Managing Director, CEB Global, UK & Ireland CEB Global
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Talent Mgt

"Business leaders want HR data to be like financial data: standardised, specific and clearly linked to outcomes."

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24th Oct 2016
Managing Director, CEB Global, UK & Ireland CEB Global
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This is an interview with Nick Shaw, Managing Director of CEB in UK & Ireland. CEB are a global research and technology business offering advice and best practice to help organisations improve corporate performance. If you're looking to strengthen and tighten your talent function, take a look at their newest report - Establishing a World-Class Assessment Function—10 Best Practices in Talent Assessment - which gives practical, solid advice for improving performance in your own organisation.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: You advocate talent functions moving towards a 'talent advisor' approach. What does this mean and why is it important to be on HR's radar?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland: As recruiting leaders have long known, competition for talent is increasing.

But as emerging technologies disrupt business models and thrust new skills and work styles onto the labour market, demand for skilled talent is growing at an ever-greater pace and outstripping the available supply.

Good talent is hard to hire these days – especially as recruiters deal with 33% heavier workloads and demands for faster, better sourcing.

As a result, nearly two-thirds of recruiting executives are upgrading their organisations’ assessment and selection capabilities to one of their top priorities, and are increasing their budget in this area by an average of 15%.

To respond to these realities, the role of the recruiter needs to evolve in to that of a talent advisor.

The role of the recruiter needs to evolve in to that of a talent advisor.

High-impact talent advisors bring the voice of talent strategy to people decisions.

They challenge and influence business leaders rather than just satisfying their requests. They apply deep labour market knowledge to data captured from multiple sources, including assessments, to produce credible analysis on the workforce to convey the business logic of talent recommendations.

Talent advisors work smarter by making the assets they already have work harder for them.

Talent advisors work smarter by making the assets they already have work harder for them to make sure these talent investments pay off.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What skills are necessary for HR professionals adopting a talent advisor approach?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland: Talent advisors are decision influencers, not order takers. They earn the right to influence by informing staffing decisions with acute knowledge of the organisation and deep expertise of external markets. They leverage:

  • Firm-Specific Business Acumen: Knowledge of the organisation’s business model, operations, financial goals, and competitive position.
  • Firm-Wide Talent Strategy Knowledge: Understanding of the talent needs required to execute current and future business strategy and what other HR sub-functions are doing to support this.
  • Labour Market Expertise: Understanding of the organisation’s position in the labour market, including employment brand perception, the supply-and-demand picture, and what competitors are doing and how they are perceived.
  • Pipeline Management: Ability to build and maintain a robust pipeline of high-quality and engaged prospective candidates that meet both short and long term business needs.
  • Process Optimisation: Knowledge of where inefficiencies and bottlenecks are in the recruiting process and how to remove, circumnavigate, or raise awareness of them.
  • Data Judgment: Apply judgment to data captured from multiple sources – assessments, performance management systems and the external labour market – to capture urgent business implications that will help stakeholders take action.
  • Persuade and Influence: Ability to leverage knowledge and expertise and tailor communication style to challenge stakeholder assumptions and influence decision-making.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What stakeholders is it important to work with when building out a more advisory-led talent function?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland: 

  • Business leaders: Ultimately they set the vision and drive the business strategy that the talent strategy should align to.
  • IT: Working together, IT and HR need to determine how well their infrastructure and technologies are set up to bring together and analyse multiple data sources.
  • HR team: Building the advisory capability impacts the whole team and sub-functions within HR, as it changes the type of support they provide to stakeholders

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Is there a common language to the talent advisor approach that helps transcend silos i.e. the language of business?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland: Only 18% of business leaders trust talent data and insights from HR, and just 15% of have changed a decision on the basis of HR insight in the past year.

This creates great risk for the organisation when talent decisions are made without applying the same, or any, level of rigour as demanded by other corporate functions.

HR need to find ways to make talent data more consumable.

Even HR functions with strong capability and demonstrated success in talent analytics struggle to present talent insights in way that is easy for leaders to trust and consume.

Business leaders want HR data to be like financial data: standardised, specific, and clearly linked to outcomes.

HR need to find ways to make talent data more consumable, with clear guidelines for translating analytic insights into decisions and action.

Rather than presenting a black box decision, they present a range of possibilities along with the immediate and long-term business implications of those alternatives, to those individuals responsible for taking action.

Business leaders want HR data to be like financial data: standardised, specific, and clearly linked to outcomes.

This helps decision makers arrive at their own conclusions by providing effective decision aids and clear guardrails.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How can HR functions start transitioning towards a talent advisor approach – what are the first steps?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland:  Recruiters need to work smarter, making the assets they already have work harder. This means leveraging the knowledge, the tools, the skills, and the relationships they already have, but using them in a different way.

So rather than just reacting to hiring requests recruiters need to be ahead of the game, helping to shape recruitment decisions by:

Bringing greater precision to people decisions.

As organisations strive to meet critical business needs, assessment strategies are shifting from human judgement to data-backed decisions.

Assessments should be used to minimise the risks of making the wrong people decisions – whether it’s hiring, promoting, developing or reshaping teams.

The real value is derived from aggregating assessment data to understand the capabilities of teams, or populations of people.

These insights provide HR with a valuable source of objective information on the skills, strengths, development needs, and limitations at a group level. And are vital for showing senior stakeholders how well equipped the workforce is to capitalise on market opportunity, or drive a change in strategy.

Capitalising on advanced analytics and big data.

The goal is to have critical talent data accessible in just a few clicks of a button to enable quick and accurate analysis.

However, the best analytics tools are only as good as the data that is fed into them. That’s why the data strategy needs to be designed to support data collection, so analytic insights can be built into the process rather than extracted on an ad hoc basis.

The meaningful, strategic workforce insights come from being able to leverage insight on the internal workforce – for instance, from assessments, performance management and HRIS systems – in the context of the external labour market, to set in context talent supply and demand.

Recruiters can guide senior stakeholders on: what cities the firm should target for critical talent segments, which aspects of the attraction strategy are most effective at bringing in the best people, and what mix of capabilities are available in desired locations.

Providing leaders with business implications, not HR directives.

Even recruiting functions with strong capability and demonstrated success in talent analytics struggle to present talent insights in way that is easy for leaders to trust and consume.

Business leaders want HR data to be like financial data: standardised, specific, and clearly linked to outcomes.

Recruiters need to make talent data more consumable, with clear guidelines for translating analytic insights into decisions and action.

Rather than presenting a black box decision, they present a range of possibilities along with the immediate and long-term business implications of those alternatives, to those individuals responsible for taking action.

The goal is to have critical talent data accessible in just a few clicks of a button to enable quick and accurate analysis.

This helps decision makers arrive at their own conclusions by providing effective decision aids and clear guardrails.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What's the ultimate value of the talent advisor approach? How does it transform the business and make it more efficient?

Nick Shaw, Managing Director, CEB in UK & Ireland:  Building the Talent Advisor’s capabilities boosts individual recruiter performance. As a result, stakeholders are happier as they receive better guidance from recruiters, stronger job candidates to interview and access more robust talent pipelines.

Embedding these behaviours is critical to organisational performance and individual success: a strategic partner is 2.5 times more impactful than a process expert.

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