Develop and engage all your people for business success

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Develop and engage all your people forbusiness successJanice CaplanAbstractPurpose This article aims to draw on some key ideas set out in Janice Caplans book, Strategic TalentDevelopment. In essence, Strategic Talent Development is about achieving business success in todaysenvironment, which is so different from the one on which most management practice is based.Design/methodology/approach Caplan argues that conventional thinking has pushed too much ontoline managers and given them an impossible task. She also debunks popular notions, such as we shouldinvest differentially in high potential, or pivotal staff, or that leaders must win hearts and minds.Findings She shows how new ways of working are making current line management structures andprocesses unviable, and she proposes two key solutions. The first is to implement sharedmanagement structures that spread people management responsibilities so that individuals get theattention they need, when they need it. The second is to establish longer-term approaches to careerdevelopment that ensure everyone keeps pace with change. This also takes care of high potentials andfuture leaders.Originality/value The author shows how the proposed solutions are critical to raising levels ofemployee engagement and therefore business profitability.Keywords Leadership, Employee engagement, Talent development, Careers, Virtual simulation,Line managementPaper type Research paperFor more than a decade, management thinking has been driven by two big ideas. Thefirst is that people leave managers, not organizations. This arose because phrasessuch as bad relationship with my manager emerged consistently from surveys asthe reason for changing job. And it makes sense too. It is something most of us can identifywith because most of us will meet a poor manager at some stage in our own career. And theidea mattered even more because eminent researchers have established strong evidencefor a link between employee engagement and profitability. So if the organization wishes toimprove profitability it must improve engagement, and achieving engagement is seen assitting squarely with line managers. This is illustrated by a statement from Gallups chairmanand CEO in summing up his teams research findings: How employees feel about their jobsstarts and ends with their direct supervisor. If employees feel [. . .] that their supervisor takesa real interest in their development, or offers frequent praise and recognition, they are verylikely to be engaged (Gallup, 2013).The second big idea that has dominated management thinking developed from theMcKinsey survey in 1997, published as the War for Talent (Michaels et al., 2001), whichrevealed a global shortage of leaders. At first this led to an emphasis on attracting futureleaders. However, as the best way to make up for skills shortages is to grow your own, itrapidly evolved to encompass retaining and developing future leaders and high potentials.This led to the viewpoint that businesses should invest differentially in people of specialworth. On the whole, this emphasis on top talent and future leaders has been at theexpense of the steady, satisfactory performers who make up the majority of the workforceDOI 10.1108/SHR-11-2013-0105 VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014, pp. 75-80, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1475-4398 j STRATEGIC HR REVIEW j PAGE 75Janice Caplan is based atThe Scala Group, London,UK.and whose discretionary effort, as we know from employee engagement research, can makea significant difference to business profitability. In fact, according to research from the HayGroup (2010), 94 percent of the worlds top companies believe that their efforts to engageemployees have created a competitive advantage. Moreover, roles are now so inter-linkedthat there are few superheroes who achieve success single-handedly.But there is another important factor to consider: lets board our helicopter and survey thebusiness landscape below. Two features stand out: the importance of creating high levels ofemployee engagement is one, but the shift to an innovation economy is also striking. It isbeing widely commented that developed Western economies are moving beyond theknowledge or information economy to the innovation economy [. . .] Rapid and oftenunpredictable change demands rapid reactions and an ability to anticipate it with newproducts and services: with further innovation (Caplan, 2013).Line managers under pressureSo we have, apparently, three big objectives; staff retention, staff engagement andpromotion of innovation. And all three seem to be the responsibility of the line manager. Thisrenewed emphasis on the role of line managers has coincided with reduced numbers in HRdepartments, partly the result of cost cutting in the recession, but also partly the result of ashift in thinking about their role. The new thinking emphasizes line managers takingresponsibility for managing their staff and not relying on HR to do it for them.This notion of line managers holding the key to retaining and engaging employees is apowerful one but it has always been flawed. It places far too much on line managers whoover the past few years have seen their workloads increase and their spheres of influencewiden. The forces that have led to this are the same ones that have led to reducing thenumbers working in HR: an overwhelming desire to reduce costs.Feedback and trust diminishedIn todays low-cost, post-recession world, where numbers of direct reports have increased,and many people work virtually and in flexible, often multiple teams, traditional linearmanagement only works in a few situations. So what is the alternative? How else do wecreate high engagement that will lead to greater success? How do we organizemanagement and leadership to achieve this engagement and success?There are two points about our environment that bear on this. The last few years have seen anoticeable breakdown of trust between employee and senior management. This resultspartly from the economic downturn, which has led to loss of faith in leaderships ability to takethe right decisions. But also people who have become more expendable to the organizationare more inclined to distrust their leaders, and to disengage or leave if they are dissatisfied.Moreover, new markets, new competitors, new technology and new ways of working haveled to few line managers having direct line of sight over their employees work. People,anyway, often work for several different managers or team or project leaders at any one time.Add to this the delayering that has taken place and it is not uncommon to find line managerswith 40 staff reporting to them. This creates a feedback vacuum with no one person closeenough to the individual, or