Effectively managing talent is critical for project-focused companies who rely on their people to provide value to the business. Leverage these ten tips to ensure your people are working at peak productivity, delivering exceptional projects to delight clients, and driving organizational growth. Each of these tips will help you manage and retain more top talent while consistently contributing to the overall business strategy.
Keep Communicating – Make a conscious effort to listen and talk to your employees about their frustrations and aspirations within the company. Take time to really listen; remind them how much you appreciate their work and value their contribution to the firm. Keep the lines of communication open by leveraging continuous feedback sessions and implementing project-based appraisals.
The Stars Are Aligned – Keep your top performers in tune with the current corporate strategy. This creates a culture of reciprocity and mutual understanding for both the company and its employees. You will start to see personal goals align with the overall organization’s goals.
Emphasize Strengths – Use development plans to address the weaknesses and problems of your employees while honing in on their talent potential. Consider strategically assigning employees to projects that will help them strengthen new skills. Utilize development plans, career paths, and learning opportunities to help employees recognize their strengths while closing competency gaps.
Think Like a Headhunter – When it comes to your top talent you must know who they are, what skills they possess, and their potential within your firm before someone else does. There are few things worse than losing an important project leader or an individual contributor at a critical juncture in a project delivery cycle. Think like a recruiter and cultivate your existing talent by including them in succession plans. Employees are more likely to stay with you longer if they understand their path within your organization.
Be More Inclusive – Research shows that 75% of diverse organizations are more likely to see their innovative ideas brought to life. This statistic stems from leaders embracing diversity and encouraging their employees to speak up about their opinions. Creating a diverse and inclusive environment allows employees and managers to embrace innovation.
Know What Success Looks Like – Define success by creating competency models. The ability to measure your employees’ performance allows you to determine their success within the construct of your company. Best-in-class companies don’t rely on subjective thoughts to determine their talent performance, but rather, they create competency models throughout their organization to build a model of sustainable success.
Who’s Ready to Move Up? – Identifying potential leaders is one step towards filling vacant leadership roles. The second step is to have a clear path to identify and develop their skills. Most companies identify but forget to develop leadership skills. Take the time to identify, develop, and refine your potential leaders.
Plan, Plan, Plan – The best thing you can do to face the competition for talent is to plan. Creating and building a robust and comprehensive talent management solution strategy is a big feat. Take the time to plan and build your talent management solution strategy for effective and sustainable success that flows from within.
Embrace Data – Big Data seems overwhelming, but with the help of a unified technology solution, it can be a manageable and powerful tool to fuel the success of your company. Having a unified HR technology solution can help you handle talent-related data and provide straightforward and powerful analytics utilized in all stages of the talent management strategy.
Reduce Turnover, But Do It Right – Low turnover sounds great, but make sure that the small number of people leaving are not your best people. Turnover is expensive, but no matter the size, make sure that the attrition of your best talent stays low. Top performers are difficult to replace and can have a material impact on your project delivery
A multitude of research points to the fact that the majority of firms don’t have a viable succession planning strategy. This is really problematic when combined with some of the other trends we’re seeing. Baby boomers are continuing to leave the workforce, employee engagement continues to challenge most organizations and retention rates are falling. If you aren’t doing succession planning, how are you coping with the changing face of your workforce as older workers transition to retirement? How are you addressing the high turnover rates becoming increasingly common across so many industries?
The churn caused by leadership turnover is only one part of the issue. You need to be prepared for all types of turnover in order to keep your projects running smoothly. Have you ever lost a really key employee in the middle of a project? You probably have at some point, and if that’s the case then you know how disruptive it can be. Over-burdened and over-utilized team members will feel the strain, and if you don’t have succession plans in place, you could be adding to an already difficult situation.
So, why are we losing these key employees and what can be done to keep them? Well, although there could be a number of contributing factors, one of the most common reasons associated with the departure of top performers is a lack of career development.
What is Succession Planning?
Succession planning helps you identify and develop employees with the potential to fill key business and leadership positions within the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. From recruiting the right candidate to developing new leadership from within, succession planning is crucial for an organization to meet its strategic vision and goals.
Are You Committing Any of the Seven Deadly Sins? Let’s See.
Sin #1 – You Set It and Forget It
This sin quickly results in outdated plans and inappropriate strategies. People may still leave the company, availability of employees on the plan may change, and employees may gain new skills or experience. The company could undergo major change, like a merger or acquisition. There is a fluidity to business strategy that should be reflected in your people planning.
Plans should be reviewed at least yearly and whenever changes in company direction or goals are made. When you review plans, ensure the potential successors are still viable by taking a look at your top performers, reviewing employment records, and watching out for new talent that might be a good fit.
Sin #2 – You Have No Backup Plan
The second sin happens when your plans are too narrow. If your plans only include one person and that person leaves, this can put you in a difficult position. Neglecting to create a backup plan restricts your ability to adjust to workforce changes.
When you review your plans, check for backup successors, and if none exist, identify some. Re-evaluate the backup employees as you complete your regular reviews of succession plans.
Sin #3 – You Fail To Develop Successors
Once a plan is setup, it’s time to provide development opportunities to your successors. Get them ready to be successful in the potential new roll. Failing to tie your succession planning to development strategy has plenty of consequences. What happens when an employee is promoted to a leadership role that they aren’t prepared for? A weak leader can have a very negative impact on team culture. Weak leadership can also erode workforce confidence. And for the potential successors, being moved into a role they are unprepared for is an extremely negative experience.
Analyze an employee’s skills, competencies and experiences, and look for resources, such as training courses or mentoring programs, to support those needs. Review the employee’s career path and consider lateral moves that could aid in your planning.
Sin #4 – No Manager Involvement
Managers know their employees and interact with them on a regular basis, and by leaving them out you are overlooking a good source for information.
Effective succession planning includes managers. Give them a voice and take their feedback into consideration. This tactic not only broadens your search, but fosters engagement. Both managers and team members feel they have a voice and are represented in the company’s planning. It also helps managers at the team level by keeping them in touch with who is being considered for succession.
Sin #5 – You Fail to Consider Your Entire Workforce
If you only look at your identified high potential employees, you may miss hidden talent because in many cases they are typically evaluated on the basis of ‘fit’ for their current position without broadening the discussion to include other roles in the organization. Larger organizations in particular may have “unknown” employees who should be considered – the greater the number of employees, the harder it becomes to ensure you are considering all of the right people.
So, make sure you look across the company’s entire workforce. Be sure to consider all important criteria, not just current skills, competencies and history. Look at employee goals and manager recommendations. Do any employees have a career path in place that is already providing training opportunities ideal for the succession plan? Enlist help to discover talent throughout organization – again, give your managers and other key company employees a voice.
Sin # 6 – You Fail to Consider the Employee’s Needs
This sin can lead to engagement and retention issues, in addition to poor job satisfaction. It’s all about communication. You can’t create, implement, and maintain a succession plan in a vacuum. Your ideal candidate to become the next CEO may have very different priorities in mind for life and/or career.
Listen to what your employees say they want. This encourages engagement, positively impacts attrition rates, improves job satisfaction, contributes to overall business success, and demonstrates support for employees’ goals & aspirations.
Sin #7 – You Keep Employees in the Dark
If employees are not aware that there are opportunities available for them within the organization, they may look outside the company. This can lead to lack of engagement, which affects the bottom line. It may not always make sense to provide the full picture to a potential successor, but it is in your best interest to involve them to the degree that you deem appropriate.
There is a lot of debate on how involved employees should be in succession planning, but ultimately, not involving them can have negative consequences. By telling employees they are on a plan, you show that you are considering their long-term involvement at the company and driving awareness that can motivate self-development. You can never go wrong with more communication.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep track of open requisitions, or the candidates you have in the interviewing process? Not to mention the candidates with unanswered offer letters or those that have accepted or declined an offer. There are a lot of moving pieces in the acquisition process, now add to that the expectations of the candidates themselves and you could end up spending more time writing emails and making phone calls than actually recruiting anyone!
In their book “The War for Talent,” Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod tell us more about the new reality created by the war for talent. Within the old reality, people needed companies; machines, capital, and geography were the competitive advantage; better talent made some different; jobs were scarce; employees were loyal and jobs were secure; and people accepted the standard package they were offered. However, within today’s new reality, there is a shift more towards focusing on and keeping employees because companies need people; talented people are the competitive advantage and better talent makes a huge difference; talented people are scarce; people are mobile and their commitment is short term; and people are demanding much more.
While the employee/employer relationship of today impacts every type of business, it has an even more profound impact on project based organizations. You rely on your people to deliver world class projects every day. Without them, your projects suffer, your customers suffer, and ultimately, your bottom line shows the negative consequences. BUT, there are better ways to cope with the challenges of talent acquisition.
