A recent-study reports these talent strategies are big-time differentiators
By The Editors
What gives an organization a competitive advantage? Findings from Cielo’s Talent Activation Index (TAI) study may surprise you. The 2014 research study examined eight talent strategies where the difference in approaches between the highest-performing organizations (leaders) and the poorest- performing organizations (laggards) are most extreme.
Why? “In today’s dynamic and global marketplace, organizations that recognize the increasing importance of talent and proactively push to turn talent strategy into an enabler of corporate vision will win against their competition,” reports Cielo’s CEO Sue Marks.
The eight most-differentiating strategies have the ability to align talent with business strategy for that competitive edge.
1. Embracing workforce work-life balance. While work-life strategies may not be what the survey’s leaders do most, they do show the largest difference between the efficacy of high-performers’ approaches and everyone else’s. Call it enlightened self-interest: If an organization takes good care of top talent, then the top talent takes good care of the organization’s interests. Globally, 65 percent of leaders rate themselves as “excellent” for their support of programs such as remote work arrangements, job sharing, flexible scheduling, and convenience services. That compares with 17 percent of mainstreamers and only 4 percent of laggards, producing an overall study average of only 24 percent. The majority of mainstreamers (59 percent) rate themselves as “good” and most laggards rate themselves as “average” (46 percent).
“Employees want to be empowered to make their own decisions regarding when, where, and how they work,” says Marks. “Leaders need to be comfortable managing their teams based on their outcomes and accomplishments instead of hours spent at a desk.”
2. Using data and analytics to create workforce strategies. Aside from having a strong employee value proposition, leaders rated their use of data and analytics to inform workforce strategies that drive the achievement of business objectives as most effective in the study. It appears that rigorous data analysis is key to creating workforce strategies that help organizations achieve their top business priorities.
“Leading HR practitioners are driving their organizations to do more than collect data—to truly use that data to inform decision-making at every level in the organization,” notes Marks. “Our survey results confirmed that rigorous data analysis is key to creating workforce strategies that help organizations achieve their top business priorities.”
With 72 percent of leaders rating their use of data and analytics to drive workforce strategy as very effective, these top performers were 12 times more likely to choose that top rating than laggards (6 percent), and 3.6 times more likely than mainstreamers (20 percent). The rigor this question implies is also reflected in the enxt three key findings, which involve quantifiable measures of workforce quality, impact, and management (through segmentation).
This appears to be a natural progression: The more value an organization places on assessing the quality of its in-house talent and the impact of its workforce on the business, the more likely it is to invest in te methodologies and expertise it needs to collect data and undertake a sophisticated analysis of its talent pool. In fact, it probably helps explain why survey results on the adoption of technologies showed relatively little differentiation between the high-performers and everyone else. The technologies are generally well adopted, and perhaps viewed as “table stakes.” I is the data-oriented approach and rigor that an organization brings to its use of these technologies that makes the difference.
3. Using sophisticated metrics to measure workforce quality. Devising effective workforce talent strategies begins with benchmarking your starting point – and today’s continuous evolving strategies require regular benchmarking measurement. The study’s leaders are nearly nine times more likely than laggards to use sophisticated metrics to measure the quality of their workforce (43 percent versus 5 percent).
“The use of sophisticated metrics has a significant impact because of their diagnostic value. If an organization doesn’t have visibility into the results of its practices, it is difficult to find the source of pains and remedy them,” Marks comments. “Clear metrics, compared to your own and industry benchmarks, are the only way to benefit from truly fact-based decisions.”
Laggards are nearly five times more likely than leaders to have no process in place to measure workforce quality (24 percent versus 5 percent). Based on descriptive responses added to this question, most high performers focus on productivity measures, though myriad metrics are mentioned (from earnings per share to extensive peer review).
4. Quantifying the business impact of your workforce. Leaders are also much more likely to measure the impact of their workforce on their overall organizational performance. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) use sophisticated or simple metrics to measure business impact, compared with only 15 percent of laggards – a ratio of slightly more than four to one.
When it comes to the use of sophisticated quantitative metrics only, the difference is even more striking. Leaders are more than eight times more likely to use sophisticated metrics than laggards (41 percent versus 5 percent). This gives leaders a finely calibrated yardstick for comparing workforce quality with workforce impact, and then reinvesting in their workforce accordingly.
What are some ways to measure the impact? “Common approaches to measuring HR’s business impact include correlation between talent quality and business performance, reductions in turnover, and increases in internal mobility,” says Marks.
5. Applying workforce segmentation models. Grouping employees according to their skillsets, preferences, and other characteristics allows companies to tailor employment terms, incentives, and other factors to increase employee satisfaction and fine-tune motivational approaches for different segments.
The continuous use of workforce segmentation models in strategic workforce planning and succession planning exercises is becoming more common amongst high-performing organizations,” notes Marks. “These organizations have realized the power these practices can have on identifying internal and external talent opportunities and gaps, and ultimately preparing the organization for the future.”
Such workforce segmentation is a popular tool among 41 percent of leaders in the survey, who use it to manage their entire workforce—compared with only 11 percent of mainstreamers and 6 percent of laggards. Of note, the response of the largest percentage of laggards (38 percent) was, “Yes, we have a workforce segmentation model, but we don’t use it.”
6. Embracing cultural diversity. As companies spread geographically and compete for top talent in all corners of the globe, an organization’s ability to support a culturally diverse workforce is an increasing differentiator between high and low performance. The proof is in the survey data: 69 percent of leaders rate their ability to “empower workers of diverse cultural backgrounds to work in their own styles while contributing to common business objectives” as very effective—compared with only 5 percent of laggards.
Expanding the results to also include those who rate themselves as effective, the survey found that a full 95 percent of the leaders are empowering workers of diverse cultural backgrounds, compared with 50 percent of laggards. It’s noteworthy that 80 percent of the mainstreamers also chose effective or very effective, and that 16 percent of laggards chose ineffective or very ineffective.
“Contemporary diversity and inclusion policies need to go beyond those of only race and gender and reflect more fully the diversity of thought and cultural experiences,” says Marks. “Top talent is increasingly mobile and found throughout the world. An organization’s ability to attract and support the work-styles of a culturally diverse workforce will help them win the war for talent.”
7. Effectively motivating workers of all generations. Leaders excel at meeting the varying needs and aspirations of workers from different generations, including Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials. When asked to assess their ability to accommodate different generational requirements, leaders were three times as likely as mainstreamers (61 percent versus 21 percent) and 10 times more likely than laggards (6 percent) to rate themselves as “very effective.” As Baby Boomers who have hired Gen-Xers—and raised Millennials —there are challenging gaps to bridge.
“Organizations need to enable their leaders to use different strategies to manage and engage employees of different generations. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy even within a single generation,” comments Marks. “Flexible policies and practices should be created that appeal to the motivations of individuals, regardless of age or level of experience.”
8. Utilizing an effective value proposition to attract top talent. Across the board, the survey respondents agree on the importance of developing a strong value proposition to attract top talent. Of note, leaders not only rate themselves highly in the various aspects of workforce management already discussed—but they also keenly advertise the fact. Eight-one percent rate the quality of their organizations’ employee value proposition as very effective when it comes to attracting the top talent needed to achieve growth, compared with only 13 percent of laggards.
“Once organizations have established an EVP they need to ensure that it is actively promoted where the target top candidates are—in social media, within organizations and associations, shared by current employees,” informs Marks. “Having an EVP and keeping it within the organization does not provide any benefits. An EVP is only effective when it is consistently activated.”
Organizations that measure and quantify their workforce in order to better manage it are much more successful at aligning their talent strategies with their business goals. Companies that proactively support cultural and generational diversity along with work-life balance are far more likely to attract and retain top talent.
Editor’s note: A portion of this story is excerpted from Cielo’s Talent Activation Index. The study included responses from more than 750 senior human resources, talent, and recruitment executives at large organizations in North America, Western Europe and the Middle East.
Defining Leaders, Mainstreamers and Laggards
Leaders (23 percent): Rated their performance as excellent in achieving at least two of their top three strategic objectives.
Mainstreamers (52 percent): Rated their performance as good or a combination of good and excellent in achieving two of their top three strategic objectives.
Laggards (25 percent): Rated their performance mostly as average, fair, or poor in achieving all three strategic objectives (companies that responded with only one good are also counted as Laggards).
Eye on 8
A recent-study reports these talent strategies are big-time differentiators