with enough time to provide the feedback and developmentsupport that we know leads to engagement. The need employees have for someone who isinterested in their development, and offers frequent praise and recognition, as cited in theGallup research, remains. What has changed is how that can be delivered.A new approach: shared managementMy proposed solution to these problems is the notion of shared management. Thisrecognizes the impossibility, in todays changed world, of simple hierarchies composed ofline managers directing the work of small teams and also looking after the peoplemanagement processes; rather it treats people management as a shared process. ThePAGE 76 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEWj VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014reality of the workplace has, for some time, been moving in this direction. However, becausethinking has not kept pace, the result is that we find in many organizations systems andprocesses that pull people in different directions. So, how can shared management beimplemented and work effectively and, in particular, how do we align practice with businessneed?Command and control no longer possibleFirstly, we must recognize that command and control management is no longer possible andinstead it is shared values, shared visions, and shared understanding that driveorganizations forward. This new model starts with the faraway leaders of the business,who must be visible, maintain a high level of communication and set both the strategicdirection and the cultural tone, (the what and the why) but leave their teams to work out thehow:The word shared emphasizes the importance of conversations, relationships and networking. Itdoes not require everyone to do things in the same way, but rather for everything they do to beconsistent, mutually supportive, and transparent. It leaves scope for interpretation. This stands instark contrast to a much quoted management orthodoxy that great leadership is about creatingbeliefs in hearts as well as minds. Superficially that sounds good but it is fundamentally wrong.Encouraging unquestioning belief is not good leadership. I heard that the sales people whomarketed sub-prime mortgages in the US had it hammered into them that they were sellingpeople a better life; and look where that ended up. Rather than the manipulation suggested bycreating beliefs, leadership is about creating a free and open conversation within a clearlycommunicated strategic framework. This engages and motivates everyone, but it also empowersthem to innovate, react quickly and make decisions appropriate to the organizations vision andbeliefs. When people know what the organization stands for and what it is trying to achieve, andare encouraged to propose and try ideas without penalty for failure, this creates the foundation fora climate of innovation (Caplan, 2013).People or nearby managers still requiredSecondly, it is necessary to define the different roles of nearby managers, that is thepeople who have direct responsibilities for the individuals performance and development.The first imperative here is to give everyone a clearly designated people manager, whoseresponsibilities are: setting goals and performance standards and providing feedback onperformance and accompanying development by making sure that the individual receivesthe learning and development opportunity that meets their aspirations (but which also alignswith business needs).This people manager may not have responsibility for the business results the individual mustachieve. These rest with the line manager or the different team or project leaders with whomthe individual works. The people manager will, however, manage input from these people,and will hold the important conversations with the individual about performance anddevelopment that create engagement. In contrast to the current expectations on linemanagers, people managers are not required to be experts in handling disciplinaryproblems and poor performance, it is enough for them to recognize when these problemsarise, and know where to go for advice. They are not required to be coaches or mentors(though they do need a set of basic skills that are similar to those required of mentors) butthey must identify with their people when coaching or mentoring is needed and ensure suchsupport is provided. In todays low-cost, post-recession world, where numbers ofdirect reports have increased, and many people work virtuallyand in flexible, often multiple teams, traditional linearmanagement only works in a few situations. VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEWj PAGE 77In this scenario, individuals have a significant self-management role. They must seekfeedback from colleagues to discuss with their people manager, and must self-manage theirdevelopment and their learning, again with support from their people manager. Performanceappraisal becomes largely self-managed but performance, ratings and next developmentsteps are discussed between people manager and individual, and determined betweenpeople manager and the other shared managers. HR has a significant role here infacilitating these performance appraisal discussions and in supporting people managerswhen they need to deal with the exceptions, whether this is how to handle the poorperformer, or to identify wider and stretching developmental opportunity for the higherperformers and high potential people.A new approach: talent management for allRetaining staff, achieving high staff engagement levels and encouraging innovation alsorequire an emphasis on development. This brings us back to the matter of how talentmanagement has focused on special people. In the worst cases, this has had a corrosiveeffect of creating egos and elites, and causing dissatisfaction when raised expectationshave not been met, perhaps because promised opportunities have not materialized. Itsobvious flaw, however, is that in todays fast-moving environment businesses need everyoneto be continually re-appraising their skills, and updating them. Failure to do this will lead toderailment for both the individual and the business. The approach I propose here rests onthe following principles:Take a long-term view of career developmentPeople managers should offer everyone the opportunity of a career development plan thatidentifies stretch and challenge in the current role, and then identifies the next role, and therole after that. Not everyone will want such a long-term plan, but it is a wonderfully inclusiveapproach as its long-term nature automatically takes care of the high-flier and the highperformer, but it offers everyone developmental opportunity to suit their aspirations and theirneeds. In todays times of rapid change and insecurity, career development is the new jobsecurity. As the line manager has become a more distant figure the prime cause for peopleleaving organizations is shifting towards to pursue career development. Of course, thishas always been important, but it now figures higher in our priorities, especially for theGeneration YandMillennials, who know from themoment of starting work that their best hopeof advancement and job security is by keeping their skills, and their experience up-to-date.Having a developing future, and having someone interested in their development, are alsoprime drivers of engagement.Emphasize that most learning and development comes from work experienceMostly, we learn from our experience. The people manager must make sure individualsreceive the developmental work experience that will move them along their desired careerpath. So often, we are caught up in the day-to-day and do not take time out for those specialprojects, or new responsibility that can make a huge difference to both the individual and thebusiness.Provide tools and processes that help individuals develop an increased awareness of theimpact they have on others and on resultsSelf-awareness is how people develop to their potential, take on new challenges, and risethrough the organization. Aligning how people do things to the organizations successcriteria and the capabilities that are needed to meet the challenges emerging on the horizonclarifies expectations, helps individuals and the business as a whole keep pace withchange, and provides development opportunity to everyone, not just those in line forpromotion.The importance of self-awareness has long been recognized. What is different now,however, is how social media and technology are giving rise to some high-tech solutionsthat, as well as being more suited to how we work today, offer greater flexibility as to whenPAGE 78 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEWj VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014and where they are accessed. They also provide high quality feedback, which helpsindividuals, whilst at the same generating data for the business to give a much betterunderstanding of the people its employs.I have seen the power of such systems, having implemented an online self-profiling systemcalled Iperquestw WEB, which provided the senior managers of a bank with feedback andsupport to help them develop the new capabilities that the bank had identified as critical toits growth plans. And I have also witnessed outstanding results from an online developmentand assessment system called e-SimulatorTM. A case study from Kia Motors (below) outlinessome of the benefits such technology offers.Theories realize benefits in practiceThese ideas are not just theory my experience of implementing this concept of sharedmanagement with the foreign exchange division of a leading American bank saw profitsincrease by 33 percent. Other clients report more insightful results, and a betterunderstanding of peoples skills and aspirations, which helps overall business development.This is the way of the future because it is probably the only set of ideas that will work in ourmore complex organizations that constantly must innovate and reinvent themselves in orderto survive and prosper in highly competitive markets.Case study: a move to virtual assessmentKia Motors Slovakia has used traditional assessment and development center programs toretain, motivate and develop high numbers of people recruited to support business growth.As well as the concrete benefit of helping the business have a better understanding of thepeople it employs, the centers were also felt to be a keen engagement and retention tool.People believed their careers benefited from them, but also that the organization wasinvesting in them and valuing them as individuals.In 2012, the Kia Motors Slovakia education and training team was inspired by virtualsimulation methods. Following a successful pilot, they switched to virtual methodologiesusing e-Simulator. In some cases, virtual methods run alongside, traditional paper-basedand classroom methods, although middle leadership development is completely virtual.Asked to compare the use of virtual to traditional methods, Martina Hornicakova assistantmanager of the education and training team said: Virtual centers are less time consumingand are perceived by participants as being more objective. We always use internalassessors and observers in traditional centers. This provides the assessors themselves withgreat development but can cause tension, as participants do not always like being watchedand assessed by people they know and work with. Virtual centers avoid this but also havemore credibility as they simulate the real working environment.Hornicakova also believes virtual assessment is stricter. In traditional assessment centersyou can often hide. Here you cannot hide. Hornicakova also points out that traditional,classroom, assessment centers are much more demanding of the organization than virtualones, which are less people intensive, easy to administer and yet the feedback is often moreincisive and of higher quality. These are very positive factors. Importantly, Hornicakova alsofinds that the virtual processes have high credibility with line managers who see theobjective input it provides into the decision-making process as a huge support. In todays fast-moving environment businesses needeveryone to be continually re-appraising their skills, andupdating them. Failure to do this will lead to derailment forboth the individual and the business. VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEWj PAGE 79ReferencesCaplan, J. (2013), Strategic Talent Development: Develop and Engage All Your People for BusinessSuccess, Kogan Page, London.Gallup (2013), The relationship between engagement at work and organizational outcomes 2012 q12wmeta-analysis, February.Hay Group (2010), FORTUNE Magazine/Hay Group rank the worlds most admired companies,Hay Group, 4 March, 2010, available at:, E., Handfield-Jones, H. and Axelrod, B. (2001), The War for Talent, Harvard Business Press,Boston, MA.About the authorJanice Caplan is a successful international HR Consultant, board-level Coach-mentor and aGoverning Board Member and Committee Chair at the University of Portsmouth. As co-leadof The Scala Group, a UK-based HR consultancy, and ACE, a consortium of European HRconsultancies, Caplan has advised big-name clients on talent management andorganization development in a range of fields. Formerly CIPD vice-president, she is also asought-after international conference presenter and the author of Strategic TalentDevelopment: Develop and Engage All Your People for Business Success, Kogan Page,September 2013, and The Value of Talent: Promoting Talent Management Across theOrganization, Kogan Page, 2010. Janice Caplan can be contacted at: 80 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEWj VOL. 13 NO. 2 2014To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: