Driving Growth through Talent: A Guide for HR Directors

The light at the end of the recession…

The current recession has required HR professionals to step up. HR directors have never been in a brighter spotlight to support the board in restructuring the organization, find creative ways of engaging the workforce during pay freezes, and above all else, manage change. HR has successfully raised its profile with the board. So what's next? HR directors must now showcase their departments' abilities to engage people and set the organization up not just for stability, but for growth.

Because HR can tell the organization how its people are performing, they are ideally placed to devise talent and succession strategies. Here's a guide to the top 5 things HR directors should be doing:

  1. Respond and Adapt

    The first Generation-Y CEO to lead a British FTSE company will be appointed by 2016, according to Deloitte's Upwardly Mobile report, commissioned by EE. Generation Y, aka the millennial generation, is comprised of those born between 1980 and 1995 and will make up more than 75 percent of the 2025 global workforce. Characteristics of Millennials' which mark them out against the predecessor Generation X and Baby Boomers include an expectation of faster career progression, a preference for flexible working, and a detachment from rigid corporate hierarchies. They are also digital natives, those who have grown up with IT and are comfortable using it in various areas of their lives.HR directors will have already had to adapt their management styles to the incoming generation, without neglecting the needs of workers from previous generations. Where they see the potential for different work styles and attitudes to cause friction, they should demonstrate that all employees are assessed and rewarded according to the same metrics and targets. It's a Nelsonian strategy: Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson encouraged each of his captains to run their ships and develop their battle strategy as they saw best fit. Good HR directors recognize that the goal is universal; the route there can vary.

  2. Start Stalking Talent

    "Your details have been kept on file" sounds like a cliché. But it really should give hope to good candidates who contact a good HR director on spec. More and more HR directors are building and nurturing a talent pool. They're keeping tabs on experience, competencies, qualifications, and aspirations, so when a vacancy arises, the hard work of finding someone to fill it is largely done for them. And the work doesn't always start at recruitment. Many organizations are easing the recruitment pain with established on boarding processes, and are continuing to track individuals' progress so they can set inspiring goals and appropriate rewards as their career in the organization progresses.

  3. Spot Hot Skills and Gaps in Real Time

    Proactive HR divisions know that annual appraisals which are filled in and filed away for 51 weeks of the year are almost completely useless. They also use the process wisely, gathering as much information as possible, automating the process, and analyzing the information to monitor career progress and skills gaps as they happen. This in turn helps identify opportunities for recruitment, movement around the organization, training, and promotion. The HR directors who set about to identify and develop the key skills of their employees set themselves apart from the competition. An organization which has a holistic view of its workforce can see areas for improvement and will know who or what is needed in order to plug the gaps.

  4. Hothouse High Performers

    Identifying top performers in an organization depends on having the information and insight about those individuals. HR directors have the responsibility of ensuring the company culture remains one of inclusion while at the same time motivating and rewarding high performers in order to reduce flight risk and competition from other organizations. While all staff are – and should feel – valuable, the stars of the organization need to be recognized, and succession planning should play a large part for any HR leader in guiding the organization forward. As all managers know, talent can be found at all levels in a company – from those just embarking on their career to the most confident sales person or unassuming employee who generates revenue and profit without drama. These high-potential employees can be identified and set on a fast-track to success using a program of accelerated learning and career development. This will keep the stars engaged, motivated, and loyal all the way to the top.

  5. Listen

    Recruitment, training, appraisals, mentoring, and real-time monitoring are all opportunities for two-way conversation between the organization and the employee. They are not a means for the organization to dictate information. HR directors must take the time to stop and listen to employees, but also actively encourage feedback on their ambitions, strengths, weaknesses, and progress with the company as well as what they feel could be improved. Good information insight lets them go the extra mile For example, knowing that Dave in IT really wants to work in the US gives them a candidate when an opportunity comes up overseas; knowing Emma the account manager values flexible hours to fit in with school term times and holidays more than a bonus lets them incentivize her effectively. When an employee has already made the decision to leave, an exit interview informs the HR director about areas where their talent management program can be improved. Many of the above areas are undertaken with precision, empathy, and eloquent communication. Placing HR at the heart of business development gives ample information, but is it just data or does it provide the right intelligence to guide the organization?

The Role of Technology

Organizations using effective HR technology to underpin their HR strategy will have the visibility of the workforce to spot trends, make more informed decisions, create streamlined workflows, move their talent around, see the impact of sales initiatives, and ultimately have the ability to make a positive difference in a company's future. Intelligent onboarding, predictive analytics, and advanced performance management are just some of the elements which can be implemented with the use of HR solutions. Could this be the holy grail of accelerated competitive advantage?

It's time for HR directors to get the house in order by gathering the information and feedback from their workforce at every step of the employee lifecycle. Only then can HR leaders leverage this insight and get a holistic 3D view of the workforce. The fundamental work of professionals must not fall between the preverbal cracks. The information they already have holds the key, but it needs the right analysis in order to predict the best strategy for growth. 'The art of the possible' should be the mantra – setting the business for growth is no longer just managing talent, it's a strategic view of every department, with a detailed understanding of the impacts.


Access is a specialist supplier of HR and Payroll software, established to meet the needs of organizations requiring innovative solutions for business improvements. We will give you the advice, tools and clarity to make effective decisions, quickly and with certainty. Our modular suite of functionality includes talent management, absence management, learning and development, employee and manager self-service, online recruitment and more. Click here for more information.

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