From succession planning to leadership development and recruiting, talent executives offer up their talent fitness tips and resolutions for the new year.

The last of the holiday cookies have disappeared, as have visiting relatives, and the time has come to focus on New Year’s resolutions. For many people, a post-holiday visit to the bathroom scale sparks a pledge to hit the gym.

This scenario also can be applied to an organization’s well-being. Mercer’s “2012 Attraction and Retention Survey” of HR practitioners at 470 North American companies, for example, showed that 24 percent reported a drop in their employees’ engagement in 2012, compared to 13 percent in 2010. Further, almost 60 percent of organizations indicated they foresee an increase in voluntary turnover, particularly in high-demand roles, in the next year.

To keep companies healthy in this fast-paced working world, many talent leaders have resolved to shape up their talent management processes. For example, Lorna Hagen, vice president of human resources for retailer Ann Inc., said her major focus in 2013 will be succession planning and taking a hard look at talent pools.

“In terms of innovation, in terms of product development, in terms of social media and how companies are going to be doing business in the future, you just don’t know who that talent is going to be, so you need to find those curious and motivated people and start to apply some very personalized opportunities to them,” she said.

Understanding Body Types
Robb Webb, chief human resources officer for Hyatt, agreed it is time for organizations to take an overview of their pipelines.

“The pipeline that you have in an organization needs to be as deep, broad and diverse as it possibly can be, so it’s time for organizations to look at their workforce and to determine if this is the type of workforce that will sustain them for the future,” he said.

The millennial conversation will be important this year, as statistics show this group will make up roughly half of the workforce by 2015. Hagen said this generation is “clicking,” consuming, collaborating, concerned about things and also curating. “They want everything curated: their entertainment experiences, their educational experiences and now they want their work experiences curated,” she said.

Further, Hagen said because millennials are so rapidly infiltrating the workforce, for 2013 she is considering how to incorporate their digitally driven tendencies into a succession planning model.
Doing so may prove to be an especially important exercise in light of the data in the “2012
Candidate Behavior Study” from CareerBuilder and Inavero. The study indicates that 69 percent of full-time workers search for new job opportunities regularly — of these, millennials were much more likely than baby boomers to seek greener pastures.

Webb, however, cautioned against painting all millennials as job hoppers. Instead, organizations should focus on how to retain this large future workforce group. Webb said the reason millennials might be moving around so much is they have not found a company that has fully engaged them. Offering development opportunities can help.

Tim Russell, manager, learning and development, organizational development for Nintendo of America, said to properly develop, engage and retain the best and brightest young talent, companies ought to consider the right blended learning approach, such as utilizing the technology millennials favor and emphasizing interpersonal connections. He said it can help to provide content in shorter, more digestible “learning snacks” because millennials learn differently than the baby boomers and Gen Xers.

“We will absolutely have to find a way to balance what the millennials need versus what the baby boomers need,” he said. “The millennials are probably more on the side of the new technology, so companies are exploring ways to use social media. Try to get millennials into a four-day classroom experience, [they will tire of it quickly].”

This tech-centered approach to development does not mean abandoning classroom training completely. Russell said he has had some interesting conversations with talent leaders who have said moving too far away from classroom learning can mean neglecting the interpersonal interaction that happens when employees get together in a formal learning event.

Instead, Russell said to honor the new technology — “let’s explore what’s new and sexy out there” — but also get back to basics because interpersonal connections are critical for employee engagement.

Fit to Lead
Turnover and leadership development also could use a reboot in the new year. Kelly Wojda, director of talent for Caterpillar, said connecting with millennials means answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” She said this group is also interested in sustainability and feeling like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This is important because millennials will have to assume leadership roles more rapidly than they might anticipate.

“In the next five to 10 years baby boomers are retiring, and these millennials and Xers are going to have to step up into leadership roles. So part of the opportunity for companies like Nintendo will be, how do we ready them for roles that perhaps in the past they would have had another 10 years to train for?” Russell said.