With this new reality in mind, let’s cover what you can do to stay ahead of the curve and secure the strongest candidates in the marketplace. Firstly, you need to expedite the talent acquisition process, secondly, understand how talent pools can help you keep track of those highly specialized roles, and finally, how optimizing employee branding and the candidate experience can make a huge difference for your organization.
Expediting Talent Acquisition
The days of candidates flocking to your website to apply for positions is over. Remember, if they are a great employee, you can bet you are not the only one trying to convince them that your organization is the best place for them. Mindsets have shifted. The dialogue is no longer “why should we give you a job”, instead it’s “why our organization will be a great place for you to build your career.” This means we need to rethink our hiring process completely to understand how to present a strong value proposition to prospects. People want to work where the culture is strong and the projects are interesting. How are you communicating that to prospective employees?
All this change gets a whole lot easier when you leverage technology to track and adjust your processes.
To get a clearer picture of your talent acquisition process, take a look at it and break it down into intervals of time between each of the steps between the job posting and the first day on the job – from when a candidate was sourced, to when they were screened, to when they were interviewed, etc.
Considering you have this information available – both the steps and time to fill – a part of the equation you might be missing is how long it takes you to complete each step. This piece of information lets you know right away if there are any steps that are consistently taking longer than others, and gives you a chance to evaluate your processes to make them more efficient. According to Dr. John Sullivan, the steps that tend to hold up the process the most are:
Approving new job postings
Each of these steps can be tracked in an ATS, a great tool to aid you in the reporting of this information. Reporting on the average amount of time in each step can help to identify blockages and where to focus to improve processes and efficiency for future hires. At the end of the day, it’s all about having the right people available at the right time to keep your projects staffed and running smoothly.
For example, through reporting you can identify if you are indeed struggling with approvals of job postings, where to make improvements to the process and if the changes you are making are improving the timing.
How Brilliant HR’s Talent Acquisition solution can help:
When creating a requisition, approvers for that requisition can be established. These approvers then receive email notifications to accept or reject the requisition, with reminders if they do not take action.
You application process can include screening questions that score applicants as they apply to the requisition. These can be used to auto-screen candidates, or you can review these responses as a part of your initial review.
When it is time to interview a candidate, the Brilliant HR ATS gives you the ability to select dates and times to send to the candidate, which they can then accept or reject online.
You can also report on how long each of these steps takes, and evaluate if there are areas you can improve.
Another area an ATS can assist with is in building and maintaining talent pools. Deltek’s Clarity research shows that finding qualified talent is a top challenge for project based firms and establishing talent pools can really help to flag candidates that you want to stay in touch with for future opportunities.
As resumes are added to your ATS, you can review and then flag those that would be a good fit for future openings.
Maintaining talent pools by continuously accepting and flagging resumes from strong applicants can help you move faster when you win a new project, or when someone leaves unexpectedly and a succession plan for that individual is not in place. In his post The Smart Move for Growing Companies Is to Always Be Recruiting Talent, David Ciccarelli further expands on how having a pipeline in place can help, and some techniques for expanding the pipeline.
In the example of where someone leaves unexpectedly, this is where having a pipeline of candidates can be critical, filling that gap sooner rather than later. There is nothing worse than having to delay a project start date because you lack the appropriate resources!
How our Talent Acquisition can help:
When you review a resume, you can add that resume to a pool so that you can easily find them in the future.
Pools enable you to keep lists of candidates with specific requirements, helping you stay in touch with those job seekers with email communication. These lists can be generated manually or through the use of search agents that automatically add to the list. They can also be shared for easy access to information. Inviting job seekers in these pools to apply to job openings they are a good fit for and have the appropriate skill set. Again, potentially filling a position quicker by already having the talent defined by using Talent Pools.
Employee Branding and Candidate Experience
It is very important that you are attractive to candidates as an employer; their experience moving through your online application and hiring process can have a huge impact on this perception. An ATS can help you identify areas where applicants drop from the process and make it easier to keep in touch so that your organization avoids giving candidates the “black hole” experience.
A recent Forbes article gives some insight into some of the things that job seekers found negative in the process.
60% of employers “never bothered letting me know the decision after the interview”
43% of candidates found out during the interview “the job didn’t match what was written in the job ad”
34% of the candidates said the company representative “didn’t present a positive work experience”
This is where a focus on your branding and candidate experience aided by an ATS help to ensure that your offer is the one that gets accepted!
How our Talent Acquisition can help:
You are able to create your own email templates for notifications, and then tie those to different steps in your recruiting workflow to make sure that you are keeping candidates informed.
