Business Management

Adam Miller (Europe) - How Integrated Talent Management can Help European Organisations Accelerate out of Recession

A typical strategy for organisations during a period of recession is retrenchment, particularly when it comes to their people.  In 2011, as in previous years, many European businesses and governments have made employees redundant and exerted considerable restraint in awarding below-inflation pay increases and bonuses (if any).  But it's fair to ask whether these organisations are doing the right thing to deliver success in the medium to long term.  After all, research conducted in the UK during the 1980's revealed that a company will enjoy competitive advantage post-recession if it has continued to invest in its operations and people during that recession.

What I find so fascinating is that for the first time, tools exist to help executives tread that fine line between reducing inefficiencies and continuing to invest in their business and people.  I don't just mean better operational information systems and financial analysis tools - although they are essential.  Organisations today can hold a huge amount of valuable information about their people and the skills and abilities they possess - and in turn, this intelligence can be used to resource the organisation more strategically and effectively. 

Managing and storing all this information via one integrated learning and talent management system enables better planning, modeling and measurement.  For example, it helps organisations ensure they remain compliant with any national, European or global requirements in terms of skills, knowledge and qualifications.  Another key factor of European business is the compact regarding negotiated agreements between unions and employers, particularly in countries such as France.  It is hugely beneficial for unions and employers alike to be able to base their discussions on evidence of real rather than perceived requirements, making it easier for the parties to reach agreement.  

However, three things are essential when taking an integrated approach to learning, performance and talent management:

1. The corporate strategy should be clear and cascaded to all the required levels so employees know what is expected of them;

2. Management should have identified the skills and abilities they need to deliver results at each level; and

3. Managers should assess the correlation between the employee's skills and performance and the organisation's needs on an ongoing basis, identifying any skills gaps and providing the employee with the right opportunities to close them when the need arises. Annual appraisals and objective-setting simply don't deliver results for organisations that operate in fast-moving global markets.

If you combine this strong foundation with a strategy of employee empowerment, it helps deliver an agile and innovative organisation that is prepared for current challenges and the opportunities ahead.  But employee engagement requires effort; it means using the information at the manager's disposal to provide each employee with planned opportunities for growth, development and (non-financial) recognition.  These opportunities should be motivational and engaging for the employee, helping them to build their skills and competences and develop their career, but they must also be aligned with corporate objectives. 

Multinational organisations like UK-based RSA Group have adopted global strategies and multi-lingual learning and talent management systems to make the most of the talent of their people in a fun and engaging way - that ultimately is designed to drive business growth in highly competitive markets.  I'm sure other businesses will look at RSA's example and seek to imitate what they have done, but organisations like RSA are several steps ahead.  By not investing enough attention in their employees during the course of the recession, some of their competitors may already have missed the opportunity to gain critical competitive advantage coming out of it.

Adam Miller is the founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand, a leading global provider of learning and talent management software.



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