With this in mind, as global manufacturer Caterpillar grows in new industries and regions, it is accelerating its leadership development focus. In 2011, the company launched its global Leadership Excellence and Development program, which focuses on four levels of leadership in all countries where it operates. Each level of leadership engages in learning programs tailored to employees’ specific needs with a focus on the company’s strategic needs.

“It’s a great opportunity to encourage diversity, so local leaders around the world foster the program,” Wojda said.

The global approach to leadership development should enable leaders to successfully handle cross-cultural situations. “How do you actually train a leader to have cultural agility, so they’re really able to work in a global environment? Those are things that every company needs to start thinking about right now,” Hagen said.

Being agile means that traditional ways of measuring performance will likely give way to more dynamic approaches. Nick Howe, vice president, learning and collaboration for Hitachi Data Systems, said talent leaders should rethink the annual performance review and adopt a more continuous, real-time approach. This can be done with the help of social networks.

According to research released in March by Bersin & Associates titled “Going Global With High-Impact Learning,” organizations with strong informal learning capabilities — such as social learning tools and a global learning culture — are three times more likely to excel at global talent development than organizations without those competencies.

Hitachi has embraced networking and collaboration, which has allowed it to identify and recognize individuals across the company for their contributions via “likes” or “follows” within a platform.
“We have folks in Australia who are helping folks in the U.S. or the U.K., and a lot of that used to go completely unnoticed, but because that is now being captured in a system that is very visible, [we can] both identify and reward individuals for advancing the strategy in a way that we never have before,” Howe said.

Social connection also will be a major trend in 2013 for Ann Inc. “The notion of grading has expired for certain companies,” Hagen said. Instead, the company is embracing social networks and considering alternative methods for employees to become involved in and elevate each other’s performance.

New measurement methods evaluate employees’ ability to influence what’s happening, which introduces the concept of behavioral metrics into performance conversations. Hagen said this could take talent managers away from the usual yearly performance review toward a more organic, in-the-moment type of event.

“Let’s say I wanted to get in shape,” Nintendo’s Russell said. “I could hire a personal trainer — an expert on weight loss and sculpting my body — and I could rely on my relationship with that personal trainer. Or, I could get some buddies together, we could find a race that we could run together, and we act as our own motivational peers. We train together. We shop for the right foods together. We learn from each other.”

An Integrated Routine
The future of talent management largely will depend on collaboration, and that has to happen within the HR function itself.

Caterpillar’s Wojda said today’s talent leader can’t work solely in recruiting, leadership development or compensation. “If all of us aren’t working together as a system, it’s not going to work. … For us, [the new year] is about really integrating our talent management to help maximize the potential of our current people [and] to be better talent scouts for the people out there who we want to come to our team.”

Recruiting is another area talent managers have targeted for improvement in 2013. In the search for the best talent it is no longer OK for companies to use a post-and-pray strategy and hope the right candidates will walk through the door.

Caterpillar is proactively sourcing for talent using every referral channel it can, including getting its own internal base of employees excited and passionate about what it’s like to work there. Social media can help.

Howe said Facebook has “been huge” for Hitachi’s recruiting efforts, but at the end of the day, engagement is key.

The situation can be likened to failed New Year’s resolutions. One of the top reasons why so many New Year’s resolutions fail is because people forget why they were important in the first place.
Webb said the same can be said of short-lived talent management initiatives such as a well-intentioned survey that only creates momentary impact.

“[It’s like if I would say], ‘I’m going to go to the gym every other day,’” Webb said. “I do that for three weeks after Jan. 1; and after that, I find reasons not to go to the gym … [I heard a joke] that said, ‘Gee, it’s already June; engagement survey time is August — I’d better start being nice to people.’”

Engagement also has to be top driven. As demand for talent grows, talent leaders should apply the same level of importance and accountability to their employee engagement surveys as they do to their customer surveys.

“New employees who come into the company have higher expectations than they ever had about the way they’re going to be treated, the systems that they’re going to have access to and flexibility from a work location perspective,” Howe said. “It’s our responsibility to respond to that … If we don’t, they will be very quick to leave. There is so much opportunity out there today.”

Elizabeth Lisican is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.