You can access your listing of job descriptions when starting a requisition, and use those descriptions to fill in your job description and requirements within the requisition form.
Talent Acquisition can assist you with your career center – the Brilliant HR and Deltek teams work with you for a branding experience that matches your company’s needs, while providing you with the ability for applicants to find and view jobs online (including on their mobile device). This also includes an application process, where you drive the steps and information collected from your applicants.
At Brilliant HR, we live and breathe Talent Management and the project lifecycle. These two important aspects of the project based business share certain synergies that are often overlooked. We are unique in that we have a targeted focus on solving the challenges that organizations like yours face every day and delivering solutions like Deltek Talent Management that provides the features and functionality to help you deliver even better projects.
So, how do you cultivate the project life cycle by optimizing your use of Brilliant HR/Deltek Talent Management? Not every project is identical, but the basic concepts are consistent and by using that as a starting point, we can begin the discussion. It helps to think of a project that impacts us every day, but does not require a formal work breakdown structure and where, the process and requirements are the same. I’ll use farming as my example.
With farming the cycle is well defined, simple, repeatable, and reliable with a clear goal to produce a harvest of natural, organic goods. If we reduce the process to the most basic steps, you have to prepare the land > then plant your seeds > nurture, fertilize and water your plants > harvest your crop, then repeat the process for a new harvest.
Granted this is a highly simplified description of what goes into the process of growing food, but it gives us a good framework of the project from start to finish. Project planning can be that simple, as long as you have a clear and repeatable defined steps. You have outlined your tasks, considered the risks, created a contingency plan, and have the proper tools to accomplish the desired outcome. .
Now let’s shift that life-cycle model to talent management. Brilliant HR Talent Management is a critical piece in any project because your people are at the very heart of the project life-cycle. Talent Management is where the project begins by identifying, hiring, and cultivating high performance teams and then retaining that top talent for future project positions. Without the right talent solution in place, your project could very easily crash before it even begins.
Similar to the farming example, let’s take a simplified look at what the Talent process looks like when integrated with the project life cycle.
Recruit > Hire & Onboard > Review Performance > Teach or Train > Develop
A Talent Management solution can streamline the process by helping you:
Identify and recruit top talent to build the high performance teams you need to win more projects
Select candidates that best fit the project position(s) based on required skills, competencies and certifications to take the guesswork out of resource planning
Onboard new employees faster and seamlessly transfer their data to your ERP solution without manually duplicating efforts
Ensure employees assigned to projects are up to date on their certifications and provided learning opportunities to hone their skills. This will help you consistently grow the value of your most important asset, while minimizing risk exposure on your projects
Review progress and provide continuous feedback throughout the process on performance and achievements, by using the solution to facilitate discussions and manage goals
These five easy steps can all be accomplished using Brilliant HR Talent Management and that is only the beginning. Once you have the basic framework in place, you’ll be able to implement an even deeper strategy by incorporating in-house learning programs, succession planning, career paths, and mentor-ship programs.
A great talent management strategy is like a road map, but in order to plan, execute, and measure the success of that strategy, you need to have the right solution in place. Think about it. Can you say today that your solution is enabling the success of your talent management strategy? Are you able to find, nurture and retain the best talent to ensure that you’ll be repeatedly awarded the projects your organization needs to continue to grow? At the end of the day, are you able to measure how successful your firm has been in acquiring and retaining the very top talent in the marketplace? If you just shrugged your shoulders, it’s definitely time to start thinking about what an integrated talent management solution could do for your business.
I chose to relate project planning to farming because it is easy to identify with the common theme of cultivation. Doesn’t this sounds like what you do every day? Finding, recruiting, acquiring, developing and cultivating top talent? If you leverage and maximize Brilliant HR Talent Management in this way, you’ll position yourself to deliver more successful projects! It’s often said you reap what you sow – so get to cultivating!
The competition for great talent is fierce, just as it is on the ice or mountainside.
Great Candidates, just like athletes, are few and far between. Every candidate has a goal in mind when they interview at your organization, whether that is “Get the Job” or “Just seeing what’s out there”.
Finding good candidates and hiring fast still retain their positions as the top 2 challenges when it comes to recruiting. Consider what happens before and after the job application, as well as the risks and opportunities these findings pose to employers who compete for top talent.
The Impact of Social Media. 74 percent of interviewers will check candidates’ social media as part of their interview preparation. This is in contrast to the expectations of candidates, however, as only a third expect their social media to be screened, meaning many could be caught short online.
