Become a Talent Magnet! Do you have a plain vanilla, talent management process or a dynamic talent access and ignition process creating your next generation change leaders and engaging non-traditional minds in your business success?
If you really want change, and lasting change, in your company, find a way to access and ignite those with the most desire for the change and not just those with the most qualifications. Use your next major change project or program to create a ‘talent-access and ignition’ process to allow ‘real’ next generation ‘change leaders’ from non-traditional talent pools within your business, to step-up and take on your business challenges.
Experimenting with new faces, fresh ideas and enthusiastic volunteers will pave the way to improved results as they find their calling, seizing the opportunity to learn and build on their experience to take your business and their career into new territory by providing new perspectives and more than likely, new ways of doing things.
The end result? Some of your least likely candidates become full-on shapers of your future, and a whole new pool of talent emerges, including new candidates for critical positions in the future.
Does your organization have a ‘talent access’ process or is it stuck in the traditions of talent management? When a firm embarks on a major change or improvement program, it is an opportunity to access and ignite new talent from non-traditional pools. It allows talent to come to the surface through internal, open-source exercises, opens doors for hidden talent and enthusiasm, and finds new solutions to old problems. Many organizations are missing this inherent opportunity.
Talent management relies on traditional management or HR led search and selection processes – it often draws on whom ‘management’ feels are best placed to take on new challenges or projects, rather than experimenting with those truly motivated and enthused to take on a challenge, no matter where they sit in the organization. It does as the name implies - manages the talent, sometimes managing the best talent right out of the role or preventing it from ever getting there. Those people whose job it is to find the right fit for a position or temporary taskforce/action team generally start with a list of qualifications and requirements including current positions, experience and educational or technical needs. It may extend to whom management thinks would be the best fit or worse, the ‘fit-exercise’ is based on who is available. Your major change initiative may find itself populated with people in authority or those with position titles that fit the program, or perhaps people whom you believe have done it before or people who simply have the time.
So where is the population of enthusiastic volunteers who truly want lasting change and improvement in your business and have the energy, excitement and non-traditional influence to get the job done and done better? Perhaps your organizational issues require new views and fresh ideas. If that’s the case, look for new ways of bringing in fresh talent to solve your problems.
Talent access processes draw on anyone, in any position, across an organization to allow volunteers to fill strategic projects such as an organizational transformation or improvement initiative. These access programs create vehicles for people to volunteer their effort for causes they want to be part of and they believe in. As a result, you spark succession planning that brings new and alternative people to the line-up, allows you to experiment with enthusiasm rather than qualifications or tenure and provides you with your next level of talent from non-traditional sources, to bring life into your change project and your company. And, of course, talent access programs do not need to be limited to special projects or major change initiatives, but experimenting with resources on teams looking to achieve a common change goal, is a good place to start.
Skeptics may disagree, arguing that people without experience could not be entrusted with programs as strategic in nature or important, as major organizational change. Say that to Habitat for Humanity, an organization powered by stay at home mums and a variety of other volunteers building housing for the poor, or to some forward thinking consulting companies whose job it is to engage clients in major change programs, and they would beg to differ. They have been enlisting the enthusiasm of the under qualified for years!
As a 25 year veteran of transformation and organizational change consulting, one clear trend evidenced in successful change programs is the use and power of volunteers and enthusiasm rather than simply appointments and qualifications. This approach, favoured by the multitude of volunteer based organizations across the globe, is slowly catching on as companies see the need to replace tenure with drive and desire. Charities and consultants, an unlikely pairing, are among the many who are currently populating their programs with under experienced, under qualified, over enthusiastic, dedicated people who are not only accelerating their own learning and development but additionally, accelerating change in their organizations.
So where might this work for you? Let’s take a look at an Australian financial services firm led by a forward thinking leader who a decade ago was already reaping the benefits of enthusiasm through their talent access and ignition program, in their customer service department. Graham Myer, the then head of Customer Services for AMP Insurance was looking for significant change in the way his organization was doing business. He wanted to affect change through his people and as a result see massive changes in his customer service scores and employee satisfaction ratings. If he did this, he knew he would also ultimately see his profitability improve as well. He and his management team created a program called Sharp Focus, one that was part of an even larger program called Channel U – focused entirely on engaging people in improving ny'their own performance and therefore the company's results.
Graham understood that organizational change would not happen as a top down affair, nor would it come from the bottom up if employees didn’t feel they could be part of the process and could lend their voice to a strategic initiative as large in undertaking as Sharp Focus.
