Abakar Saidov is Co-Founder and CEO of Beamery, the leading Talent Operating System.
Last year, CEOs were forced to rely on talent leaders to advise them on planning, communicating and executing rapid, large-scale changes within their organizations. In part due to the pandemic and in part due to rising calls for social justice and equity, organizations were compelled to simultaneously audit existing policies and accelerate sweeping changes to their talent strategies.
While there’s nothing like a crisis to expose weaknesses, it can also be a time to clearly identify strengths. According to the Forbes 2021 CxO Growth Survey, “Nearly 80% of executives said the pandemic revealed their organizational strengths and the vast majority are using the pandemic to ‘reset’ their businesses.” What’s more, most are “prioritizing long-term growth over efficiency/cost-cutting measures (57%-43%).”
Successfully resetting the business and future-proofing for long-term growth requires building an agile workforce. Yet the simple truth is, workforce agility can only start once executives understand their people as deeply as they understand their customers, competitors and market drivers.
Three key business realities underscore this simple truth:
1. A reset equals change, and people are at the heart of all change, without exception. From prioritizing stakeholder expectations to competing through digital transformation, change involves identifying, engaging and coordinating the right people with the right skills and capabilities to execute it.
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2. People simultaneously represent the largest investment and the biggest mystery for most organizations. Upwards of 60% of Fortune 500 spend is on people, yet most have little to no data or insight into the impact of that enormous spend. Yet, in every other part of the business, data drives strategic decisions. For example, just five to 10% of Fortune 500 spend is on marketing, but those teams routinely slice and dice customer data by countless dimensions before they make resource decisions.
3. People drive innovation, disruption and transformation. In order to achieve any business reset, organizations must push their product roadmaps and/or service models to meet and exceed the expectations of their customers. As customer expectations rise, so do the needs for attracting, developing and retaining new skills and capabilities.
Despite executive calls to “reset,” most talent teams still grapple with the underlying data problems that prohibit workforce agility. Right now, most teams rely on static, surface-level data gleaned from sources such as LinkedIn, candidate resumes and internal HR systems. Each of these sources lacks deep, meaningful data around an individual’s evolving skills, capabilities and, most importantly, potential.
In order to build true workforce agility, talent teams must find a way to capture, organize, centralize and analyze the right kind of people data: People data that provides not only a snapshot of skills and capabilities today but also reveals the right people who have the potential to learn, adapt and grow into the business’ future demands.
The people data organizations truly need to build an agile workforce must focus on three important areas.
1. Provide all levels of leadership with deeper insights about their people.
Talent leaders and executive teams need a deeper understanding of their people’s current skills and future potential so they know what capabilities they already have inside the organization and what they’ll need to build or hire for the future.
Gaining real-time insights makes it easier to quickly identify capabilities gaps, prioritize needs and focus their sourcing and marketing efforts — and to identify current and future training opportunities and build the right courses and provide meaningful career guidance.
Some ways to gather these insights include assessments to better understand what skills and capabilities your employees have today and periodic surveys to gauge what roles employees are interested in.
2. Drive diverse, inclusive hiring and career mobility strategies.
At this point, most business leaders understand that diverse, inclusive teams outperform homogeneous teams. The issue is that the underlying data used in traditional hiring and internal mobility strategies fails to support tangible improvements in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Understanding an individual’s interests, potential and transferable skills is critical for organizations to stay agile in the face of changing strategies that require new capabilities. Without understanding how the skills and capabilities within the organization can quickly grow or translate, leaders are forced to rely more on a talent buying versus building strategy at a time when it’s quite literally impossible to buy enough of the most highly sought-after talent.
Consider creating a regular check-in program across the company’s employee base. By better understanding what the employees are striving for, what are their long-term and short-term goals for their career and participation within the company, etc., business leaders can better shape career mobility strategies.
3. Improve outcomes by creating consistency across talent decisions.
Many organizations face challenges when their talent data is trapped inside disparate technologies that aren’t built for interoperability outside of specific HR functions, creating silos of disjointed, poor-quality data. With quality data, many factors come into play — completeness, freshness, validity, accuracy, consistency and accessibility.
There are steps businesses can take in terms of their processes and working practices to improve the quality of their data, including ensuring that data is captured in a usable format, consistently across different tools and teams. It also means implementing checks to ensure that out-of-data is refreshed or retired to avoid creating poor candidate experiences. Of course, the best way to ensure clean, organized and centralized data is through people, processes and technology working together.
For example, HR teams taking a skills audit across the business, and talent acquisition teams prioritizing their activities accordingly to fill existing talent gaps. It means that teams can consider, in a fair and unbiased way, whether a role should be filled internally or externally, and it also supports planning activities like opening an office and staffing up. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it improves visibility of internal opportunities, which helps individual employees feel understood, valued and motivated to continue bringing their best.
When talent leaders and executives have quality talent data they can consistently improve outcomes across talent decisions by treating talent decisions holistically, improving speed and confidence.