Today, we conclude our three part series dedicated to evolving approaches to talent management. This series stems from interviews with HR thought leaders in a year that has presented some of the most significant changes in workplace culture and norms that we have ever seen.
The Virtual Talent Management Process
Probably the biggest and most talked about shift when it comes to talent management in 2020 centers on remote work or what you might call the virtual work experience. Employees shifting into remote work environments has put tremendous strain on managers trying to monitor productivity and remain in tune with their employees’ needs and goals.
This though, requires a shift in mindset for the manager and HR, who as a talent management function need to provide extensive leadership coaching on how to lead virtual teams.
“We can’t lose sight that an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor is often the number one reason for engagement or retention,” Girard said. “Leaders are often not versed in virtual engagement, virtual performance management, virtual crucial conversation, virtually identifying red flags like exhaustion or isolation, virtual leadership visibility, virtual relationship building, etc., so providing them with the appropriate tools is the main priority. The second piece of advice I would give is, where possible, to move from a productivity management mindset to an outcome one. Lastly, I would recommend to make sure that your feedback mechanism is equipped to do so in a real-time fashion and addressing the life-cycle of your employees (first day of work, day 30, day 90, when there is a change in leadership, etc.).”
BEST PRACTICES FOR REMOTE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
- Use video to keep reviews personal and human
- Maintain the flexibility, empathy and compassion
- Use performance reviews to strengthen company culture and reinforce values
- Focus on employee growth, learning, resilience, adaptability and ability to collaborate.
- Get rid of numerical ratings at a time when employees may be struggling
- Be open, warm and conscious of body language
- Praise stars and try to be patient with poor performers
An important part of that life cycle is expectation setting. How that gets delivered in a virtual environment matters a great deal. A lack of clear expectation can cause suspicion of leadership or lead people to believe that everything is driven by metrics. Either perpetuates a lack of trust and undermines the development of work from home culture.
“Once the process has begun, the leaders must allow some time for the team to “form and norm” to the new normal and manage other aspects of their life so that they are able to work effectively from home,” Bhalla said. “This flexibility in the beginning will form the first layer of trust. Sharing stories of how one is adapting amongst the team can further that bond and give a feeling of ‘I am not alone’. It is in such discussions that best practices would flow naturally – sometimes about work, and sometimes about managing personal routines which in turn effect ability to work remotely. Establishing some time for such discussion for the remote team will facilitate camaraderie and teamwork.”
An Opportunity for Analytics and Development
People analytics was a much discussed and well developed segment of the HR function prior to COVID-19, but with large swathes of the workforce becoming reliant on technology platforms in virtual settings, there is new opportunity to expand analytics efforts and fuel organizational development via the mounds of data that technology generates.
Opportunities to predict employee behaviors are growing and thus, opportunities to fine tune talent management approaches and philosophies are growing with it. It’s an exciting time for talent management as new doors are opening courtesy of technology.
At Cerner, Huffaker is excited to see the company deploying artificial intelligence to begin sourcing hires who otherwise might not have been matched to a job opening. They’ve also started to use development platforms powered by AI that provide coaching to high-potential leaders and to help leaders detect high-potential talent in the organization who might otherwise be overlooked.
“We are experimenting with different approaches to identifying and developing high-potential talent,” Huffaker said. “Recently, we asked senior executives to identify employees who are ‘10X’, meaning they create exponentially more value than peers. We keep them on our radar by conducting stay interviews, proactively addressing any issues that have surfaced, having career development discussions, and ensuring they are rewarded with long-term incentives.
“However, we recently embarked on reinventing our approach to performance management. We want every employee to be a 10x-er. We re-engineered the process to put the employee and the leader in the center, encouraging them to have powerful, meaningful discussions that support their performance and career development. For too long, we’ve confused managing workflow in the performance management tool with inspiring peak performance, human-to-human.”
Not all work environments have gone virtual, as in the case of Bhalla’s healthcare teams at Parkland Hospital. His team is still able to generate intelligence around employee behavior by measuring data points from a performance and productivity perspective, such as are turnover metrics, patient experience scores, productivity metrics and engagement scores.
“We created an algorithm of such metrics that helps us create a heat map of the organization,” Bhalla said. “Constant communication with team members helps contextualize the data. Data without context can lead to some very expensive interventions that may lead to no results. We have an engagement task force formed of individuals that represent the organization in the same ratio and serve as a sounding board for the data we collect. They help interpret the data, form the strategies and table test any interventions.”