The starting point for the program was Graham’s insistence in truly opening the doors to people’s involvement in the transformation program and not simply from the side-lines or when they were asked for their input and ideas; though both were expected. Rather than asking people to get involved when the program touched them, he insisted, people could become part of the team taking the program forward, fulltime, regardless of where they sat in the organization. He and Kathy Main, the day-to-day senior executive champion for Sharp Focus, created a new way to access talent by agreeing they wanted to bring people on board who were willing to invest their effort into the future of the company regardless of their current positions. They wanted enthusiasm over previous experience or current skill. They believed, if real change was to come into being, they could train people to achieve it technically, but the contagious characteristics of enthusiasm, could not be trained, not developed, it needed to be found. This sent a clear message to the entire business that they were no longer interested in bringing in the usual suspects, the most technically skilled or the most senior with positional power, but rather the people who most wanted to see change happen and were willing to make it happen, annd get new and different results.
They also knew Sharp Focus needed to be treated as a serious business initiative with the time and attention that a project of this size deserved – it needed to be treated as a ‘real’ part of the business and not a part time, extracurricular, special activity. This initiative would lay the foundations for how they did business in the future and therefore, they created a fulltime, temporary team to achieve significant organizational objectives. Kath,y along with Alexander Proudfoot the management consulting group AMP chose to assist in making the journey, created a vehicle for anyone, from any position in the organization, to apply to be part of the Sharp Focus team. Only those with enthusiasm for a future, different world, need apply, and no one would be appointed.
Many organisations look to their usual search and selection vehicles to populate new roles or programs. Management generally has a 'list' of people it believes to be qualified or deserving of new roles and repsonsibilities, or potentially, it identifies those who have capacity or are available. To get different results, different methodologies and minds need to be employed. Any organization wanting to enlist the enthusiasm of volunteers rather than appointees, must develop a process to experiment with and encourage new faces to engage in organizational improvement initiatives.
AMP insurance for example, developed a Sharp Focus talent access and ignition program that would search for, select, appraise, reward and retain people from across and up and down the organization, into the Sharp Focus program, as if it were hiring for a new department. The difference was in it's commitment to open the doors to 'anyone' to apply and genuinely consider them on a new set of criteria, to ensure they popultade the program with the best candidates and not the most common. Additionally, it would look to that same group of fresh, new faces, for future role candidates.
Here’s how they did:
- Clear objectives were outlined and non-technical qualifications for the Sharp Focus roles were posted. Competencies were not based on tenure or seniority but rather enthusiasm, desire to ignite change and ability to influence, just to name a few. A track record of learning was more important than a track record of managing.
- A clear interview process was defined and clear ‘employment criteria’. Open conversations were held to discuss what types of things needed to change in AMP to meet the objectives outlined for the program. In these conversations, questions as broad as ‘what would you do to get there?’ were asked. Employees were interviewed by team members already involved in the initiative as well as senior leaders. Each candidate was treated as if they were interviewing for a promotion and explained the roles and responsibilities for the new positions. Candidates were selected on their ability to show fit for the role as well the teams comfort that the candidate would meet the objectives described to them – enthusiasm and creativity were as valuable as experience.
- Upon selection, orientation, specific transformation and business process improvement training as well change management & project management training, were all provided. Successful team members included front line call centre operators, team leaders, managers and senior managers. All of whom arrived at a level playing field upon accepting the position on the team. Previous position meant only that; you had held a previous position. All were required to do the same activities and work toward the same goals, regardless of level. Stakeholder engagement plans were also developed to ensure the right people engaged with the right people!
- Weekly update meetings were held and one-on-one coaching to ensure the new team members success and support. Emphasis was placed on creating an environment for success and removing obstacles.
- Remuneration, rewards, recognition and performance reviews were all aligned with the role. Performance was reviewed as if a permanent role existed rather than being taken out of the system for the period, and rewards, recognition and remuneration were handled in the same way as well, based on the candidate’s accomplishments.
- Upon conclusion of the program (objectives attainment) new roles were identified to fit their newly developed skills at the conclusion of the project portion of Sharp Focus. Many of these roles were in fact promotions and placed candidates with their new found skills and knowldege into roles that would further benefit the individuals but also the organisation, perpetuating the results of the change even further and of course, ensuring sustaibaility.
- This was a project-lifetime initiative and as such the timeline was aligned with that.
