Linking Talent Management Initiatives to the Bottom Line
Bouvier Williams, Vice President of Talent Management for MTV Networks, shares how he has leveraged talent management across an array of brands while linking the initiatives to the organizational needs—and showing the true impact it has on the bottom line.
Within your organization, you have a fairly large brand base that service a great pool of employees. As the VP of Talent, how do you accommodate each brand in terms of talent management?
At MTV Networks we do have a great deal of brands such as Spike TV, Comedy Central, TV Land and Nickelodeon; each of those brands or channels is quite diverse. What we try to do within the talent management function is spend quite a bit of time understanding the needs of each of those brands, divisions and businesses and make sure the solutions we are providing meet those needs. So if we are doing something around performance management or leadership development, on one level we are looking for the common themes that go across businesses in terms of needs. On the second level we are trying to come up with processes that will work in every business, but at the same time allow for flexibility based on structure, strategy and available resources.
What are your greatest performance and talent management issues?
When I talk to my colleagues in this business and this profession, everybody is stretched right now because of what is happening in this economy. Resources are very tight, and our challenge at MTV Networks, from a talent management perspective, is being able to take those limited resources and somehow turn them into creative solutions for our client base, which is the entire company. What I find that helps us address those challenges is spending a lot of time trying to identify vendors we can partner with to meet those needs. I also spend a great deal of time talking to my organizational development, learning and Talent Management colleagues in our sister companies. MTV Networks is owned by Viacom, so there is BET, Paramount film, etc. What we try to do is not reinvent the wheel. I spend time—considerable time-talking with my colleagues in those businesses and my colleagues over seas and try to learn what is working right now in terms of a program or process. And so it’s about leveraging the great idea whenever you find it. That helps us meet the challenge of trying to implement programs and processes that will work for our clients at MTV Networks.
What are your focus points in terms of the functional areas you are spending the most time on, and why?
Well we’ve got every business, every channel within MTV, as a client. No one is more important than the other because each one makes a contribution to the bottom line result. Where we find ourselves spending more time might be an area where we want to pilot or test out a process. So for example, we have been implementing a new management curriculum and what we have done is rather than roll it out all at once we’ve been doing select pilots across all MTV Networks. So we have gone to our sales group, our operations group, our marketing groups and we identify areas where we can put them through this new training content and material and then collect feedback. So when we are looking to pilot or test out a new program we are going to take a deeper dive into a particular business.
How are your initiatives impacting your bottom line?
Well that is always the challenge in terms in what we do and seeing the correlation between our training and development efforts and the bottom line efforts. What I would say is that where we see the most immediate return is in greater use of time. So to give you an example, when we educate managers on how to give effective feedback when we teach them tools to coach their staff, the most immediate return that those managers get is the gift of time. Once they are equipped with tools they can demonstrate these new found capabilities and skills it’s less time for them to focus on certain kinds issues and frees them up to things strategically about their business. So the better I am at having a feedback conversation with you, for example, the easier it becomes—it doesn’t take that much time and it frees you up to do the things you need to do to make the business successful. And it frees me up to take a more forward looking to view what’s coming down that will affect my business.
Where do you see your learning organization headed over the next 18 months?
For us we are going to be spending a lot of time on return on investment in terms of training and development or OD initiatives. I am a big believer that when you take a look at a process, you should be asking yourself what the return to the business is going to be. So we want to establish better metrics to assess our effectiveness. We are also going to be taking a look at how we can use technology. We can use technology to implement more effective solutions in our business. No one has the time to go through a day's worth or day-long program or workshop anymore. So using mechanisms like podcasts, we are doing more in the way of Webinars where we can put out information content and connect people across regions and even around the world. So we are trying to use the technology smartly, and I am having my team take a look over the next 12 to 18 months what the latest stuff out there that we can take advantage of.
As a talent management professional, what keeps you up at night?
It does keep me up at night in a bad way but when I think about the future—emerging trends in the business, things happening in the industry, the economy, it’s not so much that it keeps me up at night, but it’s kind of exciting. There’s tremendous opportunity out there to add value to make your org more effective, so for me its about trying to identify where the business is going over the next two to three years and what is the business going to need in terms of talent management solutions, whether its around talent assessments, succession planning, leadership development, career development. So if I draw a link to technology in our world at MTV Networks, we got to figure out how to take advantage of this digital revolution going on. And so that creates questions about what kind of skills do people have to have, what kind of learning opportunities do they have to have, so I just spend a lot of time trying to be thoughtful about marrying what we do as a talent management organization to where the business is going and making sure we are in close synchronization with that business direction.
What advice do you have for training and learning professionals that face similar challenges as you have undergone?
I think the most practical advice I would give someone in our profession is stay connected to your business. Be the person in the room who can articulate the business strategy, the business model and the business challenges better than anyone else. It will build your creditability as a learning partner or HR practitioner. And also you will be in a better position to introduce solutions that will actually help the business. I think that is one of the things that I found has helped me in my career.