One area that needs improvement during COVID-19 is the career lattice as a talent management and development device. In May, a Harris Poll revealed that 62% of employed Americans say they would consider changing jobs during the pandemic if they felt a sense of insecurity in their position or team. One way to mitigate that sense is to help people find new opportunities that suit their skillsets and put them in positions to take on new challenges.
Sometimes it’s not a move within the company or even industry. A good example is what Bhalla’s team has done with the position of “door screeners,” a new position at the hospital to manage patients, family members and team members entering the facility. Parkland’s Talent Acquisition team reached out to individuals from the airline industry in particular that were being laid off and fit the temporary role perfectly.
“Our Benefits team went to great lengths to ensure we were competitive in the marketplace to attract and retain talent,” Bhalla said. “All of our HR teams were constantly fed current data from our analytics team so as to guide our focus.”
That point about data fueling these processes is something that Hill echoed. Talent acquisition is an area where data, AI and technology in general are playing an ever more vital role.
“Now that our workforces are remote, the likelihood of a talented employee organically crossing paths with a hiring manager looking for their skills is naturally lower,” Hill said. “We’ve been exploring and leveraging new ways of connecting diverse talented employees with important roles and initiatives that align with their career goals, and making use of our technology platforms to help make it easier to make those connections. Organizations have tons of useful data that can help us make effective decisions.”
The Challenge Ahead
As the year comes to an end and 2021 begins, there are no shortage of challenges on the talent horizon. For one thing, leadership decisions on talent have never had higher stakes for the future of the organization as business models and needs are quickly evolving. Regardless of what happens next with regard to the pandemic, resilient leadership capable of tying talent strategy to the big picture is vital during a crisis.
“You’ve likely heard the term ambidextrous leadership,” Huffaker said. “In a similar fashion, the talent strategy will need to be ambidextrous in this environment. Focus on the core, attract, retain, and develop critical talent who will keep clients happy. Simultaneously, invest in talent that will fuel the future. In our business, it’s the talent that is moving our systems to a cloud-based architecture and shifting us into software-as-a-service.”
As noted in a recent Deloitte Insights report, leaders have to also be in touch with the human aspect of the crisis, expressing empathy and compassion for the situation that employees are coping with right now and encouraging employees to remain calm and approach the next challenge methodically.
In looking at the toll that COVID is taking on the human beings in our organizations, employee wellbeing has taken center stage. Nowhere is this more apparent than in healthcare where the front line battle against this virus is a challenge employees face every day. For Bhalla, this meant identifying what his team calls the “buckets of burnout” and then surveying team members to develop support mechanisms depending on which bucket of burnout they fall into. The five buckets are:
- Loss of Efficacy/Lack of Confidence – whether at work or home
- Fear – worries about contracting the virus
- Guilt – of not being able to do enough
- Frustration – directed at team or organization
- Exhaustion – physically not feeling ready to work
“We equip team members with access to resources and remind their leaders to share with their teams,” Bhalla said. “Caring for our leaders and ensuring they have the support and resources they need is primary. Being heard is important – and feeling that one is being heard impacts wellbeing immensely, so we have started conversations and placed a lot of focus on compassion towards each other and towards the patient.”
Bhalla’s team conducts bi-weekly wellbeing seminars on topics such as sleep, eating well, and other self-care focused initiatives. They also conduct closed sessions for units where stress runs high to help cross functional teams share their emotions and connect as individuals that share a common experience.
“The relationships welded under the heat of COVID have become very strong and the sense of support they can garner from each other is immense,” Bhalla said.
Management of the people we have isn’t the only challenge as hiring processes change and things become centered on flexibility, organizations have to show they have it from the moment a candidate is introduced to the company’s processes. The days of requiring a candidate to travel for an interview are a thing of the past and onboarding is no longer a person-to-person process. As a result, the way we view people has to change with the process.
“I never thought I’d see the day when we’d hire a senior leader without meeting them face-to-face and then fully onboard them over Microsoft Teams,” Huffaker said. “It requires an adaptation to how we assess candidates. Hopefully, it will force us to move beyond an over-reliance on our ‘gut feeling’ toward someone and force us to really pay attention, lean into the discussion, and use our selection tools. Likewise, our approach to performance management has to change. For too long, leaders have over-indexed on butts in seats. We need to evaluate performance based on outcomes and the quality of collaboration among team members.”