proving to benefit these organizations with better performance today, this same approach can help to foster a culture of employee enablement, efficiency and collaboration tomorrow. 

Research by experts such as Bersin & Associates support the business benefits of talent management and employee empowerment.  Bersin's research shows that companies with intermediate to advanced levels of talent management performed better financially during the recession and generated higher revenue per employee.  It also found that these companies benefitted from a lower level of voluntary turnover, avoiding the costs and productivity gaps associated with recruiting new employees. 

One company realizing the potential of integrating learning with talent management is global workforce management services firm Kelly Services.  Not only did the company seek to better align these strategies with the overall goals of the business via an integrated talent strategy, the company also wanted to create a high-empowerment culture across the organisation -- which leaders felt had a direct impact on customer satisfaction, productivity and company profitability.  Within the first year, Kelly was able to improve employee turn-over and increase productivity by 50 % for new supervisors in its commercial business.  The company also found that employees that took advantage of learning and development opportunities made significant contributions to Kelly's revenue and gross profit in comparison with those who have no training. 

Bottom line, closing the employee empowerment gap through integrated learning and talent management can result in a more engaged, productive and aligned workforce.  It may not be on everyone's list of organsational priorities today, but the competitive advantage it can provide as the economy continues to recover will be even more telling.

By Adam Miller, President and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand