HR Leaders Provide Answers to Questions About Talent Management, Workforce Engagement and More

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David Rice

HR questions

If you’re in HR, you know that your team is playing a role of heightened importance right now. As people look to HR for help and to be the bridge between newly remote teams and leadership, there has been no shortage of new challenges for the HR department to overcome.

Glance at the titles on this website and you quickly notice that conversations around employee engagement and experience, talent management and learning and development have exploded in 2020.

Through the work we do here at HR Exchange, we spend a lot of time interviewing and chatting with HR leaders around the world. Not all of what they provide us makes it into our content on a daily basis, but it does inform how we talk about the topics we cover.

In the interest of sharing the knowledge and insights we’ve gained, here are excerpts from recent interviews we’ve done with leaders from within HR and talent functions recently that didn’t make into the stories we were working on at a given time, but still offer great insights and advice from people who know the challenges you’re facing.

HREN: From a development perspective, how do times of uncertainty impact the talent we have in your opinion? Are they more motivated to develop because they want to have job security and know their place in the organization? Or is all the external distraction a problem for their concentration and outlook on the future?

“I think it's both, and both of these can even impact the same individuals. There are talented employees who are happy to have a role and want to make sure their situation stays secure, so they make sure to perform highly, develop according to their plans, and secure that place. But there are a tremendous number of stressors and factors in employees' lives that can be affecting their ability to perform and develop. In many cases, reducing some of those stressors by allowing for more flexibility in working has helped, but those who are managing significant health challenges or demands on their time are likely not the most focused on their development (and rightfully so!). While there are great opportunities that this crisis presents, everyone has different situations, and careers are marathons, not sprints, so for those who haven't been able to focus on development, we look forward to times when they can and keep checking in with our employees- things can change quickly!” - Jenny Hill, Talent Development Leader at Sun Life Financial

HREN: As organizations cope with this current crisis and in some cases, reinvent themselves as a result of it, many employees have ideas about how we can change and adapt. What advice do you have for people looking to incorporate getting that feedback into the talent management process and using their ideas in a way that helps to keep them engaged?

“I am going back to making sure you have a just-in-time and employee life-cycle feedback mechanism. I would make sure to embrace a pulse survey philosophy. In the end, there is no such thing as too many surveys, but there is such a thing as not acting on the ideas and suggestions you have received.” –Sebastien Girard, Senior Vice President Workforce Engagement at Atrium Health

HREN: As we look at how technology can help us, skill and leadership development are an important area we can improve. Where are we currently seeing the most success around this and how will the relationship between technology and skill development and leadership continue to develop?

“Our shift into so-called Industry 4.0, fueled by cognitive computing, the cloud, and other technological innovations, is disrupting business and how we work. Many thought leaders have discussed the need for entry-level workers to reskill; however, leaders aren’t immune to this call to action.  A new paradigm of leadership is needed – and it is long overdue. The global pandemic has accelerated this trend and we must urgently prepare leaders to lead in a new world. I call this Leadership 4.0+, with the + denoting that the new normal has not yet emerged. I also believe that the leadership development approaches used in Industry 3.0 are outmoded. We must rethink our approach to reskilling leaders, employing micro-learning, social learning, vertical development, and other modalities that more naturally fit in with a leader’s life today.” – William Huffaker, SVP of Integrated Talent at Cerner Corporation

HREN: What are the biggest challenges in your opinion over the next year for talent management? How do approaches to it have to evolve to meet the experience employees have come to expect?

“Primary Challenges include talent shortages, lack of loyalty of talent, increasing pressure on the individual (COVID and other societal factors). This will lead to secondary challenges of the talent pool demanding more flexibility, more financial compensation, faster promotion, more fairness, more transparency and a flatter hierarchy amongst other “wants”. Another aspect which bears consideration is the change of the generation that will form a majority of the workforce. The needs and engagement drivers for the Millennials and Gen Z, are different from that of the baby boomers and Gen X.

“The approach has to have a foundation of engaging Gen Z and Millennials in packaging their own solutions, because it is even more important as to how the intervention is presented to them than their predecessors. The speed of rewards and the amount of fairness and transparency is heightened, and these talent pools are a lot less loyal if they do not feel valued and treated with fairness. Therefore, our approach has to evolve to engage them in building and packaging the interventions in clear guidelines. The purpose of the organization must be woven into the very fabric of their incentives.” – Vishal Bhalla, Chief Experience Officer at Parkland Hospital.

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