1. Front line employees such as call centre operators successful in their application were required to influence people (managers and supervisors) far more senior to the role they had come from.
People were selected who already possessed strong influence skills making this less an issue than initially thought. The criteria of selection that looked for individuals ability to learn and demonstarte learning, also assisted in identifying people whom could step up to the challemges associated with this. However, coaching and guidance was provided for each individual in the necessary skills to influence others. Strong team training was undertaken to provide grounding in where the initiative would take the organisation, allowing team members to more fully understand the big picture, a necessary view to provide to others to ensure credibility was gained.
Senior support was lended to the overall initiative providing the context for the program and therefore the seriousness with which ‘customers’ of the program needed to view it.
2. A process was established that went against the usual internal recruitment process in that there were no restrictions placed on who could apply for the roles - employees from all levels could apply.
Criteria for application was still robust and specific. While front line employees were successful it was not because applications were taken less seriously or lacked strong 'hiring criteria'. The opposite was the case. People understood the criteria for success and how to identify this in potential candidates.
Benefits of Talent Access & Ignition:
1. Accelerated results: Enthusiasm trumps position power or technical skill when well supported. Dramatic speed in transformation particularly when driven by front line employees without the limitations and paradigms of long time or senior employees.
2. Broadening of enegagement. Broader employee participation in the transformation process brought more rapid change and sustainability of that change, as well further engaged larger groups of employees. A reduction in the usual suspects and teams populated with 'get in and get it done' attitudes, saw a contagious affect in the workplace. Front line people being coached by front line people saw the walls to opposition and resistance reduce if not disappear.
3. Greater talent base. Promotional prospects arose from non-traditional paths; front line employees became supervisors and supervisors became management in areas they had not been exposed to prior to Sharp Focus. The speed with whihc people took up new roles accelerated.
Overall, the Sharp Focus program was to affect 3 areas and their subsequent KPI's: employee satisfaction, customer service results and spend money wisely; reduced operating costs. All three goals were achieved in the time frame, some greater than expected.
People will follow the inspired and enthused equally as willingly as the powered and positioned, if not more
Traditional position and experience criteria for filling roles was proven to be of equal or less importance against an individuals’ personal desire to make a difference in their organisation.
Successful change initiatives require a change of perspective
Bringing non-traditional people into lead and assist in the change effort brings non-traditional solutions to pave the way for change. Sometimes the impossible becomes psoiible through a change in vantage point.
Keep it about the people
By bringing non-traditional people into a high profile and strategic initiative, the message was clear to the organization that change was apparent but that change was about people.
Future leaders are everywhere
Promotions can come from unexpected places when the talent pool is looked at for ability to inspire and influence rather than technical skill, position and tenure. Results are not always achieved by the tried and tested but by thsoe who when given the opportunity and experience, will step up and do remarkable things.
Graham Meyer; AMP Insurance. Kathy Main; AMP Insurance. Jon Wylie; Project Director Alexander Proudfoot. Pamela Hackett. www.pamelahackett.com
Pamela, this is a great story with actionable level of detail.
Seems like the Australian financial sector has been a hotbed of management innovations on the people side for at least the last ten years - I am thinking of all the innovative change programs at ANZ, Westpac and CBA...
I am really curious - did the project experience of Sharp Focus lead to any changes in AMP Insurance's business-as-usual recruitment and talent management process? If yes, perhaps you could describe those changes under "Benefits & Metrics" or "Lessons." It seems to me that you could make this story even bigger than it is now by broadening the applicability of this story beyond change programs. Among other things, this approach could be a good antidote to the omnipresent practice of promoting excellent technical experts into managerial positions without careful consideration of their ability to influence other people or even desire to step into those roles to begin with.
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Good story. There are additional business drivers that I would add if I was implementing a program similar to Sharp Focus.
I'm working on an economic development initiative right now, and I can tell you that the scope of comprehensive leadership development entails a complex mix of mentoring, experiential opportunities, using key business model drivers, creative and systems-driven thought processes, as well as managing information flow and decision-making. True leaders have credibility and can effectively align people and non-human resources to achieve goals.
An article you might want to read in the Harvard Business Review, June 2010 Edition: Are You a High Potential? By Ready, Conger, and Hill.
I can also send you the link to the 2010 IBM Business Value Institute Report from interviews with 1541 CEOs around the Globe.
Let me Know! Thanks, Eric Schillinger
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