Talent optimization is critical for organizational success – but what does it mean within your own organization?
- Is it just having the right number of people to get quality work done?
- Having “A“ players in all of your most strategic, pivotal roles?
- Is it alignment of talent with the strategy, goals and values of the company?
- Having systems to manage change, stress and burn out?
- A high level of employee engagement?
Optimized talent should be defined in a way that clearly leads to greater levels of business performance. It is not just having enough people, or a high-level of employee engagement.
We have found talent optimization requires three things to be in place:
Alignment: This is the extent to which employees are connected to the business strategy, and includes employees’ alignment with goals, the needs of their customers, and the organization’s brand promise.
Capabilities: The employee talent (competencies), resources, and information needed to effectively execute the organizational strategy and meet customer expectations. In short, the right people, with the right resources, in the right places, at the right time.
Engagement: The commitment and psychological connectivity employees feel towards the organization, employee advocacy of the organization as a place to work and as a place to do business, and level of discretionary effort.
The ACE model connects these three key workforce optimization factors – Alignment, Capabilities and Engagement (ACE) – with business and customer outcomes to help companies link their people strategy to business performance and improve the overall employee and customer experiences.
Our research has repeatedly found that organizations with high levels on ACE are consistently in the top quartile for financial performance, average half the turnover of other companies, and generally outperform their peers.
So how do you get to a high level of ACE and benefit from optimized talent?
It starts with having a clarity of strategy and a unique value proposition. Without that, you can never align your team effectively. If your strategy as an enterprise is to be a cost leader, the competencies you need and the values you promote will be quite different than if your strategy is to have the best customer experience. The former requires efficiency and cost analysis, while the latter will emphasize empowering people to delight customers as well as customer relationship management. A clear strategy will inform talent acquisition decisions, job design, even how performance is assessed.
How do you build alignment? Sometimes it is helpful to start with a little self-reflection, and consider how aligned is HR itself.
A powerful exercise can be to gather the HR team, and work through these three questions as a group:
- Consider the organization’s strategy. What are the most important goals for your organization to achieve? The team should be able verbalize these goals accurately. If not, you know where your work has to begin.
- Describe the workforce strategy. What people results are critical for the organization if it is to achieve the goals identified above? Retention? Expansion? Growth and development? Innovation?
- Think about an HR strategy in the context of the company and workforce strategy. What people drivers, initiatives, and investments would impact performance on those people results? Compare this list with a list of the initiatives currently in place or planned and look for mismatches. It is not at all uncommon to find that some important goals have no initiatives supporting them, while other initiatives do not clearly connect to any of the company goals.
Capabilities may be the most straightforward factor to build out, though not necessarily the easiest.
Ensuring people have the resources and tools, and the technology, to deliver for customers is essential. Maintaining a high level of teamwork and collaboration has become a unique challenge as remote work has become the norm for so many of us. Developing skills for today and for the future is a continuous effort, and one also made more difficult when less experienced staff no longer have the opportunity to “watch over the shoulder” of more experienced peers, because they are working remotely.
Improving engagement has probably been researched more than any other aspect organizational culture. But some things come up again and again as drivers of engagement, including recognizing people, providing growth & learning opportunities, transparent communication, treatment with respect, and developing (earning) trust. When those things are done well, employees become true advocates for the organization, discretionary effort goes up, and people’s intention to stay with the company is maximized.
When alignment, capabilities and engagement are all at a high level, you have achieved optimized talent.