Time is of the essence. Just as our Team USA athletes compete in timed races, the dash to hire top talent is crucial. Today’s candidates want a faster process and to communicate via social channels such as texts, WhatsApp, Twitter or even Instagram. Luckily, with the growing presence of Artificial Intelligence, top recruiters are increasingly able to streamline into one single sign-on platform accessing virtually all aspects of recruiting and following up with candidates for future opportunities. With technology taking the brunt of the more cumbersome work, your recruiters have more time to invest in high-value areas, like giving candidates a high-quality experience and hiring managers impactful advice. On average, filling a vacancy takes 45 days and that’s 45 days of lost productivity. When your organization builds upon a solid technology foundation, you have a winning strategy!
Keep your players engaged. Take a minute to think about the difference between a happy employee and an engaged one. Though they might sound similar, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Engaged employees feel their work is valuable, have a sense of connection to their co-workers, and want to be part of the company’s operations. Focus on getting potential new hires ingrained in your company culture as quickly as possible and keeping it throughout the recruitment and onboarding process. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much better your employees will perform, and your retention rates will decrease as well. Here’s something to consider: people will never remember what they were told or what they read on their first day at a new job. They will always remember how they felt at the end of the day. You want your employees leaving work like they just won that gold medal, the best job ever.
Think like a head hunter. Just as athletes are always thinking about their competitor, how they’re training, how often they are practicing… you should be too. You know there are executive recruiters out there with their eyes on your top talent. Do they know things about your best people that you don’t know? Better catch up or someone may recognize that star player and make an offer that’s tough to turn down.
To learn more about Going for the Gold in Talent Management, be sure to tune in to my webinar next week with Deltek. Click the button below to register.
“Our Recruiters are going to have to move faster. If they have to go over budget, that is fine. We need talent.” I have seen this scenario many times…words coming directly from the mouths of senior executives. We need talent. We have gaps. Get recruiting on it immediately. In theory, it makes sense. We need talent, so let’s ensure our talent acquisition team is on it and has the tools and spend necessary to bring talent in the door. But that’s just it…they are bringing it in the front door. As an HR Executive, I often then asked “What are we doing to make sure the back door is closed?”
It’s a simple analogy. If you work hard to attract talent to your organization, then you will need to work ten times harder to keep them there. So, close the back door. Perhaps you’ve read this previously in terms of a fishing net. Why put in a ton of time and effort in catching a fish if there is just a hole in the net anyway? So what organizations end up doing is spending lavish amounts of money on third party recruiting fees, job boards, referral fees, and extra talent acquisition staff plus overhead. We think we are burning through hard earned profits quickly in the talent management process. In actuality, we are burning through hard earned profits in the “lack of” talent management process.
What happens when good talent leaves? In addition to all of the aforementioned talent acquisition costs, money is spent on legal fees fighting non-competes or violated NDAs. Institutional knowledge is lost when a key player who is thoroughly trained on how your business and customers operate chooses to leave. The employees who stay with you are tasked with picking up the slack, causing confusion, burnout and dissatisfaction. Customers leave and follow your former employees, or simply become disgruntled for having to deal with someone new or less experienced. There goes revenue, morale and pieces of your culture. The immediate reaction is to “get recruiting on it immediately.” That is not the answer we need.
It’s certainly easier said than done, but there are three very simple ways that your organization can shift the money it is spending on unnecessary talent acquisition to employee retention.
Career paths – Creating a career path for an employee gives him/her a sense of direction. It ensures the employee knows the organization has long-term plans for him/her, and s/he is highly valued. It provides the basis for identifying skill gaps and growth objectives for an employee that clearly define a development plan for the future.Development Plans – Give an employee a chance to lead a project or initiative. Invest in learning opportunities. Have them shadow employees in other operational areas that add to their skill set. Do these things in alignment with a path you and the employee are creating together to achieve their career goals and fulfill a career path of growth.Mentoring – But mentoring done correctly. Try assigning multiple mentors for a variety of perspectives, or assigning multiple SME mentors so your employees are always dealing with an expert on each of their development needs. If you have an employee who doesn’t aspire to move up, have him/her become a mentor to others.
When you make this shift, you will substantially reduce the additional spend on those legal fees, customer churn/revenue loss, and institutional knowledge attrition. Simultaneously, you will be boosting morale of those employees who are much happier that their co-worker and friend is sticking around for years to come.
Contact usto help you build your 2018 talent strategy, and to see how Deltek Talent Management can help you with both your recruiting and your retention initiatives.