An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it, says William Bernbach. Likewise, when it comes to organisational performance, success is a matter of talent, say the authors of a new book on human resources, ‘HR Transformation’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com).

Observing that one may get lost in the multitude of programmes and investments made to attract, retain and upgrade talent, the authors – Dave Ulrich, Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mark Nyman – suggest a deceptively simple formula for transforming HR practices: Talent = Competence X Commitment X Contribution.

“Competence means that individuals have the knowledge, skills, and values required for today’s jobs – and tomorrow’s.” However, “Highly competent employees who are not committed are smart – but don’t work very hard.”

Develop competencies by first identifying the required competencies to deliver future work, the authors guide. Remember not to focus on what has worked in the past, comparing low- and high-performing employees; ‘more recent competence standards come from turning future customer expectations into present employee requirements.’

Assessing individuals cannot merely stop by being a 360-degree review involving subordinates, peers, and supervisors. Ulrich et al. emphasise the need to add another 360-degree review, especially for externally facing employees, with the help of evaluation by suppliers, customers, investors, and community leaders.

Well, how do you address the gaps in talent? By investing in ‘six Bs,’ the book enlightens. The first B is Buy – that is, recruiting, sourcing, and securing new talent into the organisation. Then, Build (helping people grow through training, on the job, or through life experiences), and Borrow (bringing knowledge into the organisation through advisers or partners), the second and the third Bs. The rest are: Bound (promoting the right people into key jobs), Bounce (removing poor performers from their jobs, and from the organisation if they don’t fit anywhere), and Bind (retaining top talent).

Hoping for talent won’t make it happen; you must follow up and track competence, the authors counsel. “Individual employees can be tracked on their understanding of their next career step and their capacity to do it. Organisations can track the extent to which backups are in place for key positions.”

An interesting insight is that leaders who are measured on how much money they contribute to the company should also be assessed on ‘the extent to which they are talent producers rather than talent consumers.’

Commitment, the second C in the equation, happens through the level of employee engagement; this is demonstrated, the authors find, when your people work on time, work hard, and do what is expected of them.

To achieve commitment, organisations should ensure that the employees have a VOI2C2E – the seven dimensions, viz. vision (a sense of direction), opportunity (an ability to grow), incentives (fair wage for work done), impact (an ability to see the outcome of work done), community (peers, bosses and leaders who build a sense of shared purpose, identity, and experience), communication (knowing what is going on and why), and entrepreneurship or flexibility (a range of choices about terms and conditions of work).

The next generation of employees may be competent (able to do the work), and committed (willing to do the work), but unless the third C, contribution (finding meaning and purpose in the work), is in place, their interest in what they are doing can diminish and talent can wane, the authors caution.

“As employees work longer hours and use technology that removes many work-life boundaries, companies need to learn how to help employees meet their needs. When people have their needs met through their organisations, they recognise that they are contributing and thus find abundance in their lives.”

Imperative read.

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