I have the pleasure of serving as Chair of i4cp’s Chief HR Officer Board. During a recent meeting of this distinguished group, members were asked to describe the issues or concerns occupying their thoughts. Each shared one thing in common: Their respective organizations are facing competitive challenges requiring them to move quickly and deliberately in each of the five areas that comprise i4cp’s People-Profit Chain (market, strategy, culture, leadership, and talent).
Facing rapid changes in markets requires changes in strategies. These adjustments in strategy require each organization to reinforce or redefine its culture, as well as to review and make necessary changes in leadership and talent. Reviewing each of the five areas of the People-Profit Chain is a must if they are to successfully address the challenges they face in remaining competitive and relevant in the marketplace.
In particular, the changes in leadership and talent they are addressing are driven by many factors. These factors include large numbers of employees retiring, and new skill sets required to meet changes in the business strategy. Their main dilemma in all this? The need to get talent identified and prepared quicker. Much quicker.
So, what is the one thing HR leaders can’t ignore in 2018?
In my opinion, it’s their talent systems. This includes talent acquisition, succession planning, workforce planning, and employee development. CHROs need to fully understand the skill gaps in their current workforces. They need to know when experienced talent is leaving, and prepare the next generation to quickly gain the necessary skills and experience to replace them. In simple terms, they must have a robust workforce and succession planning process, an exceptional talent acquisition process, and an efficient and effective employee development process.
The important point is to implement the processes that resonate for your specific business. And don’t forget about the importance and power of using a clear set of measures that identify the skill gaps between the current workforce and the skills needed in the near and mid-term. This allows the HR team and business leaders to understand where the gaps are and develop detailed plans to address those gaps. While this may not sound like anything new, there is a significant difference from the past. Not only do these skill gaps need to be filled effectively and efficiently, they need to be filled with a time urgency few have seen before.
There are ways to buy time, however. In the case of retirements, some organizations are pursuing phased retirements. This allows senior, experienced employees the opportunity to ease into retirement while allowing the organization time to train a successor, as well as capture and transfer critical knowledge before it leaves the organization. Others are aggressively revamping their talent acquisition processes, focusing on new sourcing strategies and improved employment branding to attract people (from a myriad of sources) with the skills they need. And others are improving internal processes to forecast openings in a more timely and methodical manner, and also to enable more effective movement of talent across their enterprises. Nearly all are focusing on the retention of top talent.
Developing and executing the strategy and tactics to have the right skills needed to meet the near-term business challenges in a compressed timeframe is an urgent challenge; it’s one that I have no doubt HR teams will address in new and innovative ways.
Kurt Fischer is the former Chief HR Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and chair of i4cp’s Chief HR Officer Board.