29 January 2016

Agile talent management: what is it and how can you do it effectively?

Since a business is only as good as its people; proper employee development and talent management is vital to a company’s success. Agile talent management is a strategy designed to achieve this but what does the term actually mean? And how can you implement it effectively in your organisation? Find out here:

Since a business is only as good as its people; proper employee development and talent management is vital to a company’s success. Effective talent management strategies play a key role in identifying those shining stars within the company, as well as those underperformers.


Yet, there’s been a lot of scepticism about the effectiveness of these programmes, with HR leaders and junior staff alike failing to see the true value. More often than not though, it’s not the programmes themselves that are failing, it’s the way they’re being applied. Traditionally, talent management has revolved around the dreaded annual performance review, but now companies are starting to find that these don’t always provide a true picture of their staff’s performance.

Gone are the days when spending 3 hours of your day writing up an end of year review or talent manual, only to realise that it wasn’t actually productive for anyone, is the norm; instead development programmes must be practical, they must be flexible, they must be agile.

Agile; a common ‘buzz word’ term in today's ever-changing professional landscape, is an ‘inspect and adapt’ method that works by continually building and assessing projects throughout their development lifecycle to ensure maximum success.

This concept, initially coined by technology start-ups and I.T companies as a way to implement software incrementally , is increasingly moving away from its origins with many organisations seek to deploy ‘agile talent management’ . It’s extended into the corporate HR world as more and more companies look for effective agile techniques to nurture and develop their existing talent.

These work on the premise that companies adopt modern processes to review talent and regularly assess, adapt or add to these in a bid to grow and retain their staff. And this has become common practice. So much so, that those companies that fail to embed agile within their culture are at significant risk of an early demise.

Just ask Wayne Knox, from Change Management Firm, Able and How, who explains that “agile has become one of the most significant necessities for organisations, not only to remain competitive but to thrive.”

The big idea behind agile talent management is that it requires a sustained flexible approach, not just for the duration of a given change programme, but as an ongoing cultural mind set. Knox adds that “this kind of corporate agility reduces rigid processes and encourages innovation.”

Perhaps one of the best ways to adopt this sustained approach is to formally recognise the practice and profession of agile as a capability and job function. This means it can be integrated into company performance management systems and capability frameworks that are bound to be more effective than their rigid predecessors.

Organisations looking to do agile talent management effectively should focus on integrating it into their recruitment process as a good starting point. Knox explains that “an expanding area such as agile quickly exhausts talent locally, so recruitment plays a huge part if the organisation is to continue growing in this area” .

Ensuring better structure and governance around recruitment will enable clear definition for recruitment partners and agencies who will play their part in hiring the people that will make your organisation truly agile.

Having strong internal dimensions will enable organisations to focus on external dimensions such as marketing their career strengths in these areas and attracting talent online, socially and across the profession.

According to David Irvine, VP of Globoforce, the secret of successful talent management "all comes down to data". The problem with annual performance reviews is that the information received is biased to the manager conducting the review, who may not be in possession of all the facts. Collecting data from multiple sources can combat this.

Peer or social recognition can totally transform the process. By allowing each of your employees to provide feedback on their peers, you'll get 'crowdsourced' data that can provide an entirely rounded view of performance.

"Through data populated peer-to-peer recognition across the company, HR and business leaders can see first-hand who the top performers and influencers are within the company and individual teams. This knowledge and data can be used to identify high potential, high performance individuals for succession planning, flight risk assessment and leadership development." Irvine says.

This actionable data can also make for effective day to day management and individual performance assessment so that managers can refocus their talent strategy in a way that’s sustainable.

So, with a focused effort on agile recruitment, 360 degree feedback from peers and data insight, you’ll be well on your way to implementing agile talent management effectively. Here are some additional tips from Bryan Adams (CEO of PH. Creative) who helps large corporations achieve agile success:

1.    Identify the stars: keep in touch and stay relevant to them.

2.    At least 50% listening and empowering:   your best performers need to feel they have autonomy or room to grow. Achieving this can be as easy as taking the time to listen and then acting on their thoughts, requests or even their advice.

3.    Ensure your talent have access, not just to the business strategy but also the current business challenges: ideas can come from anyone, at any time, but only if staff know there’s a problem.

4.    Execute clear career progression: this is a basic premise but sometimes not implemented as well as it could be. There should be a particular focus on publishing clear opportunities for fast track or alternative progression (a change of department or location for example).

5.    Focus on improving strengths : make this 80% of your focus and look to improve relevant weakness only 20% of the time (not the other way around).

6.    Be flexible with talent nurturing: embrace diversity and consider designing different nurture programmes/’tracks' based on specific inclusive persona groups.

7.    Look for early signs of strength and give team members a reputation to live up to: clearly illustrating potential and aligning it with career progression is a very good way to empower ambitious people.  

Remember, agile talent management is crucial for success in today's HR and Learning and Development world. If you follow the tips above and ensure that your agile strategy is fully integrated into your organisation's daily priorities using a sustained approach, you'll be able to quickly respond to the rapidly changing needs of the business with the right people, processes and technology

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