The pace of technological transformation has enabled a seemingly unlimited profusion of new business models to emerge in every industry. Most often, they don’t compete directly with the established players but rather focus on capturing part of their profit through a systematic access to their customer base along various parts of their value chain. This constant state of disruption has been described as a state of “always-on transformation” by Boston Consulting Group. The dichotomy of the talent and development role in this process, being both an architect at the very heart of the change and a subject affected by it, is a conundrum that requires new solutions.
The talent and development function needs to redefine both its identity and practices. The aim will be for talent and development professionals to evolve from solutions providers to architects of sustained growth, shifting from managing processes to driving outcomes and creating a significant impact within the organization. Three areas in particular will be central to this transformation process:
People are at the core of our practice. Talent and development doesn’t design programs. It designs capabilities and culture by enabling all employees to reach their full potential a defined economic and cultural agenda. For example, a critical capability for talent and development will be to increase the level of digital literacy in the organization. Without a high level of maturity in this skill, digital transformation efforts will fail.
Another essential evolution is moving the performance management system from a process to a discussion. Refocus the exercise on the step that matters most: the dialogue between managers and their employees. For example, General Electric is implementing an app “PD@GE,” enabling leaders and employees to share regular insights on each other’s performance.
Finally, talent and development should be at the heart of an organization’s culture. One way to do so is through consistent storytelling; focus on what distinguishes an organization from others. Collecting and sharing those companies’ stories is a powerful way to crystallize what a culture should be and to embed it in the organization’s memory.
Sharing insights across an organization, a value-chain or even an eco-system can be a source of competitive advantage. If not thought through carefully, it also can present reputational risks through the uncontrolled flow of critical business information.
Google’s “Re.Work” site is a great example of a completely open platform that shares leadership and development practices for free. Cisco’s Leadership Dashboard is another example. Each leader has a page, accessible for all employees, summarizing multiple sources of information such as their personal results in the last employee’s survey feedback, outputs of their 360-degree review, and awards received for particular performance. The aim is to make the effect of their leadership practices transparent and available for all. Finally, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries demonstrates a successful case of building learning into the very DNA of business. The company upscaled learning from a followership status, with respect to strategy design, to a co-creation level by positioning it as the key metric for resource deployment. As such learning becomes the new business currency.
Technology’s ultimate aim should be to make work and relationships more human. By using its capacity to analyze large sets of data to create insights, and its ability to connect communities via social networking tools, the best solutions will be mostly invisible to the users, yet profoundly transformative to the learning process. Knewton’s Smart Learning paths is a great example that uses algorithms to create adaptive learning solutions. Digital classes adapt in real-time based on participants’ learning patterns.
Finally, technology connection plays a critical role in enabling HR analytics. Google’s Oxygen Project is a well-documented example. Analytics can be found at the very beginning of the people value chain in strategic workforce planning. By designing and deploying a highly practical quantitative and qualitative analysis of an organization’s capabilities needs, leaders create the strategic agenda require to connect talent and development solutions to the most pressing business priorities.
Many of the practices mentioned here are possible thanks to the dramatic advances in technology over the past decade. Technology is gradually transforming people practices by enabling long dreamt solutions to become a reality. Yet, while the expectations are high, so are the risks.
Potential impact for digital tools will only be limited by the creativity and change mastery of the talent and development professionals who integrate them into their people value chains and ensure their acceptance across their organizations. As designers of sustained growth, it will be our responsibility to create people-centric experiences of technology. As Gianpiero Petriglieri wrote in his October 2015 blog “How to make technology more human,” “the imbalance between humanism and instrumentality in designing and using technology is risky. … It is humanity that keeps power in check.”
Sylvain Newton is the People Sourcing and Development Leader at Allianz, Advisor and Program Director of Leveraging Neuroscience to Power Organizational and Individual Performance at Columbia Business School Executive Education and Executive Fellow at the Center for the Future of Organization from the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.
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