A New Frontier for Talent Management?

Today’s guest blog post is courtesy of our board member, David Creelman.

It’s been more than a decade since the ‘war for talent’ brought talent management to the attention of CEOs. There is now widespread buy-in that talent matters and HR has made great progress in introducing talent management systems and processes. So what’s next? Maybe we need to stop acting as though talent only matters for salaried work. Maybe talent management for hourly workers is the next frontier.

Talent management for hourly workers is an area that tingles with excitement. We are now looking at a very large population of workers that has not received much attention. I remember an Australian business prof telling me that her decision to study the work of truckers had met with disdain from her colleagues. If thoughtful management professors in egalitarian Australia think hourly workers are not worthy of attention then no doubt that blind spot extends to many organizations around the world. Whenever you have an unexamined area of business there is the potential for substantial improvement; talent management for hourly workers is one such area.

It’s not just the magnitude of the opportunity that makes talent management for hourly workers exciting, it is the intellectual challenge. Talent management for hourly workers won’t be just a simple extension of what was done for salaried employees. Take for example performance management. In many hourly jobs turnover is so high that an annual performance review will never happen for the bulk of employees. Performance management becomes more a matter of finding a profile (or profiles) of successful employees and feeding that back to the talent acquisition system….and that talent acquisition system, depending on the type of hourly work, may have little to do with sorting resumes.

With hourly workers we have the numbers to get really good metrics and so analytics will play a greater role here than in the salaried workforce. Furthermore you may not find expertise in the usual places. We saw many talent management vendors spring from roots in recruitment software but with the hourly workers it will be the workforce management software vendors who have depth of experience. Look for some interesting offerings as the big players in the traditional talent management space aim to move into hourly talent management and come up against workforce management solutions which have gone beyond managing transactions to providing true talent management.

What should you do? Talk to the heads of business units with the biggest hourly workforces. Test their interest in the idea of bringing talent management to their workers. I bet you’ll find an untapped thirst for applying the talent mindset to this critical group of employees.

5 thoughts on “A New Frontier for Talent Management?

  1. Bravo, David. I have never understood why hourly workers don’t get the same focus as salaried workers when we are talking about talent management issues.

    My guess is that the people managing the hourly workforce would love to be able to bring talent management to their group — if only those up the management food chain would see the obvious value in doing this.

    Yes, the numbers DO exist to get really good metrics on the hourly workforce, and the analytics will indeed play a greater role than they do with the salaried workforce.

    This all seems pretty obvious to me, but that raises the question: why is it that talent management for hourly workers is the next frontier?

    Well, we could debate that all day long, but suffice it to say that it is about time that we started applying talent management software and principles to the hourly workforce as we have so long to the salaried group. Smart companies that can leverage the analytics will find it to be a huge competitive advantage they can exploit in this difficult economy. That is a huge plus any way you slice it.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with Dave’s observations. My sense is hourly workers do not receive as much attention from talent managment professionals for several reasons:

    1. The diversity of employees, geographically distributed nature of many hourly workforces, and high turnover levels poses a challenge for creating simple, one size fits all solutions. Hourly jobs sound “simple” on the surface, but the hourly workforce and workplace is actually quite complex. This may scare away consultants who want to create a single model of employee performance they can sell over and over to all companies. What is needed here are better taxonomies for describing and categorizing hourly jobs and hourly job environments.

    2. Reluctance to spend money on high turnover, low performance variance positions. Companies may not want to invest in people who are likely to leave in 12 monhts. They may also feel there are relatively small financial benefist associated with increasing the performance of any single hourly employees. The key to addressing this challenge is, as David points out, to move away from focusing on improving performance of individual employees and focus on systems and processes that improve the workforce as a whole.

    3. Not wanting to spend time in the trenches with frontline workers. Many talent management appear to prefer the “glamour” and lucrative nature of working in the “c-suite”, as opposed to the less glamourous nature of doing work with the 70% of the workforce that actually makes the company run. In contrast, some of the most successful hourly employers take pride in having very simple corporate offices and instead prefer to invest time and money in creating better store/property environments. They don’t have a fancy “c-suite” because that’s not where the money comes from.

    Just some food for thought from someone who has spent a lot of time studying hourly work. Steve

  3. Great comments Dave. It is every manager’s responsibility to make learning and growth a part of every employee’s job. It is also the responsibility of every employee to seek learning opportunities and to understand that learning is a part of their responsibilities. This does not necessarily require a “professional development” budget and this should not be limited to exempt positions!

    I was recently speaking to a group of Board of Trustee members from several higher education institutions. One of the things that I emphasized during my presentation is that ongoing learning and growth is so much more than “sending an employee to a professional development course.” Growth and learning can and should occur every day (well how about almost every day) as a regular part of every employee’s job. What are employees learning from one another? What knowledge and skills are supervisors sharing with employees? What input do employees have when changes need to be made?

    As managers and supervisors, our role in working with our support staff is not just to get the work done. It is to get the work done while preparing employees for the NEXT work that will need to be done. This has to be emphasized as a critical part of the organization’s work culture. Supervisors and all employees must then be held accountable for demonstrating their commitment to these efforts.

  4. In addition to this great info, I thought I’d add what I consider to be the most important factor in -02″> Improving Employee Satisfaction
    Once you take this into consideration….top talent stays, productivity goes up and profits increase dramatically. It’s like following a cookie recipe!

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