At a time when businesses are reevaluating the composition of their workplaces we’re revisiting this client story which first appeared in the March 2016 edition of IHRIM’s Workplace Solutions Review.
By Joe Kollinger
A unique visualisation of the workforce gave one of our clients advance warning of talent gaps enabling management to increase profits, improve customer satisfaction and reduce flight risks.
“I can’t tell you how many status reports I get telling me everything is just fine,” confided the VP of a large defense contractor. “We have a big problem. We are constantly getting blindsided with talent gaps on our most critical programs. I’m told everything is perfectly on schedule, but then we’re getting ugly surprises every day. We aren’t hiring fast enough, we have employees leaving, we discover we’ve hired redundant talent – all leading to significant cost overruns and missed delivery dates. It creates a horrible domino effect as we have to pull resources from other projects or pay steep premiums for contractors. To make matters even worse, customer satisfaction has been so low that we’ve lost three big clients – resulting in hundreds of millions in lost business to our competition. If only we could have seen these issues earlier. I need a solution that gives me a way to visualise the talent issues on a project by project basis across my organisation – with enough of an early warning that I can do something about it.”
It’s a problem familiar to HR management of large businesses all over. How to foresee talent threats across all the company’s critical programs?
Our client had plenty of data, but what they didn’t have was a way to pull useful insights from it. Different departments of the company had their own processes and nothing was standardised. “If we can develop a common dataset for these presentations, then we can make continuous improvements that all of our critical projects will benefit from,” explained the VP of Finance. After interviewing the VPs and gaining insight and understanding their pain points, our initial challenge was to devise a way to normalise the data into a standardised view that would empower management with insight and control over the program risks related to talent.
“We have 150 strategic programs that need to be talent mapped. I can’t picture us doing this manually in PowerPoint,” – VP of HR.
The Talent Map concept was created so management could quickly analyze as many programs and work groups as possible. We collaborated with the client to determine what kind of information was needed, developing a visual layout so that management would have a clear picture. The data sources used for the map were the company’s HRIS, manager interviews, and client interviews of both employees and contractors. This objective and subjective data were compiled into the map. Each employee was represented as a card with standard data fields, symbols, and coloring.
The result was an informative snapshot of an individual revealing their talent profile in a compact, easy-to-read format. The example in Figure 1 shows a Systems Engineer, who was a full-time employee with critical skills, recognised as top talent, costing above industry benchmark, highly experienced, and with a solid performance rating. As you can see, Talent Map created a snapshot of the person in a standardised view so all the employees could be compared easily and quickly.
The next challenge was determining the best way to represent each program talent pool. Rather than using a traditional organisational chart hierarchy they opted for a “soft hierarchy” where individuals would be grouped by job function and management level. The matrix would support the existing executive process for evaluating the strength and cost-effectiveness of each team.
In Figure 2 we see each resource profiled and organised into a color coded matrix of level and function. Our client now had a standardised view of the organisation’s talent.
Historically the client did have some information to provide warning of program risks but it was piecemeal and inconsistent. We automated the aggregation of information into presentations that gave a holistic perspective. A new standardised view and repeatable process positioned the client for consistent success.
The Talent Map was interactive so gaps could be identified and individuals moved around to model changes. Beyond identifying gaps, common challenges that management encountered—programs ramping up, programs running behind schedule or exceeding budget, loss of key resources—all benefited from this analysis. A team ramping down could allocate talent to new programs without negative impacts.
“The amount of talent information we have at our fingertips makes it much easier to effectively respond to change. Whether moving employees within a program or to a new program, we are able to make transitions more gracefully,” – Portfolio Manager.
As programs and organisations encounter new talent requirements, the maps facilitate efficient identification of best fit employees. Scarce, in demand, and highly-skilled resources become easier to identify and share across the company. This reduces the need for expensive contractors to fill expert positions on an emergency basis.
A pilot project was designated as a test run of the Talent Map, and program leadership met with the executives and HR to discuss the results. “It became immediately clear we were at risk of losing 20 percent of our resources before project completion – which would be a disaster,” the Program VP reported. “That information is now being fed into our plans for employee retention.”
It was also noted that some senior client-facing positions were actually third-party resources. “We are trusting non-employees to represent us to our clients. This poses a serious risk to client intimacy when we use contractors at this level,” remarked another executive. This concern was validated shortly thereafter as the client in question was lost to the competition.
Loss of clients and unmanaged flight risks, both significant threats to the business, were quickly exposed by the Talent Map. Within a year, unmanaged flight was reduced by over 40 percent and no clients were lost on programs using the Talent Map process. Management now had advanced warning of these threats and could act on them effectively for the benefit of the entire business.
OfficeWork Software provides innovative solutions enabling our clients to successfully manage organisational change. Our software helps organisations manage, model, and align the workforce. Get a free one-hour assessment of your organisation’s talent risk exposure. During this assessment you will: