Creating a Winning Talent Strategy

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In kicking off the 2017 CEO Talent Summit, former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley made a comment that resonated with business leaders gathered for two days of discussions on developing a strategic human resources advantage.

“When I joined P&G in the mid-’70s they selected me,” he said. “When you hire today, the candidates are selecting you at least as much as you are selecting them. And then every few months, every few years, they are reselecting you.”

That fundamental shift is just one of several drivers reshaping the way companies approach hiring, nurturing, developing and retaining talent. It’s increasingly apparent that, in order to build and maintain an effective workforce in today’s intense war for talent, companies need to understand and address these 5 themes.

1. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS CHANGING EXPECTATIONS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE TALENT EQUATION—EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE. The same technological advancements upending business models—the Internet of Things, mobile commerce, robotics and additive manufacturing—are also reshaping the kind of workforce today’s companies need in order to adapt and evolve. As John Minor, president and chief investment officer at JobsOhio, pointed out, “There’s a big disconnect between the skill sets that workers have today and the skill sets that are needed by companies. That’s an enormous challenge in the workforce today.”

The demands that digitally savvy employees make on employers are, in turn, redefining the employment equation, noted Carolyn Tastad, P&G’s group president, North America. “Digital transformation is changing our expectations of what we need from our employees, and it’s also changing the expectations that the new talent base has of us,” she said.

“This is the hardest part about digital,” agreed Sylvia Metayer, CEO of corporate services worldwide at Sodexo, a global food services and facilities management company with 500,000 employees around the world. “The talent that will enable us to have a different business model and to go out to market differently is not the talent we have now. We have to be able to bring in people who are very technology-oriented. And that means we have to be able to compete with startups for talent.”

talent-2Workers willing to and capable of embracing digital technologies tend to demand transparency from employers (both in terms of what is expected of them and what they can expect in terms of a career path) and to place a premium on things like work-life balance and a culture of inclusion.

At the same time, retrofitting these elements into established companies with hierarchical structures is a challenge many companies are struggling to navigate. “To reach out to that talent set, you have to be completely transparent,” explained Metayer. “As a very hierarchical organization, that level of transparency is not one we are used to.”

2. PURPOSE CAN PLAY A POWERFUL ROLE IN ATTRACTING AND ENGAGING TALENT. Popular perception holds that younger workers place a premium on purpose when it comes to choosing employers—proactively seeking out jobs where they can feel that they’re contributing something worthwhile. Business leaders, however, reported that purpose actually holds broad appeal. Employees, regardless of demographics and across all industries, are increasingly attracted to companies where they can feel that they are doing meaningful work—and tend to stay longer and perform better when that’s the case.

Bruce Pfau, Ph.D., KPMG’s vice chair of human resources and communications, experienced this when his company invited workers to participate in an online initiative by sharing their “higher purpose at work” stories. The response was enthusiastic, with 10,000 stories submitted in the first three weeks alone, a number that swelled to 42,000 in the months following. “We thought the responses would come from our younger workers, but when we actually looked at them we found that 50 percent were coming from people over age 35,” he reported. “It turned out everyone wants to have a sense of meaning and impact from their work, not just millennials.”

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As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.

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